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Get the Data and Gideon’s Promise Team Up for Innovative Metrics

Over the past year, GtD has been proud to be work with Gideon’s Promise to develop measures of culture change that will transform the American criminal justice system. We are delighted to welcome Ilham Askia, Executive Director of Gideon’s Promise to guest blog about our partnership.

Ilham N. Askia
Executive Director
Gideon’s Promise

Gideon’s Promise is a U.S.-based, non-profit whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. Gideon’s values-based approach uniquely trains public defenders to use a “client-first” method to defense practice. The impact that this approach can have on culture change in public defense will ultimately transform an entire criminal justice system. Since January 2017 we have been working with GtD to create an innovative approach to measure the effects of culture change in public defense systems.

While most experts focus on case outcomes and court processing to determine the effectiveness of a public defense system, Get the Data and Gideon’s Promise have designed a way to measure the effects of a values-based approach to training and supporting public defenders. Gideon’s Promise believes that, in order to have equity in the criminal justice system, the lawyers who represent the accused must be excellent in their profession but also care about the dignity of their clients. For over 80% of the people who are charged with a criminal offense, a public defender has the enormous responsibility to not only defend a charge but also illustrate the humanity of a defendant. If administrators of justice could view the accused more humanely, then the treatment of people warehoused in jails, prisons and courtrooms would be different. Because the criminal justice system does not effectively function to rehabilitate offenders, the dignity of the human spirit is stripped away as soon as an individual is accused of an offense. The culture of the system must change from viewing people as case numbers and files and more like human beings with lives that have value. Public defenders tell the stories of those who are deemed unworthy of support. Public defenders remind the system about the value of human lives.

Get the Data has designed metrics to discern whether the culture of an office, the confidence of a public defender, and environment play into how defendants feel about their representation. These metrics also measure whether the attitudes of Gideon’s Promise public defenders affect the public defender offices where they work, the courtrooms where they practice and the relationships they have with their clients. While no one else is measuring the impact of culture change in the criminal justice system, Get the Data and Gideon’s Promise are on the verge of a transformative approach to repairing a broken criminal justice system by using public defenders as anchors to reform and explaining their importance through quantitative data that measure qualitative relationships.

Although Gideon’s Promise is a national organization, it primarily focuses its work in the southeast region of the U.S. where the highest concentration of inequity exists. There are six public defender sites piloting these metrics. The Defender Value Spectrum Survey (DVSS) and the Client Evaluation Survey (CES) are being completed by a sample of Gideon’s Promise influenced public defender offices and clients who received services from those offices. Our goal is to conclude whether a values-based trained attorney positively correlates with how people view public defenders, clients and how both are treated in the court system. Are there sets of core values to public defense training and mentoring that systemically changes the culture? Is Gideon’s Promise’s curriculum aligning with the goal to transform the culture of public defense? Does a caring lawyer matter? These are all questions this study will answer. Our hope is that we can replicate this evaluative process across the country to not only inform Gideon’s Promise’s programming but also encourage public defense systems to adopt our model while providing data that our culture change model works. Caring, competent and committed lawyers are essential to true criminal justice reform.

This partnership is crucial to capturing a values-based approach to criminal justice reform. Gideon’s Promise is truly grateful to be working with Get the Data on this ground-breaking work.

Magnifying glass over the word analyse to illustrate analysis of TR PbR Figures

TR PbR Figures – Context and Drivers

This blog post summaries a presentation I gave at our recent event: Transforming Rehabilitation: Learning from the PbR results.

 

Overall results  

In this blog, I will discuss the data I presented at our recent event, ‘Transforming Rehabilitation: Learning from the PbR Results’. The event was held shortly after the publication of the first reoffending figures which showed that reoffending in the first cohort had been reduced by 1.9%. My colleague Jack Cattell has already discussed these figures in an excellent blog, so this blog is about the how external drivers across the criminal justice system might be affecting these results.  

By CRC? – PbR Figures, who is in control of reoffending? 

In order to make conclusions from these results, one must be aware that there are many factors that can influence reoffending. When faced with (improved or reduced) performance results – it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the reasons for this were outside of your control, or that the results were dominated by one particular driver.  

