PolicyNotes Banner



Envisioning an Alternative Future for the Corrections Sector Within the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Caring for Those in Custody: Identifying High-Priority Needs to Reduce Mortality in Correctional Facilities

Defining and Understanding the Scope of Child Sexual Abuse: Challenges and Opportunities

Youth Prosecuted as Adults in California: Addressing Racial, Ethnic, and Geographic Disparities After the Repeal of Direct File


Progress and Challenges in Developing Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (TQRIS) in the Round 1

College- and Career-Readiness Standards and Assessment Resource List

Reforming the American Community College: Promising Changes and Their Challenges


Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates: 2016

Using Behavioral Science to Improve Survey Response

Sustainable Budgeting in the States: Evidence on State Budget Institutions and Practices

The Future of Groundwater


Emergency Department Visits Involving the Accidental Ingestion of Opioid Pain Relievers by Children Aged 1 to 5

Estimated Prevalence of Children With Diagnosed Developmental Disabilities in the United States, 2014–2016

December 1, 2017


Challenged by high costs and concerns that the U.S. corrections sector is not achieving its goals, there has been a growing focus on approaches to reform and improve the sector's performance. To contribute to the policy debate on the future of the corrections sector, researchers interviewed a group of prominent correctional practitioners, consultants, and academics. This report outlines their perspectives on the current state of corrections and their vision for the future. Panelists put forward several solutions to support the corrections sector's mission of facilitating positive offender behavior change, including diverting low-risk offenders and those with mental health or substance use problems to specialty facilities while reserving prisons for violent and dangerous offenders; shortening sentences and ensuring that offenders have a clear, attainable path to release; and creating smaller and safer facilities that are closer to cities with programs to support reentry.

Source: RAND Corporation

Maintaining inmate health and safety is a significant challenge. Correctional facilities are often overcrowded, understaffed, and underfunded. Many inmates suffer from chronic medical conditions, mental health disorders, infectious diseases, and substance dependence in numbers that are often disproportionate in comparison to the general population. Further, the incarceration experience itself can be detrimental to overall health and safety in a variety of ways. Findings from this report indicate facilities should provide medical and mental health services at a community-level standard of care. Correctional facilities need to better manage organizational and cultural conflicts between security and care objectives. There is a need for more-uniform adoption of best practices in suicide risk assessment and prevention. Additionally, more and better data are required in order to develop targeted interventions to reduce mortality. There is a need for uniformity in how internal death reviews are conducted, including multidisciplinary participation.

Source: RAND Corporation

The enormous individual, familial, and societal burden of child sexual abuse has underscored the need to address the problem from a public health framework. Much work remains, however, at the first step of this framework, defining and understanding the scope of the problem, or establishing incidence and prevalence estimates. In this paper, the authors provide an overview of the ways researchers have defined and estimated the scope of child sexual abuse, focusing on agency tabulations and large-scale surveys conducted over the last several decades. More precise estimates of the number of children affected by child sexual abuse would improve the ability of the public health, child welfare, pediatrics, and other communities to prevent and respond to the problem. The authors recommend using a comprehensive surveillance system to assess and track the scope of child sexual abuse. This system should be grounded by common definitional elements and draw from multiple indicators and sources to estimate the prevalence of a range of sexually abusive experiences.

Source: RTI International

According to this report, a young person’s likelihood of facing adult charges in California vary by geographic location as, nine counties had no reported cases of direct file or transfer to adult criminal court, while five counties reported rates that were more than three times the state average. Additionally, the report finds that transfer hearings between 2006 and 2016 resulted in 47% of white youth being transferred to adult court, while black and Latino youth experienced transfer rates at 73% and 75% respectively. Last year, Proposition 57 ended the direct file process in California, which allowed prosecutors to directly file charges against youth 14 years old or older in adult criminal court. Youth can still be tried as adults through the transfer hearing process.

Source: Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice


The federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant program promoted the development of rating systems to document the quality of early childhood education programs. This evaluation report describes progress made by states that received the Round 1 grants in developing and implementing Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (TQRIS). TQRIS uses a set of progressively higher program standards to evaluate the quality of an early learning and development program and to support program improvement. The report is based on interviews with TQRIS administrators in the nine Round 1 states in 2015. The authors found tremendous variation across states in TQRIS structure, features, and processes; each state’s TQRIS is uniquely designed and implemented. This key finding cuts across all three state objectives that were the focus of this report. States differ in terms of the timing of implementation, the policies used to promote participation, the amount and type of data available about programs and the children enrolled in them, the methods used to classify programs by type, the rating structure, the number of TQRIS components that contribute to the final rating, the way components are measured and defined, and how components are combined to arrive at the final rating.

Source: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

This report lists resources that focus on college- and career-readiness standards and assessment. Designed to assist staff in state education agencies and other educators in their curricula, instruction, standards, and assessment efforts, the resources include briefs, reports, tools, and other materials. Sources for these materials include organizations that specialize in education policy, research, and technical assistance. To enhance usability, featured resources are categorized into six sections: Every Student Succeeds Act, assessment and accountability, English language arts resources, mathematics resources, science resources, and general resources.

