Archives for April 2015

Measuring Offender Recidivism-The Urban Institute

Measuring Offender Recidivism-The Urban Institute

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/10/measuring-offender-recidivism-urban-institute/

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen our show today is Measuring Recidivism. We have folks from the Urban Institute Ryan King. He is a senior fellow with the Justice Policy Center again at Urban Institute. Brian Elderbroom a Senior Research Associate with the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. This is all in preparation for a Wednesday, October 15th webinar at 2’o clock in the afternoon with the Urban Institute and the Bureau of Justice Assistance we encourage everybody to go to the website www.urban.org for the document I am about to mention and the webinar and I will bring up the webinar a couple more times throughout the course of the program. Ryan and Brian welcome to DC Public Safety.

RYAN KING: Thanks for having us.

BRIAN ELDERBROOM: Thanks for having us.

LEONARD SIPES: Like I said that before we hit the record button it’s the Ryan and Brian show. It sounds like a morning drive time radio show, so you know it should be an interesting program. You did a report called Improving Recidivism as a performance measure and I just want to read from it ever so briefly at the very beginning to kick of the conversation. Performance measurement establishing metrics for its excess and assessing results is crucial first top in informed decisions made by all areas of government including criminal justice policy, understanding the outcome, the funding and policy decisions is critical to improving government performance and providing the best return on tax payers investments. If that’s true Ryan or Brian why don’t we do it? Why are we in the criminal justice system, why are we so reluctant to being involved in measuring recidivism.

RYAN KING: Well I would say it’s not a reluctance to be involved but it’s a little bit more about the way that we are doing it. The reason, the impetus behind doing this brief was a recognition that for better or for worse recidivism is a primary performance measure that is being used in the fields of corrections and there are a lot of reasons why that is troubling practitioners and policy makers and researchers a like I think have a range of criticism but recidivism as sort of an end measure basically a measure of, when somebody comes in the system is that intervention while they are in the system, having some sort of positive outcome and result that is leading to a reduction in future offending and so if we have and imperfect measure. I think Brian and I and other folks at the Urban Institute felt it was really important for us to try to sketch out ways that we could improve it because it is not going away and I think one of the key things is sort of flagged right from the get go is that different folks have different criticisms about it and I think the biggest issue is that every individual who comes into the system has a different story, they have a different history and they are touched by a number of different parts of the system and so recidivism traditionally is looked at as a measure of success for prisons. People coming into prison do they succeed when they come back out again?

LEONARD SIPES: Well I am going to go over to Brian on this question. When we say and I talked to a couple of practitioners from around the field saying I was going to do at this radio show today with Urban and they are saying, you know Leonard we have individuals that come to us in the Criminal Justice System that come to us from Community Supervision. They have histories of substance abuse, histories of mental health problems and they have a lousy job record. They spend a lot of time, in many cases in the American Prison System, women offenders in particular come out and they have to deal with kids, really the odds are so stacked against them and it is not as if we have the money and the wherewithal and the resources to remediate so many of the social problems that they bring to us, why should we be held responsible for that persons success when we don’t control all the variables that go into that persons success or failure. Answer that question for me Brian.

BRIAN ELDERBROOM: I think for those very dedicated professionals who are working with people involved in the Criminal Justice System, they care deeply about those outcomes that you are describing, not just whether they desist from future criminal behavior but whether they find stable housing, whether they find a job or that they stop using drugs and alcohol and those are important measures by which they should judge their success as well. At the end of the day what we outline in the brief is that a single state wide rate of recidivism obscures a lot of what you are describing in that comment and we need to incorporate other success measure in addition to the ones that you described. How long is someone successful, how