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Professionals in the Criminal Justice System

Professionals in the criminal justice system are often on the frontlines of many public safety and public health crises. Addiction and substance use figure prominently in the work of prosecutors and public defenders’ offices, courts, corrections, and other CJ professionals around the country.

Staff in these offices are tasked with charging, judging, and supervising cases involving substance use, often without adequate tools, training, or in-house resources. Based on our pilot research to remedy the surprising lack of existing studies, we have found that many CJ professionals find that this work can be tiresome, frustrating, and undervalued which often leads to burnout, unhealthy coping skills, and poor mental health. 

To help improve their occupational health and wellbeing as it relates to substance use, burnout, and stress, and to improve public safety and reduce addiction in the community, we are developing evidence-based training courses tailored to each CJ field. Bringing the science and best practices to all CJ personnel will increase their collective capacity to improve public safety and reduce addiction in the communities they serve. 


The SHIELD Training Initiative has 20 years of experience delivering evidence-based trainings to police and first responders on “win-win” strategies to improve outcomes for both personnel and people who use drugs. 

Judge Gavel

The SHIELD training model’s core curriculum has been extensively evaluated. It has been found to be effective in boosting officer attitudes and intentions about using best practices that deliver multiple benefits: 


  • Improving public safety by reducing addiction and drug-related crime in the community 

  • Increasing officer wellbeing and retention by reducing stress, improving police morale, occupational safety, and job satisfaction, while also facilitating community level collaboration


Current adaptations include prosecution, public defense, and probation, with more planned. All trainings provide continuing education credits.


The new curricula are evidence-based, and developed by legal, health, and educational experts at Northeastern University School of Law and the University of California-San Diego. They are based upon consultations with personnel, qualitative interviews, and pilot trainings, as well as familiarity with the existing research base. 


A unique aspect of the SHIELD approach is how we customize our curricula to provide local or state resources that can be put to use immediately by training participants. For personnel with huge caseloads and little time, this boosts their ability to improve public safety outcomes. It may also improve retention and wellness.

Training are led by a peer in the field and a harm reduction professional. By training together, the facilitators provide key tools and information on how to access resources within your office as well as local and statewide programs that can support lasting change. 


Trainings can be held in-person or virtually to accommodate any size audience and reach as many people as possible. We ask all participants to complete a short pre and post-survey to provide data and feedback so we may continue to improve the curriculum, develop the evidence base, and provide the most salient training to your personnel.

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