JSP’s Principals Reflect on Practitioner Research- Part of an Integrated Approach

JSP Principal Brian Lovins was recently named the 2020 recipient of the Edward J. Latessa Practitioner Research Award by the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Corrections and Sentencing (ASC DCS). The ASC DCS Practitioner Research Award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to research concerning community corrections, institutional corrections, or the judiciary, with an emphasis on practical research “conducted in government agencies to help that agency develop better policy or operate more effectively.” The award acknowledges Brian’s dedication to building lasting partnerships between institutions of higher education and correctional systems at the local, state, and federal levels. As part of his ASC DCS recognition, Brian will be invited to present at ASC’s annual meeting. You can view more information about the award here.

The JSP team joins ASC DCS in congratulating Brian on this award honoring the importance of bridging research and practice for those in the field— a value reflected in JSP’s integrated approach to transformation.

An essential aspect of JSP’s work is translating empirical data and study outcomes into language and tools that decision-makers can use to design effective policies, and that professionals in the field can apply in their daily practices. “As the criminal justice system continues to explore ways to improve services, there is a growing need for agencies to help bridge the gap between academia, evidence-based interventions, and on-the-ground practices,” Brian shared, explaining the challenge faced by jurisdictions seeking to implement evidence-based justice system reform: “Too often, we have learned the words to the song but not the tune— repeating it over and over but not really incorporating it into the fabric of our policies, our practices, and our day-to-day work.”

JSP’s approach responds to this challenge, integrating elements of research, evaluation, and analysis with practical tools and services tailored to jurisdictions’ individual needs. Brian described JSP’s model as “a great opportunity to help agencies discover what their purpose is, assist in analyzing their data to better understand their impact, support them in innovative ways to deliver services, and create practical implementation strategies that ensure that the services being adopted are interwoven into the fabric of the agency.”

Zach Dal Pra, one of JSP’s founders, has over 30 years of experience as a community corrections practitioner himself. “From a practitioner’s perspective, it is very helpful to understand how research can be applied to practical, daily challenges faced by agencies to make them more effective” Zach explained. “JSP was founded, and has always placed an emphasis, on practitioner experience and understanding the challenges they face.”

Lore Joplin, JSP Principal indicated that “JSP strongly supports the integration of research and practice, bringing practitioners together with researchers to explore the current knowledge around effectiveness and to test methods of applying that knowledge to solve policy and practice challenges. Creating this shared learning space is key to advancing the criminal and juvenile justice fields toward reform.”

She added that the JSP team is fortunate to have the opportunity to do this work every day – to create the space where research and practice come together. In JSP’s work with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, JSP works closely with sites across the country to explore both the research and their local data to better understand and craft strategies to decrease unnecessary jail use and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Another example of JSP’s integration of research and practice is illustrated in our partnership with Iowa Department of Corrections to safely reduce the number of standard probation conditions and thereby reduce the rate of, and racial disparities in, probation revocations. Funded by Arnold Ventures, this innovative study is the first to examine how the sheer number of conditions, as well as the language of those conditions, might impact an individual’s success on supervision.

Across all of the work we do, JSP’s integrated approach encourages system stakeholders to try on the practitioner-research perspective—  inspiring them to ask fundamental questions, helping them to design methods for critical inquiry, supporting them in gathering essential data, and arriving, together, at innovative solutions to improve the safety and wellbeing of the people in their communities.