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Webinar Transcript - Consultant Statement of Work: Review and Revalidation of the Bureau of Prisons Needs Assessment System

Funding Webinar

Funding Opportunity Closed

The funding opportunity associated with this webinar has closed.

Following is a transcript of a webinar hosted by NIJ in support of the funding opportunity "First Step Act: Review and Revalidation of the Bureau of Prisons Needs Assessment System, Fiscal Year 2022."

DARYL FOX: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to today’s webinar, “Funding Initiative through NIJ for the Review and Revalidation of the Bureau of Prisons Needs Assessment System, Fiscal Year 2022.”  At this time, I’d like to introduce today’s presenter, Marie Garcia, Senior Social Science Analyst with the National Institute of Justice. Marie?

MARIE GARCIA: Okay. Thank you Daryl and good afternoon and good morning everyone, thank you for joining our webinar today.  As Daryl mentioned, my name is Marie Garcia, I’m a Senior Social Science Analyst in the Office of the Director at the National Institute of Justice, with me today is Dr. James Powderly, Mental Health Treatment Coordinator for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and she will be joining us shortly is my colleague Ms. Sherran Thomas, Senior Operations Specialist for NIJ. 

During today’s webinar, I will review the bullets that you see here. Specifically I’ll provide an overview of NIJ, the First Step Act, the Title I requirements that NIJ and BOP are working collaboratively to implement, the risk and needs assessment systems developed on behalf of the FSA, the critical elements that should be submitted as part of an application, and some important considerations for you to remember as you develop your submission for the statement of work. 

So the National Institute of Justice is the research development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. We are the sole agency within the Department that has a mission specifically to conduct research and evaluation of crime and justice issues. NIJ’s mission is to improve knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. NIJ is housed in the Office of Justice Programs. OJP is a federal agency that provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance, and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims, and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems. OJP includes six program offices which include NIJ. There are several others that you might be familiar with including the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, just to name a few. Now OJ—NIJ has two research offices, the Office of Research Evaluation and Technology, which encourages and supports research and evaluation and development to further the understanding of causes and correlative crime and violence, and the Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences, which aims to improve the quality and practice of forensic science through innovative solutions that support research and development, testing and evaluation, technology, and information exchange. 

NIJ also hosts CrimeSolutions.gov. CrimeSolutions is a web-based clearing house of programs and practices and it also identifies a process for rating these programs and practices. The site assesses the strength of the evidence of a particular program and assesses whether the program achieves criminal justice, juvenile justice, and other outcomes. Ideally we want to inform practitioners and policymakers about what works, what doesn’t, and what’s promising. 

Now the focus of the statement of works that you’ve all hopefully have seen and reviewed is the First Step Act. Now the First Step Act was passed into law in December of 2018. The Department of Justice, the Attorney General, the Bureau of Prisons, and NIJ, as well as our other partner federal agencies have over 90 mandates in the statute to implement. The overarching goal of Title I, which is the reformed piece of the FSA, is to reduce recidivism among the federal prison population. Several of the statutory mandate in the FSA are directly assigned to NIJ and others have been assigned to NIJ over time. Two of NIJ’s core responsibilities are the constitution of an independent review committee and the development of a risk and needs assessment system for the Bureau of Prisons. 

Now as mentioned, Title I is driving our goals here with the SOW and as you’ll see in the slide here, the risk and needs assessment system is highlighted because, again, that’s the core responsibility that we have. Now with Title I we are required on an annual basis to review, validate, and release publically on the DOJ website our system.  Section 3631, which is where you’ll find these requirements, also outlines the specific types of analyses that must be completed as part of the annual review process. Now as you’ll see here, the statute requires that we notify the public about any changes that are made to the system and any recommendations for changes that we have for the system. 

Additionally, Title I also has additional requirements that you see here. We have to make sure that the system bases the assessment of risk and recidivism on indicators of progress, that we validate the tool that—or any of the tools used in the risk and needs assessment system, and that we assess the rates of recidivism to identify any unwarranted discrepancies and disparities among the Bureau of Prison population. So again, these are the core requirements that the team that is successful here to do the work will work on. 

Now the First Step Act Risk Assessment Tool was released by the Department in July 2019. This tool, which is called PATTERN, the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs, is a 15 factor risk assessment tool. PATTERN predicts the likelihood of recidivism within three years of release from BOP custody. It includes four models. General recidivism from men and women, and violent recidivism for men and women. The FSA mandates that the tool includes both static and dynamic factors, and this tool is used in concert with BOP’s classification system, which is known as BRAVO. A revised version of the tool was released in January 2020 and the tool has been implemented in BOP since this time. 

