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This section of the Web site highlights tools and resources for individuals and teams interested in learning more about the application of the collaborative model to their work. While many criminal justice topics benefit from a collaborative approach to policy development and the implementation of innovative practices—indeed, much documentation on the application of this model is available—we have selected to focus on five key issues facing criminal justice professionals today: managing change; offender population management; probation and parole violations; problem solving courts; and reentry and transition. Collaborative processes offer particularly unique and promising solutions to these particular issues. These are listed below under the heading, “Special Topics in Criminal Justice.” Additional resources that are more general to collaborative work and criminal justice are listed under the heading “General Resources.”

Special Topics in Criminal Justice

While the criminal justice system confronts today, more than ever, increasingly complex problems, we have chosen to focus in this section on five topics that represent the changing face of criminal justice. These special topics areas exemplify the role collaborative partnerships can play in addressing the multi–systemic, multi–dimensional issues that have become commonplace in the justice arena. For each special topic highlighted, a set of written resources is provided. These resources reflect the ways in which collaborative partnerships have served to make possible that which no single agency has been successful in accomplishing alone.

Managing Change

The current challenges (i.e., the growing number of offenders under correctional supervision and shrinking state budgets) facing corrections officials today requires rethinking how business is conducted, planning for change, and transitioning organizations through a period of rapid change and innovation. A systemic and collaborative planning process provides the tools and exercises that policy teams can use to establish and maintain their own criminal justice planning efforts. Collaboration is key to managing complex planning efforts. Collaboration creates a more comprehensive planning process, which results in holistic system change. Strength in leadership, along with a key understanding of the dynamics of change and leading others through the change process, are critical aspects of collaborative justice.

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Offender Population Management

Most convicted offenders will be supervised in the community at some point—either immediately following sentencing or after a period of incarceration in jail or prison. Because of their offense behavior or developmental issues, some of these offenders present unique challenges to probation and parole departments that are primarily responsible for supervising them. The potentially volatile community responses to returning offenders and the irrefutable harm that any new offenses would cause potential victims make the community supervision of these offenders critically important to criminal justice agencies and the public. It is imperative that collaborative efforts to manage offenders venture beyond the traditional, cooperative relationships associated with case management. This requires that the supervision agency work closely with law enforcement officers, the courts, treatment providers, school and social services officials, the victim advocacy community, offenders’ families, and others involved with the management of offenders in the community. These entities must not only share information about each offender, but should also work together to evaluate continually the offender’s progress and discuss whether modifications should be made in the offender’s supervision plan based on information they might learn from one another.

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Probation and Parole Violations

It is a commonly held belief that violations and revocations of probation and parole are contributing significantly to jail and prison admissions. However, violations alone are not driving escalating admission rates. Rather, it is how the system deals with those violations that ultimately drive admissions. Effective responses to violations and the broader issue of successful offender transition cannot be adequately addressed by a single individual or a single agency. Institutional corrections, the releasing authority, the supervision agency, community resources, employers, family, mentors and others are all key participants in efforts to assure successful reintegration into the community. Unless specific efforts are made to collaborate, it is quite difficult for independent agencies with specific organizational missions and other stakeholders to operate in a cohesive fashion to support offender transition and reintegration. Reducing admissions to jail and prison as a result of technical violations requires utilizing research–based risk assessment to target resources; strengthening approaches to supervision and case management; and forging new partnerships and collaboration with fellow criminal justice agencies and community resources.

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Problem Solving Courts

For courts, collaboration is achieved by working with community organizations and the public to identify critical community problems and implement problem–solving strategies. Court and community collaborations problem–solve at both the community and the individual case level. They address communitywide problems in the aggregate, participating, for example, in programs designed to reduce the frequency of domestic violence, drug use, or juvenile delinquency. The problem–solving orientation also is expressed in the court’s resolution of individual cases by, for example, seeking sentencing alternatives that will result in positive outcomes for both the individual and the community. Collaboration means that the court is engaged with a cross section of the community in an ongoing, two–way dialogue that is expansive in scope. One benefit of this dialogue is the opportunity for courts to educate the public about what courts do and why they do it and, ultimately, to build a constituency for the courts. Courts also collaborate with community–based service providers in order to identify and provide the resources needed to ensure community safety.

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Reentry and Transition

Successful reentry initiatives require the participation of many agencies to create and implement effective strategies that ensure offender accountability and simultaneously promote offenders’ smooth transition back into our communities. The myriad needs of offenders reentering communities extend to housing, employment, treatment, mental and physical health problems, and a host of other human services. As such, the successful reintegration of offenders into families and communities is simply beyond the scope of any one agency and should be recognized as an important objective, to be shared by criminal and non–criminal justice agencies alike. Collaboration brings together those who can affect, or are affected by, reentry to share information, skills, and resources to achieve an otherwise unattainable goal—providing offenders with ample opportunities to become productive, law–abiding citizens. In doing so, collaboration can be seen as a powerful force in efforts to create safer communities.

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General Resources

This section contains additional information that can be used by practitioners in the field of criminal justice to build and sustain collaborative partnerships. These documents will serve to orient the reader to the underlying concepts of collaboration, as well as its theory and practice.

Criminal Justice Partnerships

Throughout the country, juvenile and criminal justice agencies work with community organizations and citizens to reduce and prevent crime. These partnerships devote resources, time, influences, or other assets in pursuit of commonly defined goals. Partnerships include public defenders, prosecutors, and other criminal justice practitioners; law enforcement and corrections officials; and community and faith–based organizations. Collaboration is the key to implementing and sustaining these partnerships.

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In order to encourage participation of judicial and other legal system officials in collaborative partnerships, clarity around appropriate positions and roles is critical. Diversity in team membership, unbiased viewpoints, and devotion to the cause of justice help ensure that appropriate and ethical participation in collaborative teams is possible for all members.

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Evidence Based Practices

Research on effective interventions with offenders provides an important basis upon which to build improved policy and practice. For example, if the goal of the criminal justice system is to successfully return offenders to communities, then it is important to consider the types of interventions that have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing the likelihood of future criminal offenses. Collaboration between criminal justice and non–governmental agencies in the implementation of these practices is critical in facilitating attainment of the goal of successful offender management.

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Organizational Development

Successful organizations share many commonalities. They are most effective when they are interconnected to the other parts and to the whole; when many, rather than few, stakeholders participate in discussions about how the actions of each component impacts systematic responses; when an overarching group exists to ensure that the desired goals are achieved and quality across the entire system is maximized; and when they have doable but challenging goals, as well as a clear purpose and vision. Organizations that share these characteristics consistently realize success and longevity in their efforts.

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Effective teams require active participation from all members, commitment and cohesion, and clear roles for each team member. Furthermore, the optimal characteristics of high functioning teams are high leadership capability or the ability to collectively self–manage, clear and defined goals for work, and an appropriate and diverse composition of team members to address the issues at hand. As teams work together, they must know how to effectively plan and manage meetings, encourage full participation, acknowledge individual ideas, manage the group process, and reach consensus.

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