In understanding the reoffending rates by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), there are many possible drivers across the CJS, and they can be complex to understand. So, could the CRCs have achieved the difference in performance we have seen under TR? Internal factors such as CRC procedures and workflows, and offender profiles will have an effect.  But so too will a myriad of external influences from other agencies of the CJS, for example police positive outcome rates, court conviction rates and timeliness of police & court procedures. Since these factors are outside a CRC’s control, I wanted to investigate and determine whether any might have had an effecting change in the reported reoffending rates.  

National context 

Chart showing - No. of offences thousands

First off, it is important to bear in mind the national context for the period from baseline to first cohort results, which was a time when the total estimated crime fell and police recorded crime remained constant.

 Chart showing proportional change from 2011

Further, positive outcome rates, specifically charges and cautions had been reduced – in general police arrest rates were down and police had been using other disposals (such as community resolutions) to reduce the number of people – particularly young people – in custody.

 

Chart showing days from offence to completion

And individuals were being processed more quickly during the baseline: on average court processes are now taking 10-15 days longer.

Give this context, the national reoffending rate was reduced by 1.8%. That’s a surprisingly resistant figure, given the changes in context nationally. Large changes in this binary rate will not be seen regardless of policy or systematic change in CRCs.

Chart showing reoffending rate

(Of course, the full picture of the reoffending stats has the rate down, but the frequency up – suggesting a shrinking group of more prolific reoffenders. But that is for another post).

Differences in CRCs?

I will now look at these potential drivers of reoffending rates at the CRC level and determine if contexts really were different or helped to drive different performance. To highlight any of these potential differences, I will look at two CRCs who were at opposite ends of the reoffending rate changes.

What is surprising, is that there are no large, obvious differences between those two CRCs when comparing police outcome rates, court effectiveness and court timeliness measures. For example, the police positive outcome rates were reasonably different at the start of the period, but by the end of 2015 had converged to be broadly similar – the best performing CRC had reduced reoffending while police positive outcomes fell by a significant amount.

Chart showing positive outcome rate

Similarly, the lowest performing CRC had raised rates against the baseline despite court timeliness both increasing, and being higher than other CRCs.

So What?

We’ve seen that reoffending rates are complex measures dependent on many factors, from individual, to regional to national level, and the interaction between them. The rates don’t change very much, even though the contexts can differ wildly.

Even comparing the CRCs at either end of performance spectrum there were not huge differences in the police and court factors. This can be seen in different results for CRCs operating in widely similar contexts.

So, my advice is this: don’t fall into the trap of feeling the results are not within your ability to affect. Understanding the wider picture is helpful to contextualise local results. In the following blogs, my colleagues will be focusing on what is in your control, and my colleagues will be identifying what works and using that to inform good practice.

Get involved in the conversation by joining our LinkedIn group.

Non profits in the criminal justice system

Non-profits in the Criminal Justice System & the Role of Social Impact Analytics

Non-profit and commercial organisations play a vital role in assisting offenders to desist from offending, whether working in partnership with community rehabilitation companies or directly with offenders. This week CLINKS, the national organisation that supports voluntary organisations working with offenders and their families, published its annual “State of the Sector” survey. Overall, the survey found that sector remains innovative, flexible and resilient, with organisations having developed and delivered new services to respond to the changing needs of service users and to fill gaps in existing provision.

In acknowledging the importance of the voluntary sector, the survey also found that individual organisations were finding it difficult to keep up with pace of radical policy reform and the effects of continuing austerity. This is not surprising as the majority of organisations that participated in the survey were small, employed fewer than 10 members of staff, operated locally and had an annual turnover of less than £1m. As a consequence, the survey also found that these organisations were spending an increasing amount of time fundraising, sometimes at the expense of client services, while losing their focus on their core purposes. For a few, these challenges threaten their very existence. In the words of Anne Fox, CEO of CLINKS, “The picture painted by this survey is of a sector battling against significant odds but continuing to do essential work and innovate to support offenders and their families with increasing needs”.

As a company, GtD is committed to working in the criminal justice sector, and is currently providing social impact analytics to all levels in the criminal justice system: central and local government, a community rehabilitation company and non-profits. Whether we are providing sophisticated predictive analyses or delivering a performance management framework, the benefits of our social impact analytics are clear: they offer a clarity on where to deploy scarce resources to the greatest effect, and provide definitive information to manage an intervention efficiently and demonstrate its effectiveness to funders.

An effective criminal justice system needs the inputs from a diverse, innovative and healthy voluntary sector. Social impact analytics will define and measure these inputs, and assist organisations remain focused on their core purposes and make an effective contribution.