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Improving Recidivism as a Performance Measure

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"Performance measurement-establishing metrics for success and assessing results-is a crucial first step in making informed decisions in all areas of government, including criminal justice policy. Understanding the outcomes of funding and policy decisions is critical to improving government performance and providing the best return on taxpayer investments ... Recidivism, the most commonly used definition of correctional success, is one example of a performance measure that many states use. Broadly defined as reengaging in criminal behavior after receiving a sanction or intervention, recidivism is an important performance measure for justice agencies and should be at the heart of any effort to evaluate JRI outcomes. Unfortunately, recidivism is most frequently reported as a single, statewide rate, which is too imprecise to draw meaningful conclusions and insufficient for assessing the impact of changes to policy and practice" (p. 2). This brief shows how your agencies can use recidivism data to make better decisions beyond the system-level. The four steps explained are: definition-use multiple measures of success; collection-develop protocols to ensure data are consistent, accurate, and timely; analysis-account for the underlying composition of the population; and dissemination-package the findings to maximize impact and get the results into the hands of decision-makers.