Sep 28, 2010

Measuring Results in Community Prosecution

“I drove it like I stole it.”
- Jimmy Johnson, NASCAR driver

This morning’s panel focused on measuring results for community prosecution. Panelist Tom Zugibe, Rockland County District Attorney, and Rachel Porter Senior Researcher at the Center for Court Innovation discussed a project to assist the Office in developing performance measures. Julius Lang, Deputy Director of National Technical Assistance moderated.

Effective community prosecution efforts must measure their results in order to drive change. Sounds simple, but it is not. Most prosecutors measure the success of their office based on convictions, in fact, even among community prosecutors conviction rates are still highly prized. Performance indicators are best used to “clarify what is going on in an office,” according to Porter. Indicators also have to measure impacts; reductions in crime and reduced recidivism are prime examples.

Being transparent about success and failure presents a challenge for elected prosecutors, according to Thomas Carr the Boulder Colorado City Attorney. Carr described a situation where a community court project he championed was showing less than stellar results on an evaluation (the program was succesful in extending the time between re-offending which translated into fewer crimes and fewer cases in court). This information was used against him in an election. Identifying problems, developing responses to those problems and communicating the situation publically can help to immunize prosecutors against backlash when a specific initiative is not meeting its goals, according to Julius Lang. Lang highlighted a new effort by the Center for Court Innovation and BJA to understand and learn from failure in criminal justice reform.

To learn more about how to measure community prosecution visit BJA's Performance Measures site.