New Rutgers-Newark Criminal Justice and Law Schools’ Evidence-Based Institute Aims for More Effective Justice System

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Center for Law & JusticeRutgers School of Criminal Justice and Rutgers School of Law–Newark have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the Attorney General to establish an Evidence Based Institute (EBI) with the fundamental objective of reducing the rate of criminal recidivism. The goals of EBI are to serve the evidentiary and policy analysis needs of New Jersey’s criminal justice system and to assess and improve current practices and services that are directed toward the state’s criminal justice-involved populations. 

Started by Deans Todd Clear (Criminal Justice) and John J. Farmer, Jr. (Law), the EBI is headed by Michael Ostermann, Ph.D. Prior to working at Rutgers, Dr. Ostermann was director of the New Jersey State Parole Board’s Office of Policy and Planning. In 2009 he received a special award from the American Probation and Parole Association for his article “An Analysis of New Jersey’s Day Reporting and Halfway Back Programs: Embracing the Rehabilitative Ideal through Evidence Based Practices,” published in The Journal of Offender Rehabilitation.

 “This is an opportunity to bring the rapidly improving knowledge base about what works in criminal justice to the people responsible for crime and justice programs in New Jersey,” said Dean Clear of the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice. Added Rutgers–Newark Law School Dean Farmer: “The state has long needed a place it can go to for advice and assistance about crime and justice policies. Now, with a joint institute of the Law School and School of Criminal Justice, we can offer high quality legal and empirical assistance to the state’s policy and practice.”

The Institute will work closely with the New Jersey practitioner base to bring evidence-based practices to the forefront. Ultimately, EBI aims to increase the level to which service provision throughout the state’s criminal justice system conforms to established evidence-based principles in an effort to decrease criminal recidivism. EBI will pursue this objective by determining baseline estimates of the current practices used by service providers, identifying gaps, and addressing these gaps through hands-on training and technical assistance.

Among other activities, EBI will conduct:

  • Program evaluation
  • Assessment of criminal recidivism levels of clients
  • Validation of risk assessment instruments
  • Training in evidence-based practices
  • Data management and interpretation
  • Coordination of grant application evaluations

“We have hit the ground running,” Dr. Ostermann reported, “with assistance to New Jersey state agencies, public and private, already underway.”