Public Safety Performance Project

Pew's Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP) works with states to advance data-driven, fiscally sound policies and practices in the criminal and juvenile justice systems that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs.  Below is a sampling of PSPP’s state work and research publications.

State Work

South Dakota
After the successful reform of its adult criminal justice system in 2013, South Dakota passed comprehensive juvenile justice legislation that focuses placements in residential facilities on only those youth who pose a risk of physical harm to others, prevents deeper involvement of lower-level offenders in the juvenile justice system, and expands access to evidence-based interventions for juvenile offenders and their families while under community supervision. SB 73 passed both chambers of the Legislature by strong majorities, and Governor Dennis Daugaard signed it into law on March 12.

The new law is expected to reduce the number of youth in residential placements by more than 50 percent and cut costs at those facilities by more than $32 million within five years. The resulting savings will be reinvested into evidence-based community intervention programs. The new law’s changes are based on policy recommendations developed by the bipartisan, interbranch Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Work Group, which received technical assistance from Pew.

West Virginia
West Virginia enacted comprehensive juvenile justice reform in 2015 that protects public safety and improves outcomes for youth, families, and communities by increasing community-based alternative sanctions and services, and focusing costly residential beds on the most serious youth. SB 393 passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously, and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed it into law April 2.

The law is expected to reduce the number of youth in residential placements by at least 16 percent, resulting in more than $20 million in avoided costs over five years that can be reinvested in effective community-based alternatives. The reforms enacted were based on recommendations from the inter-branch, bipartisan West Virginia Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice, which received technical assistance from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project.

Following a major criminal justice initiative in 2012, Georgia has enacted sweeping juvenile justice reforms. HB 242 passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Deal on May 2, 2013. The bill will reduce commitment of lower-level juvenile offenders to expensive secure facilities and boost proven, community-based alternatives.

HB 242 and accompanying budget initiatives, are expected to save the state nearly $85 million through 2018, avoiding the need to open two additional juvenile residential facilities. This allows the state to reinvest a portion of the savings to expand community-based programs and practices proven to reduce recidivism through a new $5 million voluntary, fiscal incentive grant program to counties.

Following successful reforms to its criminal justice system in 2012, Hawaii adopted comprehensive policy recommendations to maximize the effectiveness of its juvenile justice system, improve outcomes for youth and families, and ensure policies and practices are grounded in data and research.  The bill will reduce the use of secure confinement, strengthen community supervision, and cut recidivism by focusing system resources on practices with the greatest impact on public safety. 

HB 2490 is projected to reduce the population committed to the state’s secure facility by 60 percent over the next five years, saving $11 million and allowing for a first-year $1.26 million reinvestment in proven community-based interventions.


Following successful adult corrections reforms in 2011, the Kentucky General Assembly shifted its focus to improving the state’s juvenile justice system, adopting SB 200 in the 2014 legislative session. The bill will ensure that state resources are more effectively used to hold offenders accountable, achieve better outcomes for children and families, and protect public safety.

SB 200 is based on recommendations from a bipartisan, inter-branch task force as well as extensive input from stakeholders. Reforms enacted through the legislation are expected to save Kentucky taxpayers as much as $24 million over five years.

Research Publications

Re-Examining Juvenile Incarceration: This report includes findings from a growing body of research, which shows lengthy out-of-home placements in secure corrections or other residential facilities fail to produce better outcomes than alternative sanctions for many juvenile offenders.

Public Opinion on Juvenile Justice in America: This brief analyzes the findings of a nationwide poll conducted in 2014 by a bipartisan team of pollsters, the Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies. Most notably, the poll found that U.S. voters support sending serious juvenile offenders to corrections facilities, but they favor a range of less-costly alternatives for lower-level offenders.

Judging for Juvenile Justice: This Q&A asks judges in three states – Georgia, Hawaii, and Kentucky – what prompted them to engage in juvenile justice reform in their states.

Measuring Juvenile Recidivism: This interactive tool summarizes how juvenile corrections agencies define, measure and report on juvenile recidivism, helping policymakers identify gaps in their states’ available data and establish the reduction of recidivism as a key performance goal of their juvenile justice systems.

Examining National and State Trends: This project update, using data from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), shows that between 1997 and 2011 the juvenile commitment rate fell in all but four states and the District of Columbia with an overall national decrease of 48 percent.

Highlighting State Reforms: These briefs highlight state level reforms in Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Ohio, and  Texas that reduced the number of juveniles in secure state facilities, while also reducing recidivism, protecting public safety, and containing correctional costs.

CJJ assists Pew in these efforts by helping to educate juvenile justice leaders who are central to enacting state reforms. CJJ also provides Pew with critical information about state trends and practices, as well as contextual information necessary to further Pew’s work. CJJ will also develop resources to educate our members and Pew’s affiliates about the work of the Public Safety Performance Project, particularly with respect to comprehensive juvenile justice reform.