Justice System

The Changing Mission of American Policing

​Increases in opioid-related overdoses, police involvement in mental health related incidents, and high profile police community incidents have required law enforcement and public health officials tocollectively develop new approaches towards their mission. CDHS researchers have assisted police throughout Delaware as they evolve and implement new and innovative programs to respond to the changing police focus. Led by Senior Scientist Daniel O’Connell, the CDHS team is evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of several police/community initiatives.

Click here to read about all of the CDHS Policing Initiatives

Prison Research and Innovation Network (PRIN) Project

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Principal Investigator
  • Christy A. Visher, Co-Principal Investigator
  • Darryl Chambers, Research Associate
  • Emalie Rell, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Chelsi Lamberton, Graduate Research Assistant

The Prison Research and Innovation Network (PRIN), funded by Arnold Ventures and in partnership with the Urban Institute, is a consortium of five states, each working to establish a model of transparency, accountability, and innovation in one prison with the support of a research partner to enhance research and data capacity. The Delaware Department of Corrections in conjunction with the Center for Drug and Health Studies was selected to participate in the PRIN project. PRIN aims to better understand prison environments and their relationship to the safety of people who live and work there, to enhance local prisons’ capacities for collecting data on prison environments to promote transparency and accountability, and to design, implement and evaluate new evidence-based programmatic and operational changes to improve prison conditions. The CDHS research team, in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Correction and the Urban Institute, will be engaging in community based participatory research methodologies to develop a climate survey of the pilot prison facility in Delaware. In line with this approach, CDHS researchers will recruit, train, and collaborate with a group of individuals working and residing within the pilot prison as research partners to assist in carrying out the research activities outlined under the umbrella of the PRIN project.

Click here to read “Participatory Action Research in a Pandemic: Prison Climates During COVID-19

Click here to view the ASC presentation slides, “PRIN – Sentenced and Detained Adults

Click here to view the ASC presentation slides, “PRIN – Prison Staff

A Randomized Evaluation of a Cognitive Behavioral Intervention

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, CO-Principal Investigator
  • Christy A. Visher, CO-Principal Investigator
  • Emalie Rell, Graduate Research Assistant

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this three-year project tests whether an evidence-based cognitive behavioral treatment program will reduce in-prison violent misconduct and recidivism upon release. The study is using a randomized control method to create treatment and control comparison groups. The research team also conducts fidelity observations of the treatment groups, a factor often left out of evaluation research, which will measure how closely the treatment facilitator is following the group curriculum. Baseline, mid-point and end of treatment survey data are being collected in order to measure change in criminal thinking and other domains. The study will help identify whether CBT impacts in-prison violence and recidivism in the state of Delaware and provide the field a much needed assessment of CBT therapy targeted at adult prison inmates.

Click here to view the NIJ presentation slides, “How to Think Things Through: Testing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in an Incarcerated Setting

Estimating the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in Delaware

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Principal Investigator
  • Rochelle Brittingham, Co-Principal Investigator
  • David Borton, Research Associate

Delaware is attempting to raise awareness and develop means of reducing the impact of human trafficking in the state. As part of this initiative, the Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council was formed. In its early stages, one of the issues that emerged was the lack of information about the extent of trafficked victims in the state, as well as any assessment of the state of data systems and reporting mechanisms. 

The goal of the project was to estimate the prevalence of human trafficking in Delaware in two ways: (1) an assessment of data sources focused on human trafficking in Delaware to identify key indicators and gaps in data collection and utilization, (2) provide initial projections of the extent of trafficked persons in Delaware as well as projections of persons potentially at risk for trafficking.

Click here to read “Estimating the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in Delaware”

Youth Crime and Adult Firearm Access

  • Ellen Donnelly, Principal Investigator
  • Christy Visher, Co-Principal Investigator
  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Senior Scientist
  • Initiated: 2019; Funding Source: Duke University School of Medicine/Joyce Foundation

As part of a three-state study, de-identified data from Delaware was used to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of different standards for the minimum legal age for firearm sales to young adults with juvenile crime histories.  The research team used longitudinal criminal history record data pertaining to a large population of justice-involved youth to examine adult crime and suicide outcomes, with and without firearm involvement, for individuals with and without gun-disqualifying statuses at the time of an adverse event. The analysis provided a quantitative comparison of the risk of adverse gun-related outcomes over time for individuals with similar juvenile risk factors who are exposed to different state gun restrictions.

