A Process and Outcome Evaluation of Project Reset

Posted in: News

Posted on May 23, 2023

Project Reset is a program that diverts adults arrested for low-level crimes into community-based support programs and out of the court system. Initially, the post-arrest pre-arraignment program was available only to individuals who did not have a criminal record, but the eligibility criteria eventually expanded to include those with prior convictions. The program served 2,149 individuals during the period analyzed. From February 2018 through January 2021, through Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII), which is overseen by the CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance (ISLG), the RAND Corporation conducted a process and outcome evaluation of the program. Researchers identified key program facilitators and barriers, documented participant experiences, determined the effect the program had on case outcomes and rearrest rates, and examined whether the program was cost-effective.

Key findings included:

  • Project Reset led to improved case outcomes for participants. The program allowed individuals to attend a one-time, two-hour programming session and have their arrest sealed immediately afterwards. If not for the program, these individuals likely would have received an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) in the court system. Receiving an ACD would have required them to remain arrest-free and make multiple court appearances over a six-month to one-year supervisory period.
  • Project Reset did not lead to an increase in rearrests.
  • Project Reset was viewed favorably among staff and program participants.
  • Lack of reliable and accurate contact information for participants was a major barrier to recruitment, as 49 percent of those referred to Project Reset could not be reached by the provider.
  • Inequities in program completion may compound existing disparities in the criminal legal system. Outreach difficulties resulted in White Hispanic, Black non-Hispanic, and Black Hispanic individuals composing 65.2 percent of the population referred to Project Reset, but only 58.8% of program completers.
  • Under the existing program cost structure, the program costs outweighed the costs of traditional court adjudication. However, this relationship varied substantially by provider, and the program costs were actually significantly less expensive than court costs for the provider that served the largest number of clients.
  • Program cost-effectiveness would improve if the ratio of program staff to participants were lower, which could be accomplished either by lowering staff levels or increasing the number of participants.

Download the full A Process and Outcome Evaluation of Project Reset here.

Download the policy brief, Diversion Instead of Courthere.

For a high-level overview of the findings, see ISLG’s blog.

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