EBDM Case Studies: Highlights from the Original Seven Pilot Sites

Case Studies Overview


The EBDM initiative was established to harness the knowledge from a growing body of evidence that can inform justice system agencies’ decisions, leading to improved performance and effectiveness. It was also designed to increase system collaboration around a common set of principles and expected outcomes.
The EBDM framework can be applied at the local level, state level, or both.
For more information, read the EBDM Primer and the EBDM Framework.

In 2008, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) launched the Evidence-Based Decision Making (EBDM) initiative. Its overarching goal was the creation and implementation of a framework designed to improve justice system outcomes through collaborative partnerships and a shared vision of desired outcomes. The initiative is grounded in more than two decades of research on the factors that contribute to criminal reoffending and the methods that justice systems can employ to interrupt the cycle of crime.

A Framework for Evidence-Based Decision Making in Local Criminal Justice Systemswas developedduring Phase I of the initiative. In August 2010, NIC selected seven communities throughout the United States to pilot the Framework. NIC, in partnership with the Center for Effective Public Policy, provided guidance and technical assistance to these communities and, based upon their success, in 2015 expanded the initiative to 21 teams in three states, including three state-level policymaking teams.

What is EBDM?

EBDM is not a model that prescribes a particular set of justice system reforms. Instead, it is a strategic and deliberate method of applying empirical knowledge and research-supported principles to justice system decisions made at the case, agency, and system levels. Unlike other reform efforts, EBDM requires criminal justice officials to identify change targets of their choosing rather than advocating for particular justice system strategies.

“Harm reduction,” as used here, refers to decreases in the ill effects of crime experienced broadly by communities, victims, citizens, justice-involved individuals, and their families.

EBDM is guided by the Framework which articulates the rationale for the EBDM approach to improving and advancing the justice system. The Framework is based on four central principles:

  1. The professional judgment of criminal justice system decision makers is enhanced when informed by evidence-based knowledge.
  2. Every interaction within the criminal justice system offers an opportunity to contribute to harm reduction.
  3. Systems achieve better outcomes when they operate collaboratively.
  4. The criminal justice system will continually learn and improve when professionals make decisions based on the collection, analysis, and use of data and information.