Formalizing advisory boards to facilitate criminal legal system change

May 2022


Facilitating meaningful, long-lasting change at the intersection of the behavioral health and criminal legal systems is a community-wide effort that requires dedicated leaders with a clear, shared vision. Many communities have multiple groups working toward similar goals, often overlapping efforts and expending scarce resources. Creating a formal advisory board provides a framework to engage, develop, and sustain effective change across systems, bridging communication between siloed groups. Bringing leaders together through a formal advisory board is a practical approach to improving the experiences of individuals with behavioral health concerns who encounter the criminal legal system. 

decorative diagram representing cross-system advisory board

"Sending citizens with behavioral health issues through the revolving doors of jails, courts, and hospitals must stop! The only way to make effective change is through collaboration. "

  — Chief Judge Freddie G. Burton, Wayne County Probate Court

illustration of a revolving door

First steps to formalize an advisory board

  1. Identify a champion with leadership skills and influence who can dedicate time and resources.
  1. Clarify what the advisory board wants to accomplish.
  1. Identify and recruit board members and agencies who span the Sequential Intercept Model.
  1. Engage members in strategic planning and begin the work!

Strategic Planning allows an advisory board to solidify its structure and to develop a shared mission, vision, values, goals, and performance measures.  

Examples of Advisory Boards

There are many different structures, including the examples below, of advisory boards that can be adopted, modified, or combined to fit the unique needs of a community and the goals the board sets out to accomplish.

Criminal Justice Coordinating Council

Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils (CJCC) can yield more effective spending through efficient initiatives, programs, and policy.


  • Enhance collaboration and communication.
  • Attain a holistic understanding of criminal/legal issues.


  • Representatives from executive, judicial, and legislative government.
  • Representatives from criminal/legal parties.
Citizens Advisory Board

Citizens Advisory Boards (CAB) can bridge gaps between the community and organizational decision-makers.


  • Provide a mechanism for community members to give their input.
  • Give decision-makers access to perspectives they might not otherwise have. 


  • Private citizens representing interested parties in the community.

Project Advisory Board

Project Advisory Boards (PAB) can support efficiency and expedite the time and labor required for a project.


  • Oversee short-term projects, usually three to 18 months.
  • Achieve a specific outcome through a defined purpose on a finite timeline.


  • Project interested parties.