Carl McCurley: A Passion for Analyzing and Improving Outcomes
Carl McCurley, Washington Champion for Change
Director, Administrative Office of the Courts/Washington State Center for Court Research
Outcome measures, data sources and data gaps aren’t thought of as the currency of champions and advocates. For Carl McCurley and his team at the Washington State Center for Court Research (WSCCR), data and the stories it tells are powerful tools for improving outcomes for children and families involved in the juvenile justice system.
McCurley joined the Administrative Office of the Courts in 2007, coming from the National Center for Juvenile Justice where he had participated in the Models for Change initiative. As the newly hired WSCCR director, he sought to broaden the Center’s work, expanding beyond the customary focus of court operations, to analyzing the courts’ impact on the lives of those they served. Models for Change offered the chance to bring together an outstanding team of researchers who shared a passion for analyzing and improving outcomes for court-involved children, youth and families.
“Dr. McCurley is a skilled researcher with a deep commitment to using data to make real changes in people’s lives,” said Honorable Barbara A Madsen, Chief Justice, Washington State Supreme Court
Of the four core Models for Change states, Washington has been identified as the state with the most extensive data. However, the usefulness of that data had not been fully realized. McCurley and WSCCR worked closely with NCJJ and Washington’s four local demonstration sites as well as three of the state partners in identifying outcome measures, data sources and data gaps.
Under McCurley’s leadership, WSCCR has enhanced juvenile justice-related data collection and reporting to better inform state and local level decision making/policy reform efforts. Four researchable databases have been created allowing for closer examination of the impact of EBPs and other interventions on risk reduction and juvenile offender recidivism. Because these databases allow users to crosswalk data, local officials can now determine 1) who is system involved, 2) their characteristics (needs, history), 3) what occurs with them (in terms of intervention and probation action) and 4) their outcomes.
Dr. Carl McCurley and his team have enabled local leaders in Washington to better understand their own data and to assemble all the small pieces in a way that finally allows them to see the big picture.
WSCCR’s DMC-related activities, improving race/ethnicity data collection, providing direction on using data for informing DMC discussions and creating county-based DMC reports, provide direction to the local courts for identifying and targeting court policy and practice which may be contributing to DMC. Better awareness of institutional practices contributing to DMC is key to maintaining a system that is fundamentally fair.
WSCCR’s expanded, researchable and linked databases provide a comprehensive picture of system-involved youth and helps target interventions/resources that specifically address individual differences.
“For many, the complexity and time-consuming nature of working with data is like looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Justice Bobbe J. Bridge (ret.) Founding President/CEO, Center for Children & Youth Justice. “Carl and his team understand that what they are looking at is people’s lives and the potential for their future success. Data becomes a critical tool to helping us provide every child in our care with the best we have to offer them.”