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Washington State Institute for Public Policy

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Found 626 results

Changes to Washington State's Juvenile Court and Juvenile Rehabilitation Jurisdiction: A Preliminary Analysis of "JR to 25"

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Morgan Spangler, Paige Wanner, Nathan Adams, Curtis Mack, Katelyn Kelley - July 2024

Starting in 2018, the Washington State Legislature made reforms colloquially referred to as “JR to 25.” This legislation, in part, modified the jurisdiction of courts and correctional facilities for juveniles who commit serious violent offenses in Washington State. The JR to 25 bills also directed WSIPP to examine the impacts of the legislative changes. This study serves as a preliminary report.

In this report, we summarize the policy changes resulting from JR to 25; describe changes in the population housed in juvenile facilities before and after the legislation took effect; provide a preliminary descriptive analysis of individuals’ participation in programming and behavior while in confinement; and estimate the fiscal impacts of the legislation.

First, we see slight changes in the demographic makeup of JR facilities following the legislative changes, with the population skewing slightly older and being more likely to come in based on a felony, person-based offense. We find that individuals are engaged in more rehabilitative programming after the JR to 25 policy changes took effect. We also find an increase in reports signaling misbehavior, the issuing of incident reports and associated room confinement or isolation events after the policy changes. Across all our findings in this preliminary report, we cannot say whether observed differences before and after the legislative changes are due to JR to 25 or other factors.

A final evaluation is due to the legislature in December 2031.


An Assessment of Washington State’s Reentry Community Services Program: Outcome Evaluation, Potential for Expansion, and Effective Components

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Corey Whichard, Heather Grob, Paige Wanner, Nathan Adams - June 2024

The Reentry Community Services Program (RCSP) provides support services for adults leaving prison who have complex mental illness and who pose a danger to themselves or others. Individuals are eligible to receive up to 60 months of mental health services and housing assistance.

In this second and final report, we describe our findings that RCSP is associated with positive outcomes for participants, as well as positive monetary benefits for participants and others in society. We also find that the monetary costs of RCSP are higher than the expected long-term benefits. We found no evidence for promising features to add to the program that might increase its effectiveness.

We evaluated the RCSP by examining differences in reentry outcomes for a group of program participants and a comparison group of similar non-participants. We found that program participation is associated with improved outcomes, primarily during the first 6-12 months after prison release. During this period, RCSP participants were more likely to experience positive outcomes (e.g., mental health treatment and receipt of financial assistance) and less likely to experience negative outcomes (e.g., recidivism and homeless shelter use).

We conducted a benefit-cost analysis and found that relative to the comparison group, the RCSP returns $0.57 per dollar spent. In other words, the cost of the RCSP exceeds the benefits we can estimate, in part because program success leads to increased state expenditures. We were unable to monetize a reduction in homeless shelter use. We found limited evidence that extension of the RCSP to other populations would result in net monetary benefits to society.

Finally, we explored which components of reentry programs in the research literature are linked to reduced recidivism and could be modified in the current RCSP. Among the analyzed components, only medication assistance, already available in the RCSP, was associated with reductions in recidivism.


Hospital Staffing Plans in Washington State

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Cory Briar, Colin Gibson - June 2024

The 2023 Washington State Legislature tasked WSIPP with analyzing hospital staffing plans submitted to the Department of Health as required by RCW 70.41.420. Specifically, WSIPP was asked to evaluate the plans in terms of timeliness, completeness, format, and the maximum number of patients assigned to nursing staff, along with trends over time. WSIPP was also directed to review professional guidance on hospital staffing and to summarize hospital staffing policies in other jurisdictions.

We find that 75% of staffing plans are submitted on time to the Department of Health annually. Only around 26% of hospitals report the same units each year, but we are not able to determine whether plans are complete due to a lack of information on hospital department mergers, openings, and closures over time. The format in which staffing information is reported is largely determined by the type of hospital unit. We find that patient-to-registered nurse (RN) ratios are lowest in critical care, post-anesthesia care, and during labor and birth, where the most involved or life-saving care is administered. Patient-to-certified nursing assistant (CNA) ratios are much higher than for RNs. Rural areas tend to have lower patient-to-CNA ratios than urban areas, suggesting that rural hospitals are more dependent on CNAs to administer care to patients. Some types of units have fairly consistent RN and CNA staffing ratios throughout the state, whereas others are more diverse.

