Building Collaborative Evidence-Based Frameworks for Criminal Justice Policy

Date01 October 2021
Published date01 October 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2021, Vol. 32(8) 795 –815
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034211011234
Building Collaborative
Evidence-Based Frameworks
for Criminal Justice Policy
Julie Brancale1, Thomas G. Blomberg1,
Sonja Siennick1, George B. Pesta1, Nic Swagar1,
Kaylee Noorman1, Jonathan Caswell1,
and Cecilia Chouhy1
Researcher–policymaker/practitioner partnerships (RPPs) have emerged as a
successful tool for translating research into policy and practice. However, the available
research has focused on RPPs with law enforcement and correctional agencies.
Notably absent are studies that describe and evaluate RPPs between researchers
and legislative bodies. Specifically, questions remain about the establishment,
unique constraints, best practices for effective implementation, and sustainability of
partnerships between researchers and policymakers. This study contributes to the
literature by describing a unique RPP between a university and a state legislature.
Through this retrospective case analysis, we describe the steps taken to initiate the
partnership, its implementation, and outcomes. Importantly, in the context of the
prior research, we describe the lessons learned, next steps, and implications for
partnerships with policymakers.
researcher–practitioner/policymaker partnership, translational criminology,
collaborative frameworks, applied criminology, criminal justice policy
The United States criminal justice system has experienced decades of expansion as a
result of the implementation of punitive laws and policies, many of which were passed
1Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA
Corresponding Author:
Julie Brancale, College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University, 112 S. Copeland St.,
Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA.
1011234CJPXXX10.1177/08874034211011234Criminal Justice Policy ReviewBrancale et al.
796 Criminal Justice Policy Review 32(8)
without research or evidence about their potential impacts. In the years since, research
has documented that the policies created a disparate and unequal system that has dis-
proportionately negatively impacted minority individuals and their communities
(Alexander, 2012; Clear, 2007; Clear & Frost, 2013). However, recently, with increas-
ing public support and acknowledgment that reform was necessary, the United States
has slowly and incrementally begun to implement various efforts to reform the system
(Clear, 2015; Petersilia & Cullen, 2015; Tonry, 2014).
In addition to calls to reduce the overall size of and inequities within the criminal
justice system are also calls to ensure that the reforms be evidence-based. As part of
the ongoing effort to move criminal justice reform forward, numerous criminology
researchers have embraced what has been termed translational criminology. The goal
of translational criminology is to create a “dynamic interface” between researchers
and practitioners in which research evidence is used in policy and practice decisions to
have a positive and meaningful impact on criminal justice reform (Laub, 2012).
Translational criminology has contributed to a significant growth in applied research,
scientific studies of what works, and accelerating calls for evidence-based practices.
Furthermore, these developments were characterized as the most positive advance-
ments in the field over the past two decades, according to a 2015 survey of research
criminologists (Baumer, 2015).
Emerging as a promising best practice within translational criminology have been
researcher–policymaker/practitioner partnerships (RPPs; Spivak, 2018). RPPs are
collaborative relationships between agencies or programs and a research partner.
RPPs can provide a useful tool to translate research findings into applicable policy. In
an effort to promote RPPs, the Department of Justice, through the National Institute
of Justice (NIJ) and Bureau of Justice Assistance, provided funding support for RPPs
and recognized them as one of the most promising practices in translational criminol-
ogy (Spivak, 2018). Yet, many questions remain about the challenges and positive
and negative potential of these partnerships. For example, how are these partnerships
initiated? Are there salient differences, requirements, and associated strategies in
partnerships between researchers and policymakers versus researchers and practitio-
ners? What are some of the particular impediments (i.e., politics, bureaucratic obsta-
cles, ideological and professional resistance) to effective partnership implementation?
How are these partnerships sustained? What are some of the positive and negative
effects of various partnerships? In sum, the effective integration of science, politics,
and policy remains a major challenge that is critically in need of empirical specifica-
tion and clarity; if RPPs are to be validated as a best practice, detailed case assess-
ments are required.
Most of the available literature on criminal justice RPPs is focused on partnerships
between researchers and law enforcement or correctional agencies. Notably absent
from the literature are studies of RPPs between researchers and legislative bodies/
policymakers. This article contributes to the literature on RPPs by providing a case
assessment of the intended and unintended effects of a major RPP between the Florida
Senate Criminal Justice Committee (Committee) and researchers from the Florida
State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice (FSU). The primary

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