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Realistic Expectations: Constructing a Mission-Based Evaluation Model for Community Corrections Programs

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 15 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2004 Pages: 251-269
Date Published
September 2004
19 pages

This article presents a model for evaluating community corrections programs that is based on what a program promised to do in its mission statement.


Historically, community corrections agencies and their programs have been evaluated according to their effectiveness in reducing recidivism. This may be an unrealistic measure of success, however, since no single program can counter the multiple factors that contribute to recidivism, such as marital status, community disorganization, lack of educational opportunity, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, etc. These adverse social and economic influences are diverse, complex, and perhaps beyond the influence of community corrections. The measurement of recidivism is also a problem, since its definition varies across studies, and the criminal justice policies and practices that pertain to the risk of being detected for recidivism will vary across jurisdictions and even within the same jurisdiction over different time frames. An additional complication with using recidivism as the primary or sole measure of program success is the lack of consensus on how much reduction in recidivism is required to conclude that a program is effective. During the last decade, practitioner associations and academics have been working to identify appropriate alternative outcome measures for correctional program evaluations. In addition to recidivism, other evaluation criteria recommended are designed to measure surveillance/enforcement, treatment participation and implementation, the viability of the program as an intermediate sanction (reduced cost and diversion from incarceration), and offender accountability. The latter measures pertain to the following offender performance: number of alcohol/drug tests, paying total restitution, paying fines in full, becoming employed, period of time remaining employed, participation in educational programs, and participation in life-skills programs. This article proposes a mission-based evaluation model, which tests whether a program has achieved its proximal goals and thus the program's mission. The mission-based evaluation model is superimposed on outcome data collected for a previous evaluation to show that the program evaluated met a majority of its proximal goals and also demonstrated a modest reduction in recidivism among those offenders who participated fully in treatment programming. Evaluations that embrace a comprehensive measure of what the program intended to accomplish offer a more realistic appraisal of the cost-benefit of the program's implementation. 3 tables, 5 notes, and 32 references

Date Published: September 1, 2004