After describing performance measurement and monitoring, this article examines their relevance for improving the accountability, operations, and effectiveness of juvenile justice, followed by three examples of how the techniques are currently being applied in the United States.
Although the definition of performance measurement varies, most definitions emphasize the use of empirical indicators in documenting the extent to which intended services and activities are undertaken, as well as to measure outcomes that are intended to result from these services and activities. The importance of performance monitoring cannot be overstated, given that all policies, programs, and activities are unlikely to be effective if they are not implemented as planned. Further, even if a program is implemented as planned, it is necessary to determine whether the selected strategy and operations are having the intended outcomes. Performance measurement thus becomes the foundation for improving the design, operations, efficiency, and effectiveness of government programs. Generally, juvenile justice accountability can be enhanced by institutionalizing performance monitoring of systems operations and reforms. The focus on operations is critical, because the daily activities of probation departments, courts, defense counsel, prosecutors, and judges, as well as various providers of supervision and custody compose the core of what constitutes juvenile justice. The focus on the effects of reform is particularly critical, given the large-scale changes to juvenile justice that have occurred in recent decades. Three prominent efforts to improve the accountability of juvenile justice share a common focus on measuring and sharing performance data: the Performance-based Standards System developed by the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators; the National Performance Measures Demonstration Project; and the Reclaiming Futures initiative. Each of these efforts is described as a promising initiative that illustrates how performance monitoring can be undertaken and used to improve system operations. 46 references
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