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:
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.


Anonymous said...

All good ideas...I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, TDCJ has a disincentive to perform efficiently, because that would end up meaning prisons would be closed and budgets would be trimmed. Empirical research is NOT something the State of Texas is interested in. It's about the 38,000 employees, the towns such as Beeville, Huntsville, Tennessee Colony, Gatesville, who, without prisons, would be deserted towns wiped o0ff the map. The State of Texas has invested "all-in" in failure (aka prisons).

Anonymous said...

The corrections industry and legislature has a moral obligation to the citizens of our great state to manage in cost effective ways. Measuring results is truly an efficient way to direct expenditures using the money we as taxpayers give. It should be mandated that all corrections agencies be required to conduct professional evaluations of their effectiveness. It's not about saving jobs, it's about spending funds more wisely.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad state of affairs that we have become a prison nation and Texas leads the way. Maybe a new Governor would help. Those prison towns are just like military towns a big tax payer rip off. I have been in these towns and it sole purpose is to revolve around misery and profit from it. The reason parole is so corrupted is just as much a hidden agenda as our money making legal system. No longer does the legal system protect a citizen’s Constitutional rights but to make money to pay those ridicules high judges, district attorneys and other court employee’s salaries. It can be seen as far down as traffic court. The parole boards will not release people because that would cause big budgets to become unjustifiable. So the Parole boards will always be corrupt as the people running those prisons themselves. The prison towns in question have never bought anything but misery rather from when they were plantations or now prisons to so many human beings. TDCJ has turn into a money making scheme for so many politicians with no questions ask and no state agency has the moral fortitude to investigate any of this. It is nothing but a politician’s personal money making playground. When your love one is abused by international human rights standards no one will lift a finger to do the right thing. The people running these prisons are some of the most corrupt and immoral people ever to walk this planet. Tax payer’s money goes through the front door and is funneled out the back door through some scheme that no one will investigate. Our prison system is a disgrace and it all revolves around certain people making money. It is time to send a message to Austin and that is to Vote the current politicians out of office and hope the next group will have some fortitude to do the right thing by the tax payers. I do not know anyone who would shed one tear if any of these towns disaapeared but the people in them making money from misery. But to state it simply this will never happen. I encourage everyone to read the book Texas Tough it is a real eye opener; however, no one in a prison in Texas can read it which is just like countries we rail against North Korea, Iran and Cuba. Hmmmmm!

Anonymous said...

36: Go elsewhere to write your book. We are not interested. Are you ex-TYC?

Texas Maverick said...

What a concept- performance reviews of probation & parole personnel. Redefine their job description to measure how many people they help succeed, not how many people under their direction fail? If the majority fail, you may not be going your job. Most businesses look at successful outcomes, not how many customers did I lose. We need to look at the parole and probation officers who have the lowest revocation rates and see what they are doing right. Naugh, too simple for Texas.