Presentation Highlighting the Project

Presentation Slides

Click here to read “Gun violence among young adults with a juvenile crime record in North Carolina”

Recidivism Reduction Employment Project

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Principal Investigator
  • Christy A. Visher, Advisor

The goal of the Recidivism Reduction Employment Project is to create a seamless comprehensive evidence based employment strategy in the state. The Center for Drug and Health Studies assisted the state in completing employment system mapping and creating an inventory of employment programs; conducted 300 statewide surveys to criminal justice involved individuals, employers and criminal justice professionals and compiled results.

Click here to read “Identifying Barriers to Hiring Justice Involved Individuals.”

Hero Help Program Evaluation (COSSAP)

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Principal Investigator
  • Ellen Donnelly, Co-Principal Investigator
  • Jessie Arnold, Data Analyst
  • Madeline Stenger, Research Associate
  • Carol Ann Sharo, Graduate Research Assistant

The Hero Help Program was implemented in 2016 by the New Castle County Police Department (NCCPD). This program was designed to increase access to substance use treatment for people involved in the criminal justice system, as well as to divert people who would otherwise be charged with a substance use related offense. In 2018, NCCPD expanded the program by hiring a Civilian Coordinator to conduct follow-up with people enrolled in the program, offer overdose outreach, and provide assistance in navigating the healthcare and criminal justice systems. The Center for Drug and Health Studies conducted a program evaluation which highlighted the improved functioning of the program after the civilian coordinator was hired. In 2020, the program further expanded to include a child victim advocate, case manager, nurse, and substance use clinician. With more diverse staff, the program created a Behavioral Health Unit, consisting of police officers and mental health professionals, which has increased the program’s capacity to assist individuals with mental illness and co-existing mental illness and substance abuse (CMISA) issues. The Center for Drug and Health Studies continues to evaluate the program by designing data collection tools and analyzing collected information. Hero Help is planning to extend its reach statewide.

Hero Help Program Grant Report

Final Report – CDC Data Analyst Position

“Law Enforcement-Based Outreach and Treatment Referral as a Response to Opioid Misuse: Assessing Reductions in Overdoses and Costs”

Crime Victim Survey of Service Needs

  • ​Ronet Bachman, Principle Investigator
  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Co-Investigator
  • Carol Ann Sharo, Graduate Research Assistant

This Delaware Criminal Justice Council funded project reviewed services available to victims of crime in the state of Delaware by surveying existing victim service providers. The project then assessed victims’ service needs as identified by Delaware service providers, and based on that assessment surveyed victims of violent crime. The specific questions addressed in this research were: 1) how victimization impacts people’s lives; 2) what types of services people are receiving and their perceptions about whether and how those services are meeting their needs; 3) what types of needs are not being met and, 4) how victims’ needs can be better addressed.

Click here to read the report, “The Needs of Delaware Violent Crime Victims/Survivors in their Own Words”

National Criminal Justice Reform Project

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Principal Investigator
  • Christy A. Visher, Advisor
  • Judith Buchanan, Field Coordinator

In partnership with the Delaware Department of Correction, CDHS is evaluating a multi-year project to reduce recidivism through the implementation of evidence-based inmate risk assessment and suitable programming prior to release.  In the current phase, CDHS is conducting fidelity assessment of program implementation and a pilot data collection (baseline and follow-up surveys) to demonstrate the ability to assemble the requisite data for large-scale evaluation in the next phase.

Click here to learn more about the project.

I-ADAPT: Individual Assessment, Discharge and Planning Team

  • Daniel J. O’Connell, Principal Investigator 
  • Christy A. Visher, Co-Investigator 
  • Steven S. Martin, Co-Investigator
  • Tanya Whittle, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Judi Buchanan and Grant Bacon, Interviewers

In 2009, the Delaware secretaries of the Department of Labor, Corrections, Health & Social Services, Education, and Housing were charged by Governor Jack Markell to develop a prisoner reentry plan to reduce the number of repeat offenders and crime in the state of Delaware. The five agencies collaborated as a workgroup and other stakeholders to develop a reentry plan for individuals leaving Delaware prisons. The workgroup developed and proposed the “Individual Assessment, Discharge, and Planning Team” (I-ADAPT) process. This project conducted a process and outcome evaluation of I-ADAPT using surveys of participants, qualitative interviews with probation officers and I-ADAPT personnel, statistical analyses of agency data, and observations of I-ADAPT meetings. Limited recidivism analyses were also conducted. A final report was submitted in 2016 which suggested numerous improvements.