In corrections, there is a strong public interest in producing the greatest reduction in crime—particularly the most serious crimes—for every dollar spent. Conversely, the criminal justice system should cost-effectively maximize positive outcomes such as victim restitution, victim satisfaction, and the employment of offenders as productive citizens.
It is often said that, if you don’t measure something, you won’t affect it. Similarly, if one incentivizes certain results, it may increase the odds of achieving those outcomes. Indeed, the two principles are linked—measuring performance is a prerequisite for developing a system of incentives, since there must be an ongoing, reliable means of determining whether the desired outcomes are being
Just like retirees monitoring their investment portfolio, taxpayers deserve to know whether the system they are funding is achieving the intended results to the greatest degree possible with each dollar spent. Unfortunately, corrections systems have historically lacked clear, outcome-oriented performance measures.
Instead, they have tended to insufficiently measure performance or employ measures based on volume, such as how many offenders are convicted or incarcerated. This conflicts with the overriding public policy objective, which is not more criminals and a larger criminal justice system, but lower crime and lower costs. Longer sentences and more prisons may yield a smaller gain in public safety for each dollar spent when compared with a greater emphasis on strategies that prevent crime, reduce recidivism, and use the least restrictive and least costly sanction for an offender that is necessary to protect public safety.
As budgets tighten, it is particularly important to strengthen performance measures and reward results, ensuring taxpayers are kept safe and receive the greatest return on their investment. Means of accomplishing this in Texas include the following recommendations:
* Revise performance measures for adult and juvenile corrections agencies to deemphasize the current measures that focus on volume, such as the number of offenders incarcerated or in a program, and add measures that assess cost-benefit based on outcomes such as recidivism (re-offending), restitution, and the employment rate of ex-offenders.
* Change the adult probation funding formula so that it is based not solely on the number of individuals supervised, but also on outcomes such as recidivism, revocations to prison, and restitution collections, adjusted for the risk level of the caseload.
* Reduce current incentives for local communities to send nonviolent adult offenders into state lockups by implementing a version of the Commitment Reduction Program that was enacted in 2009 for Texas’ juvenile justice system. Develop a new approach to outsourcing and private correctional facilities that focuses not simply on funding the provider or program with the lowest cost, but on indicators of quality and benchmarks for outcomes such as recidivism.
Through these and other reforms that reward results, Texas can build on its recent progress in lowering crime and controlling cost.
Friday, August 20, 2010
'Rewarding Results: Measuring and Incentivizing Performance in Corrections'
Marc Levin from the Texas Public Policy Foundation has a new report out titled "Rewarding Results: Measuring and Incentivizing Performance in Corrections" (pdf, August 2010). Here's an excerpt from the executive summary:
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast at 11:30 AM