Now the focus of the current SOW is the Bureau of Prisons Needs Assessment System.  Bureau of Prisons assesses needs for the offenders at intake, and they reassess their inmate at least semi-annually. The needs assessment under review here is the SPARC-13, the Standardized Prisoner Assessment for Reduction in Criminality. The SPARC-13 assesses 13 different needs as you’ll see here on the screen, 12 of which were assessed prior to the passage of the First Step Act. Dyslexia was added to the needs assessment process with the passage of the statute. And again, you can learn more about the system when—in the SOW as well as with the hyperlinks in the SOW. 

So with this current SOW, NIJ will support a team of consultants to review and validate SPARC-13 annually for up to three years. This team will fulfill the Title I mandates just described in prior slides. But again, the focus here is strictly the SPARC-13 and not PATTERN. As mentioned in the statement of work, in 2020 NIJ contracted with two external consultants to conduct the annual review and validation of PATTERN.  Assessment of PATTERN is currently underway, and starting in calendar year 2022, NIJ will support the assessment of both the risk and the needs assessment systems as required in Title I. 

Now in addition to completing the activities in Title I, the team of consultants are going to be expected to do the following, and this is just a smaller list of the larger expectations which you can find in the SOW. You will collaborate with NIJ and BOP. This will include but not be limited to regular meetings with NIJ and BOP either in person or by phone to provide updates on project progress. You will also work with the pattern team to meet the review and revalidation mandate. Again, you will be running separate analyses to meet the end goals of Title I but you will collaborate to make sure that the goals are being met in a timely fashion. As mentioned in the SOW, each consultant must successfully pass a DOJ background investigation in order to access project data. This process can take two to four months. The consultant team will also submit quarterly progress reports, again, as part of the contract action for NIJ and we will provide specific details on the information to be included in the reports at a later date. 

And the key deliverable for the SOW is the completion of the Title I analysis for the annual report to Congress. Now the team will assist in the preparation of the annual report. So again, the analyses and the findings will appear in the report to Congress every year. 

There are several critical elements that must be submitted as part of an application to the statement of work. Each of these elements must be included in a submission in order for the submission to be deemed responsive. They are a project narrative, a curriculum vitae or resume, and the curriculum vitae or resume for any support staff that are—that are identified. If you’re going to include support staff, their names must be included as part of the application. A list of any previous and current NIJ awards to the consultant and their support team, and this includes consulting agreements grants, cooperative agreements, contracts. We must receive the number that is assigned to any of these awards, a description of your role and responsibility on the project, and any products that resulted from the work funded by NIJ. Please see page seven of the SOW for more information about the information that should be included as part of this bullet. 

Additionally, research and evaluation independence and integrity statement must be submitted. If one of these elements listed here is not included in your submission, it will be deemed nonresponsive, and so please do make sure that you submit all of the critical elements when providing your application to this SOW. 

Response of submissions will be evaluated on the following criteria by an external panel of independent reviewers. They are the statement of the problem and research questions, project design and implementation, potential impact, capabilities and competencies of the research consultant. 

So as mentioned at the top of the webinar, there are several important considerations for you to remember as you move forward in this process. Many questions have come in about the funding avenue for the SOW. Many of you may be familiar with NIJ’s typical funding opportunities which comes in the form of a solicitation. This SOW is not a solicitation. Support for the SOW will be made in a form of a contract. The activities to be supported under the statement of work are a direct service to the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. For this reason, support will be provided through NIJ via a contract with the authority to generate individual consultant agreements. So in this case, we are funding individuals not entities. So that’s important for you to know as you move forward. Because NIJ will generate individual consulting agreement, only qualified individuals can submit responses to the SOW. Submission from entities other than individuals will not be considered. For example of the entities that would not be considered, please do see the SOW eligibility section. And further, a submission may include only one individual labeled as a consultant. The submission includes two individuals, it will not be deemed responsive. This is non-negotiable, again, application that includes a team of consultants or more than one will not be considered responsive. 

As mentioned, submissions may include support staff as needed, for example, a research assistant. Because of the nature of the activities requested here, specifically the direct service of the Department of Justice, and the Attorney General, consultants will not be able to publish or otherwise disseminate any information generated from this review and validation of SPARC-13. So this means the consultant team will not be able to travel to conferences and disseminate information in the public way, they would not be able to write articles for peer review journals or any type of other press outlet. So no information can be shared other than what’s written in the report to Congress. So again, that’s an important piece of information for you to have. 

