OCTAE Connection - Issue 203 - June 26, 2014

OCTAE Newsletter

                                June 26, 2014

OCTAE Says Farewell to Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier

After serving nearly five years as assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education, Brenda Dann-Messier has concluded her tenure with the Department of Education. Having championed a blueprint for career and technical education and garnered enthusiastic support for prisoner re-entry initiatives, Dann-Messier—upon her departure—emphasized that “it is imperative that we develop and implement a national action plan to expand educational opportunities for the 36 million low-skilled adults in our nation so they can fully participate in our economy and reach their goals.” Dann-Messier wholeheartedly believes that the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education’s plan, which “proposes seven game-changing strategies that will enable low-skilled adults to acquire the foundation skills they need to succeed,” is a means to that end, and she called on state directors of adult education to “work together to make it happen.”  

Brenda looks forward to spending more time with her family in New York City.  

OCTAE bids her a very fond farewell and wishes her much success in the next chapters of her life.

Urban Institute Releases New Report on Pay for Success Projects in the Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems


The Urban Institute  recently released a collection of research projects on “understanding social impact bonds [SIB] and pay for success (PFS).” The PFS model is a new approach to forming public-private partnerships, where private investors finance a social program with a specific performance goal. In recent years, there have been a number of SIB projects, both abroad and in the U.S., including the nation’s first 2012 Social Impact Bond program in New York City, designed to provide cognitive behavioral therapy to prisoners. Adult education providers, including those for correctional education, our federal partners, and others providing services to individuals in the juvenile and criminal justice systems, may wish to explore the PFS model for potential application to their own work. 

Urban Institute researchers have developed roadmaps for the next step for PFS development in the United States by drawing on evaluation research, policy development, and cost-benefit analyses. The institute’s technical report on the topic, Five Steps to Pay for Success: Implementing Pay for Success Projects in the Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems, presents an in-depth look at the PFS model in the juvenile and criminal justice systems, including the state of the field and a five-step process to achieve high-performing projects. The report places the PFS framework in the context of existing state and federal legislation models and details its advantages and risks. According to the report, “ Injecting private capital into the public sector provides a new avenue for addressing the problem of widespread underfunding of public-sector interventions and innovations.” 

While there are many PFS models, they essentially all share a central concept—“using private capital to support social programming and promising a return if the program attains specified performance targets.” Independent evaluators assess each program to see if it has achieved its goals. If so, investors will receive their principal as well as a return. However, if the program does not achieve its performance objectives, e.g. recidivism reduction, then a portion or all of the investment is lost. Viable PFS projects require strategic planning to identify a justice system’s costs, population drivers, and evidence-based solutions. The process, as described in the report, is intended to maximize the effectiveness of PFS in practice. 

Historically, juvenile and criminal justice systems have had extensive barriers to achieving more cost-effective programming, which often results in inefficient systems. The five-step model described in the report is designed to ensure the sustainability and quality of PFS programs, and aid governments in addressing “some of their most pressing justice system challenges.” In sum, the steps “guide stakeholders through a process that identifies drivers of populations and costs, develops evidence-based solutions for identified service gaps and barriers, empirically derived prices, returns on investments, and performance targets to give investors transparent guidance on risks and benefits, provides governments the best chance to achieve their policy objectives, and, ensures that key populations receive the best possible evidence-based services.” Tools and resources for achieving these objectives are provided in the appendix to the report. 

The report was written under a grant funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice. Interested parties are encouraged to access the full report for further information on the advantages and disadvantages of PFS funding, the five steps to developing a PFS project, PFS project implementation in the justice system, tool kits, and evidence-based practice databases. Please also refer to the previous OCTAE Connection article on New York City’s Social Impact Bond program.