Professional nursing and hospital associations offer similar recommendations regarding long-term guidance to solve the national nurse shortage in the US. In terms of short-term guidance, nursing organizations generally favor fixed patient-to-nurse ratios, whereas hospitals emphasize the importance of flexible staffing at the hospital level.

Washington is one of 15 states that require hospitals to produce staffing plans. Ten states also require staffing committees composed of at least 50% direct care staff, similar to Washington. Seven states have maximum patient-to-RN ratios in at least some hospital unit types.


Inventory of Evidence-Based, Research-Based, and Promising Programs for Adult Corrections: Preliminary Report

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Rebecca Goodvin, Paige Wanner - March 2024

The 2013 Washington State Legislature passed a bill to facilitate the use of evidence-based programs in adult corrections. It also assigned WSIPP to create an inventory of evidence-based and research-based adult corrections programs.

The 2023 Legislature directed WSIPP to update the Adult Corrections Inventory, focusing on programs for incarcerated individuals in prison facilities. This update prioritizes adding programs offered by Washington’s Department of Corrections (DOC).

In this preliminary report, we identify programs currently offered in DOC prison facilities and indicate whether these programs have been evaluated in relation to recidivism. We identified 30 programs offered in one or more DOC facilities between 2014 and 2023 that have been evaluated but have not yet been classified on the Adult Corrections Inventory. We will review these programs for possible inclusion in the updated Inventory to be published in December 2024.


Guided Pathways: Preliminary Report on Implementation and Student Outcomes

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Julia Cramer, Colin Gibson, Chasya Hoagland - March 2024

Guided Pathways is a whole-college reform framework designed to help students in community and technical colleges choose academic paths and earn credentials or transfer on time. The 2021 Legislature directed WSIPP to conduct an evaluation of the implementation of Guided Pathways in Washington, identify evidence of its effectiveness, and examine student outcomes.

For this preliminary report, we surveyed community and technical colleges in Washington to understand early implementation of Guided Pathways. Thirty-three out of 34 colleges responded to our survey and reported implementing Guided Pathways to some extent.

We observed similarities in implementation across colleges, but overall, Guided Pathways varies from college to college. Many colleges started with mapping initiatives and added advising reforms. It was common for colleges to implement multiple initiatives together, particularly mapping, advising, and student support activities. Colleges reported increased collaboration after beginning Guided Pathways but noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, staff capacity, and data system changes all presented challenges to implementing reforms. Colleges also reported needing ongoing funding to support future Guided Pathways work.

We also received data from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to examine student outcomes. We observed trends in retention, course completion, credit accumulation, and GPA outcomes for students in Guided Pathways (GP) and non-GP colleges (non-GP) between 2015 and 2019. These outcomes increased for students in both GP and non-GP colleges over time, and any differences between college groups were small. We cannot say if differences are due to Guided Pathways, other programs, college factors, or student populations. To date, there are no evaluations that demonstrate Guided Pathways’ causal impact on student outcomes.

WSIPP will publish a final report focusing on long-term student outcomes like degree completion, four-year institution transfer rates, employment, and earnings in December 2029.


Licensed Non-Medical Cannabis Retail Access and High School Outcomes in Washington State

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Amani Rashid - December 2023

In November 2012, Washington State voters passed Initiative 502 (I-502), which legalized limited possession, private use, and commercial sales of cannabis for adults. In this report, we examined the relationship between school proximity to an operational non-medical cannabis (NMC) retailer and high school outcomes. Our findings suggest a modest adverse relationship between proximity to a retailer and outcomes. Specifically, on average, high school students who attend a school located within a five-minute drive time to an operational retailer experience more unexcused absences and a lower likelihood of 4-year high school graduation relative to students who attend a school that does not have a nearby NMC retailer. A higher number of nearby retailers to school further relates to a higher rate of unexcused absences.


