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NIJ Helps Lay the Groundwork for Implementation of the First Step Act


The First Step Act of 2018 aims to reform the federal prison system and reduce recidivism. A key component of the Act is an assessment of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ existing prisoner risk and needs assessment system. To begin that assessment, NIJ, in accordance with the First Step Act, has selected the nonprofit and nonpartisan Hudson Institute to host the Independent Review Committee. The Committee, whose members will be appointed by the Hudson Institute in accordance with the Act’s requirements, will assist the Department of Justice as it develops and implements risk and needs assessment tools and evidence-based recidivism reduction programs.

See details of the award to the Hudson Institute.

NIJ also is contracting with outside experts and leading researchers, including Dr. Grant Duwe Ph.D., Dr. Zachary Hamilton Ph.D., and Dr. Angela Hawken Ph.D., for assistance and consultation as the Department develops the Risk and Needs Assessment System under the Act. Each of these experts will bring unique expertise as they augment NIJ and the Bureau of Prisons’ efforts to implement the Act.

Dr. Duwe is the Director of Research for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, and a nationally recognized expert on the development of recidivism risk assessment systems.

Dr. Hamilton is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology and the Director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice, and focuses on treatment matching through risk and needs assessment systems.

Dr. Hawken is a Professor of Public Policy at the New York University Marron Institute, and is the founder and director of New York University’s Litmus/BetaGov program, which assists in the development and validation of data-driven policies.

Learn more about Drs. Duwe, Hamilton, and Hawken.

Mission of the Independent Review Committee

The Independent Review Committee is tasked with:

  • Reviewing existing prisoner risk and needs assessment systems that were already in place in the Bureau of Prisons as of the First Step Act’s enactment. 
  • Developing recommendations regarding evidence-based recidivism reduction programs and productive activities.
  • Conducting research and analysis on a variety of topics, including evidence-based recidivism reduction programs relating to the use of prisoner risk and needs assessment tools, the most effective and efficient uses of such programs, and which programs most effectively reduce the risk of recidivism.
  • Reviewing and validating the risk and needs assessment system developed by the Department for the First Step Act.
  • Consulting with the Department about these topics.

Read a full press release from the Department to learn about these and other accomplishments as the Department works diligently to implement the First Step Act.