In this section, we discuss the importance of developing a strong and lasting self-evaluation component to your TJC initiative. Your goal is to recognize that only through ongoing evaluation will you understand your successes, identify areas for improvement, learn from them, and institute policies and procedures that will continually clarify and improve your future efforts.
At the most basic level, self-evaluation helps you answer three questions:1
- Is the TJC initiative producing the desired results?
- Is the TJC initiative having the greatest possible impact on public safety?
- Is the TJC initiative making the most efficient use of public funds?
Self-evaluation doesn't have to be complicated or costly, and any short-term inconvenience is far outweighed by the risk of not identifying the areas where improvement is needed to successfully implement the TJC initiative. In fact, without self-evaluation, your resources will not be used as effectively as they might be and your efforts to improve long-term public safety will not have the impact that they should.
According to the Evaluation Toolkit produced by the Government of Ontario, Canada2,evaluation is beneficial because it enables you to
- Demonstrate effective, efficient, and equitable use of financial and other resources.
- Measure actual changes and progress made.
- Identify success factors, need for improvement, or areas where expected outcomes are unrealistic.
- Respond to demands for accountability.
- Validate that desired outcomes are being achieved.
The self-evaluation process is ordered in four simple steps:
You will learn more about elements 1, 3, and 4 in the following sections. Refer back to Module 4: Data-Driven Understanding of Local Reentry for Step 2: Data Collection.
Field notes from Ada County, Idaho
In the early 2000s, Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney looked to the future and saw rapid growth in the county was inevitable. Raney did not want to go to taxpayers every few years for capital improvements to pay for jail expansion. He wanted to improve community safety and embrace statistical analysis that showed for many first-time or low-level offenders, spending time in jail can have negative consequences.
Raney wanted offenders who could safely be in the community to be managed there while working, paying rent, and taking care of their families. And he wanted to figure out ways to help some of our most frequent guests to the jail from ever coming back.
So how have we done this? With screening, assessment and case planning, and some help from community providers, government groups and faith-based organizations.
We use the simple and effective tool of proxy score on the screening end when someone is charged. For the uninitiated, the proxy score is based on 1) age of the person at first arrest, 2) number of prior arrests and 3) current age. The lower the proxy score, the less likely the person is to get arrested again. It’s a quick and accurate screening for recidivism.
When we get someone with a low proxy score, the next move is to reduce exposure to the jail environment and programming as much as possible while ensuring the community remains safe. For inmates with higher scores, we look to see what programs we have that can help. That’s where the assessment comes in. Once we get a proxy score we use the Level of Service Inventory – Revised to determine what programming will provide the most benefit for the individual.
The next move is case planning — how we match the programs we have to an individual’s assessed needs; research shows that doing this reduces the chances they will come back to jail. Examples include: 1) Active Behavioral Change classes, 2) substance abuse programs, 3) GED tutoring and testing, 4) fatherhood/parenting classes, 5) Workforce readiness and Work Search programs and 6) re-entry dorms.
We know this is working by tracking the recidivism of inmates who have completed those programs as compared to inmates who haven’t. Over the last three years, the program group had a lower recidivism rate than the control group — and those numbers keep getting better. In 2012, the difference was 8 percentage points. In 2013, it went up to 9 percentage points and in 2014 we broke double digits: the difference in the offending between program participants and the comparison group was 12 percentage points. This is great news for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office and the community.
1 Council of State Governments, Re-Entry Policy Council. 2005. “The Report of the Re-Entry Council.”
2 Government of Ontario Canada. n.d. “Evaluation Toolkit.”
Let's revisit what we have learned so far in the Self-Evaluation and Sustainability module. Please answer the following question.
|Self-evaluation is the process of gathering information that determines|
This section demonstrated to you that self-evaluation enablesprogram staff and their partners to guide and improve operations by collecting empirical information to substantiate and measure effectiveness.