And finally the budget for each consultant will be determined after selection. So there’s no need at this point to consider developing a budget, or a budget worksheet, or any type of funding information. We will handle that particular piece of it when we’ve concluded the actual selection process. So the response deadline for this SOW is Thursday, December 30th, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. eastern time. Your responses must be submitted to the email on the screen here. You can find it in the SOW as well as the NIJ website. For questions about the consultant statement of work, you can again contact the website via email address listed here. We do have staff assigned to this particular project and they will be reviewing submissions during the work week from 8:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern. So please do know that we are keeping track of your questions and concerns, and we are answering them as soon as possible, and you should expect a response to your question in no less than two business days. 

Now as Tammy provided in the chat box and as you’ll see here, there’s several resources that are recommended for you to review. Specifically NIJ has a First Step Act webpage. If you go onto NIJ.gov and just type in First Step Act, in the search function, all of the work that we’ve done on First Step will pop up, we have one page with all of our information and you can also, at the bottom, find our research reports. Any of the research reports that we have put out NIJ and the department will be found here. You can also find out more information about the BOP’s Needs Assessment on their Programs webpage at the webpage listed here, again, this information is hyperlinked in the SOW. So no need to type all this down now, you can find this information here in the chat box or you can find it in the SOW. 

Now to learn more about NIJ and our funding opportunities, we have a great funding and awards webpage with all information—a lot of information about what we are doing now, what we expect to do in the future, and what we’ve done in the past. So again, you can find past awards, any review guidance, and FAQs, and you can actually sign up for updates when you want—if you would like to find out when NIJ posts a funding opportunity. So please be sure to review our website if you’re interested. Also, with our website, again, you can hopefully stay connected and be up-to-date about what NIJ is up to. So here we—you can subscribe to email updates on our publications, videos, and webinars, and again, funding opportunities, you can text your email address to the number on the screen or you can visit our subscribe webpage. We also have social media accounts, you can find us on Facebook and you can also find us on Twitter. 

So now we’re going to turn it over to our Question and Answer session, and again please submit all of your questions using the Q&A box and select all panelists and just as a quick reminder, many questions are already answered on the NIJ page for this funding announcement. There’s an FAQ page with a lot of great information about eligibility and funding, and other issues so please do check our FAQ page, and again, you can all—you can always ask you question here today or you can send your question to the email address that’s provided in the SOW. So with that, I will turn it over to Daryl.

DARYL FOX: Yeah. Thanks Marie. Yeah. Just as mentioned, you know, if you have a question, please go ahead and answer that in the Q&A box, we’ll get to it. As of currently now, there’s no questions in the queue, we could just wait a moment or two if we have anything, definitely enter that there. Also reminder, the PowerPoint and the transcript from today’s webinar will be posted to the NIJ website in approximately five to 10 days.  So if there’s anything you missed, you got—you came in a little late today or just want to reference something post-webinar, you can access it there in its entirety.  So we’ll just wait a moment or two Marie. The SOW must be very comprehensive, we still not have any questions so that’s good to see and definitely if you have any--as Marie mentioned, stay connected, obviously you can go to the website, subscribe, and get on all of NIJ’s social media there. Is there anything you wanted to kind of fill time with now Marie? Did you want to introduce…

MARIE GARCIA: I mean, I think hopefully that this presentation and the site provides a lot of helpful information for those of you who are planning to submit a submission on this process. We expect to move very quickly once the closing—the date has—the deadline has passed. So again, we have a lot of work to do with PATTERN and with the SPARC-13. So we’re—again, we welcome all of you to submit innovative ideas and proposals, and I look forward to seeing them. So again, as Daryl mentioned, you can send your questions to the email address on the screen or check our FAQ page and we’ll be sure—if you have any other questions, we’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as we can.

DARYL FOX: Okay. Still no questions in the queue at this time. So still nothing as of yet Marie. So if you wanted to make a closing or if you wanted to hang on another couple minutes, let people digest this and see…

MARIE GARCIA: Sure, I think—yeah.  I mean, hopefully, again, please do contact the email address on the screen if you have any questions or concerns, and hopefully the SOW provides all of the information that you need in order to successfully submit a proposal, again, just feel free to contact, if you have some questions, we’re still about two months out from the close date. So there’s a lot of time to be in touch with us if there’s any concerns. I do want to thank you all for attending today, especially Jamie, Daryl, Stacy, and Tammy, and Sherran for being here to support this effort and, again, please do be in touch with NIJ, please check our website for any information and we look forward to receiving your submission.

DARYL FOX: Okay. So on behalf of the National Institute of Justice and our panelist today, we want to thank you for joining. This will end today’s presentation.

Date Published: November 1, 2021