Skip to content

How Do We Know ‘What Works’ in Criminal Justice Reform?

Arnold Ventures is soliciting requests for proposals to subject criminal justice interventions to randomized controlled trials.

Arnold A decorative icon

Cities, counties, and states across the nation are trying to implement programs and practices that reshape local criminal justice systems for the better. From policing to pretrial to reentry, local leaders are reimagining what criminal justice should look like and working to improve the outcomes of the people involved.

But how do we accurately measure the success of these interventions?

Questions about the criminal justice system are often difficult to answer given the complex matters and litany of variables. That’s why Arnold Ventures has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) focused on testing criminal justice programs and practices in the United States. The ultimate goal is to build credible evidence about “what works” to improve criminal justice outcomes and, in particular, grow the number of criminal justice interventions rigorously shown to better people’s lives.

“Few research-proven strategies currently exist in criminal justice, leaving policy officials largely in the dark about how to move the needle on crime and injustice,” said Jon Baron, Vice President of Evidence-Based Policy at Arnold Ventures. “We aim to fill that knowledge gap by funding high-quality RCTs — widely considered the strongest method of evaluating program effectiveness.”

Arnold Ventures is specifically interested in programs and practices that fall into one of three tiers:

  1. Interventions backed by promising prior evidence suggesting they could produce sizable impacts on criminal justice outcomes
  2. Interventions that are widely adopted in practice but lack rigorous evaluation
  3. Interventions that are growing in use and on path to become widely adopted, but lack rigorous evaluation

“Jurisdictions are dealing with questions about critical issues that touch nearly every American: How can we lower crime rates, keep people out of jail, or help those involved with the justice system reintegrate into healthy, productive lives?” said Kristin Bechtel, Director of Criminal Justice Research. “So we’re committed to building the evidence base that helps lawmakers make the most informed decisions possible.”

Potential applicants should first submit a letter of interest (maximum three pages). Applicants whose letters are reviewed favorably will be invited to submit a full proposal (maximum six pages). There is no deadline for submitting a letter of interest; applicants may submit a letter at any time via email to CrimJusticeRCTs@arnoldventures.org.

For more information, please read the full Request for Proposals.

If you have any questions, please contact Amanda Moderson-Kox, Director of Evidence-Based Policy, at amodersonkox@arnoldventures.org or 608-698-6560.