Source: American Institutes for Research

Enrolling more than 6 million students each fall, community colleges carry out a crucial function in higher education by providing access to college, including baccalaureate opportunities, occupational education, remedial education, and other educational services. At the same time, community colleges face great challenges that have elicited calls for major reforms. This paper begins by discussing the social roles and organization of community colleges in the United States, their main social contributions, and the challenges they face. It then describes and evaluates the sweeping policy proposals that have been made to address these challenges.

Source: Community College Research Center

Government Operations

This document presents summary statistics of the 2016 data released by the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program of the U.S. Census Bureau in November 2017. Each year, the SAIPE program provides timely, reliable estimates of income and poverty for the administration of federal programs and the allocation of federal funds to local jurisdictions and school districts. Median household income at the county level ranged from $22,045 to $134,609, with a median county-level value of $47,589. Based on poverty rate estimates for the 3,141 counties for all ages, 12.7% of counties (400) had a statistically significant increase in poverty between 2007 – the year before the most recent recession – and 2016. Only 2.1% of counties (66) had a statistically significant decrease in poverty during that period.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

This brief showcases how behavioral science can be used to boost call-in rates for surveys and increase our understanding of characteristics, experiences, and behaviors when administrative data sources don’t provide the kind of data needed. The study team made subtle changes to a letter mailed to participants to determine whether a particular version was more effective at spurring people to complete an interview. They found that the version of the letter using principles from behavioral science generated the highest percentage of call-ins.

Source: Mathematica

States adopt a variety of budget practices to help define spending priorities and influence fiscal outcomes. However, not all budget practices achieve the desired fiscal objectives, and some practices may compromise states’ long-term fiscal sustainability. This report discusses evidence from the literature on budgeting timelines, baselines and forecasting; budget requirements and restrictions; and budget transparency measures to identify best practices and curate an evidence-based toolkit for policymakers to produce healthy state budgets. It discusses how political context and institutions affect budgets and the role of budget influencers across various government branches and outside interest groups. A review of the literature suggests that states should focus on sustainable systems, design, evidence and implementation to improve budget practices and fiscal outcomes.

Source: Urban Institute

This report explores the present condition of groundwater in the United States, the evolution of that condition, and opportunities for transitioning to more sustainable use of groundwater resources. To date, groundwater has been managed for sustained depletion. We need an alternative goal: simultaneously rising aquifers and a growing economy. Proactive groundwater management balances the needs of all users-from ensuring access by domestic households to securing food supply to meeting energy demand to protecting the environment-while accounting for climatic variability and population growth to ensure groundwater is available for use for future generations. Aquifers may span thousands of miles, but the management and impacts of groundwater use are context-specific, given unique geologic conditions and water use characteristics. Although aquifers are complex and unique, the consequences of groundwater contamination and depletion are not. A portfolio of already-developed solution sets (market, technological, regulatory) is available and can be tailored to fit within existing policies and regulations. Groundwater is often locally managed, although the consequences of groundwater depletion can span large regions.

Source: Aspen Institute

Health and Human Services

In 2011 an estimated 4,321 emergency department (ED) visits involved accidental ingestion of opioid pain relievers by children aged 1 to 5. The number of ED visits increased 200.7% from 1,437 visits in 2004 to 4,321 visits in 2011; however, the number of ED visits was stable between 2009 and 2011. An estimated 22,174 ED visits involved accidental ingestion of opioid pain relievers by children aged 1 to 5. An estimated 5,977 of these ED visits involved hydrocodone products (Vicodin; Lortab), and 4,365 involved Oxycodone products (OxyContin; Percocet). About 5,222 visits involved buprenorphine (Subutex; Suboxone), a medication used to treat opioid addition. Among ED visits involving accidental ingestion of opioid pain relievers by children aged 1 to 5, 85% involved opioids only; additional drugs were involved in the remaining 15 percent of these ED visits. Combined 2004 to 2011 data show that, among children aged 1 to 5 taken to the ED for accidental ingestion of opioid pain relievers, 71% were treated and released; 16% were admitted to the hospital for inpatient care and 11% were transferred to another health care facility.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Developmental disabilities are a set of heterogeneous disorders characterized by difficulties in one or more domains, including but not limited to, learning, behavior, and self-care. This report provides the latest prevalence estimates for diagnosed autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, and other developmental delay among children aged 3–17 years. During 2014–2016, the prevalence of children aged 3–17 years who had ever been diagnosed with a developmental disability increased from 5.8% to 7.0%. During this same time, the prevalence of diagnosed autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability did not change significantly. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, other developmental delay, and any developmental disability was higher among boys compared with girls. The prevalence of any developmental disability was lower among Hispanic children compared with children in all other race and ethnicity groups.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics

N O T E :
An online subscription may be required to view some items.

Government Program Summaries (GPS) is a free resource for legislators and the public that provides descriptive information on over 200 state government programs. To provide fiscal data, GPS links to Transparency Florida, the Legislature's website that includes continually updated information on the state's operating budget and daily expenditures by state agencies.


A publication of the Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis And Government Accountability

PolicyNotes, published every Friday, features reports, articles, and websites with timely information of interest to policymakers and researchers. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed by third parties as reported in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect OPPAGA's views.

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of PolicyNotes provided that this section is preserved on all copies.