Transitional Kindergarten Programs in Washington State: Describing 2022-23 Programs, Educators, and Students

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Rebecca Goodvin, Colin Gibson, Amani Rashid, Marna Miller, Chasya Hoagland - December 2023

The 2022 Legislature directed WSIPP to conduct a study of Transitional Kindergarten (TK), a publicly funded school-based educational experience for students in the year before kindergarten. Transitional Kindergarten in Washington is district-initiated, and districts and schools make implementation decisions. The assignment required WSIPP to report on TK programs offered by school districts, including a description of TK students, to compare teachers and classroom instruction in TK with the state’s income-targeted public early learning program (the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP), to describe district rationale and funding for early learning programs, and to review TK programs and evaluation research in other states. We used a combination of administrative data and survey data from district leaders, TK teachers, and ECEAP teachers to address all study elements.

In the 2022-23 school year, we observed 4,700 students enrolled in TK, with enrollments reported by 44% of Washington school districts. Most districts offered TK in only one school districtwide; 73% of TK classrooms were standalone programs serving only TK students.


The Needs of Farmworkers in Washington State: Preliminary Report

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Cory Briar, Marna Miller - December 2023

This report addresses a 2022 legislative assignment, the first in a two-part series on the needs of farmworkers in Washington State and the role of state and federal agencies in addressing those needs. WSIPP will carry out a survey of Washington farmworkers during the 2024 growing and harvesting seasons to better understand their needs. As specified in the legislative assignment, questions will focus on workplace health and safety, the payment of wages, the use of government services, harassment and retaliation for asserting their rights, and other socioeconomic challenges.

This preliminary report provides a brief overview of US farmworkers and agriculture in Washington. We summarize the existing literature on challenges faced by farmworkers in the US related to workplace health and safety, labor and pay, immigration, and socioeconomics. Finally, we outline our plan to conduct the 2024 survey and detail work already completed in the survey effort.

A final report on the survey results, state agency coordination, and potential policies to address coordination will be published on June 30, 2025.

The legislature specifically directed WSIPP to study the needs of farmworkers and relevant policies and state agency programs. WSIPP was not asked to examine the perspective of farm owners or employers. This limitation will be discussed in the final report.


The Underground Construction Economy of Washington State: Size, Cost, and Government Enforcement Efforts

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Cory Briar, Kara Krnacik - September 2023

The underground construction economy (UCE) consists of all economic activities in construction that would be legal if fully reported to authorities as required. It includes employees misclassified as independent contractors or being paid under the table and independent contractors and businesses unregistered or underreporting their activity. Each type of UCE activity produces losses to workers, consumers, businesses, and state and federal government programs. Past research has found that underground activity is common in the construction industry.

We estimate the size and cost to workers, Washington state, and the federal government of Washington’s underground construction economy by year from 2011-2021. We find that an average of 14.2% of construction workers in the state are part of the UCE each year. We estimate average annual total costs to be $142.6 million to Washington construction workers, $59.8 million to the state, and $315.4 million to the federal government.

We provide an overview of the many actions taken by Washington state agencies to detect and enforce UCE activity and comment on barriers to collaboration between them. Finally, we survey common underground economy-related programs and policies in other jurisdictions that may improve the detection and enforcement of UCE activity.


Initiative 502 and Cannabis-Related Public Health and Safety Outcomes: Third Required Report

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Amani Rashid - September 2023

In November 2012, Washington State voters passed Initiative 502 (I-502), which legalized limited possession, private use, and commercial sales of cannabis for adults. The law also directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to evaluate various public health, public safety, and economic impacts of the implementation of I-502 in a series of reports.

In this third required report, we describe findings from analyses of the relationship between non-medical cannabis legalization or licensed retail operations and various outcomes. First, we examined how cannabis possession misdemeanor conviction rates changed in Washington after the passage of I-502. Second, we examined how reported cannabis use has changed in Washington after the passage of I-502 compared to non-legalizing states. Last, we specifically focused on the impact of local access to licensed non-medical retailers. For these analyses, we examined how retail access relates to substance abuse and traffic safety outcomes within the state over time.

These analyses represent an intermediate step towards the ultimate legislatively mandated benefit-cost evaluation of I-502.