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Mtc Report Measuring Success of Correctional Facilities 2006

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Measuring Success:
Improving the
Effectiveness of
Correctional Facilities

Measuring Success:
Improving the Effectiveness
of Correctional Facilities

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The Institute is grateful to the various correctional professionals who provided their input, including Wardens
Jim Frawner, Greg Shirley, Rich Gansheimer, Scott Yates and Ray Terry. In addition, we wish to especially thank
Al Murphy and J.C. Conner for their thoughtful and provocative comments which helped sharpen the points
raised by the paper.
We especially thank the external reviewers who critiqued this document. Their participation has enhanced the
value of the information for policy makers and colleagues working in correctional environments.
Gerald Gaes, Ph.D., Visiting Scientist, National Institute of Justice and former Director of the Federal Bureau
of Prisons, Office of Research & Evaluation and author of many reports and publications, including a recent
seminal book titled Measuring Prison Performance: Government Privatization and Accountability
A. T. Wall, Director, Rhode Island Department of Corrections
Robert Olding, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Human Services Programs, College of Health and Human Services,
University of Phoenix
Mike Janus, former Privatization Bureau Chief, Federal Bureau of Prisons
We also extend thanks to the various MTC Executive staff who contributed their understanding and knowledge
to the project. Finally, we recognize the valuable guidance and feedback on this project from Roberts T. Jones,
President, MTC Institute as well as the comments and observations from MTC Chairman of the Board, Robert
Marquardt, Ph.D. and President & CEO, Scott Marquardt whose input helped make this document stronger.

Measuring Success: Improving the Effectiveness of Correctional Facilities
Published by MTC Institute. Copyright © May 2006.
Comments are appreciated and should be directed to Carl Nink, Executive Director at:
MTC Institute
500 North Marketplace Drive • P.O. Box 10 • Centerville, UT 84014
(801) 693-2870 • Fax: (801) 693-2900
institute@mtctrains.com
www.mtcinstitute.com
Management & Training Corporation (MTC) is an international corporation dedicated to helping people
realize their learning potential. MTC creates nurturing environments in which education is encouraged and
recognized. MTC manages and operates 25 Job Corps centers in 18 states for the U.S. Department of Labor,
preparing disadvantaged youth for meaningful careers. MTC also operates privatized correctional facilities
around the world with approximately 9,700 beds under contract. The MTC Institute is the research division
of MTC, which is dedicated to promoting innovations, exemplary practices, and projecting trends that are
relevant to job training and corrections. The work of the Institute is geared towards a broad audience including
policy makers, educators, researchers, practitioners, state and federal officials, workforce development entities,
correctional agencies and Job Corps centers.

Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION......................................................................................................................................1
THE SYSTEM IS NOT WORKING........................................................................................................1
WHAT IS A SUCCESSFUL CORRECTIONAL FACILITY ................................................................2
INDICATORS OF A SUCCESSFUL FACILITY ...................................................................................2
Safety and Security .............................................................................................................................3
Quality of Life.......................................................................................................................................3
Reentry Preparation ............................................................................................................................3
Management .......................................................................................................................................4
MEASURABLE OUTCOMES..................................................................................................................4
Safety and Security .............................................................................................................................5
Quality of Life.......................................................................................................................................5
Reentry Preparation ............................................................................................................................5
Management .......................................................................................................................................5
PERFORMANCE DATA ...........................................................................................................................6
PUBLIC DISCLOSURE.............................................................................................................................6
ACCOUNTABILITY: WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?.................................................................7
RETURN ON INVESTMENT..................................................................................................................7
PUBLIC POLICY INVESTMENTS.........................................................................................................7
CONCLUSION ...........................................................................................................................................8
ENDNOTES ................................................................................................................................................9

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Measuring Success: Improving the
Effectiveness of Correctional Facilities
INTRODUCTION
While headlines are trumpeting decreased crime rates
across America, a different and troubling story lies
just beneath them: The number of people in prison has
continued to rise. Overall, the nation’s correctional
population is swelling at 3.2 percent per year; in some
states, the growth rate among those behind bars is
double the national average, led by Minnesota (up
11.4 percent), Idaho (up 11.1 percent), and Georgia
(up 8.3 percent). 1
Those responsible for state and federal corrections
face grim challenges when attempting to manage
constantly growing populations. Public safety
demands no-escape facilities, and public sympathy
lies with the corrections staff, whose safety is
critical. But public interest also favors lower taxes,
which means fewer and fewer resources can be
allotted to each individual incarcerated.
Communities across the nation are quietly feeling
their own pinch. County jails are over-crowded,
demanding more staff, more support, more overtime,
and more money. Of those removed from the community to state and federal facilities, fully 97 percent will
return to the community—most in about two years—
triggering new public safety concerns.2 Worse, those
who have been imprisoned are statistically destined
(68 percent) to be rearrested for new offenses. Even
if we ignore the fact that so many offenders are
returning to prison, the social cost to families and
neighborhoods is enormous. Policing, criminal
justice and court systems, public aid, public defense,
and family interventions and support all drive costs
constantly higher, prompting local officials to demand change in the system. Overall, there is growing
concern that the system is ineffective in ensuring the
‘punishment’ and behavior modification desired.
Three realities have emerged from research across the
nation. First, the “lock ‘em and leave ‘em” approach,
in which “corrections” means little more than warehousing people, is a political agenda that has failed.
It installs a revolving door on correctional facilities,
taking in and sending out people who are more likely
to return to prison than to succeed in their
communities.
This method has left correctional professionals with
short funding and inadequate tools to do a task that
they know can be done successfully.

Second, the cost of a non-responsive corrections
system is staggering. For a comparatively few dollars
each day, funders can provide treatment for alcoholand drug-dependence (which impacts a majority of
those in prison) and learning which yields new skills,
a mentality of self respect once they have success, new
trades, and new opportunities for employment after
release. These services cost mere pennies when compared to the dollars wasted on a system that refuses
to fund the tools that will provide the appropriate
corrective measures to reduce recidivism.
Third, with current metrics not working, both the
public and the professionals are demanding accountability for outcomes-based management. Corrections
facilities are increasingly being held to outcomes
measured by post-release factors including not just
recidivism, but continued education, employment,
and the payment of taxes. Taxpayers and corrections
leaders agree that a revolving door wastes both lives
and dollars. The “savings” realized by cutting treatment and education are, in fact, the most expensive
strategies imaginable in the world of corrections.

THE SYSTEM IS NOT WORKING
Of the prison population in state institutions alone,
three out of four offenders have been convicted of
non-violent crimes and, on average, will be released
to return to our communities having served an
average of 16 months behind bars.3 What happens
during their incarceration will have a dramatic impact
on the individual, the community, and the costs to
government.
The return of these non-violent offenders to our
community can be either a story of great success or a
dismal failure depending on the ‘effectiveness’ of the
time spent in prison. Was the ‘punishment’ effective,
were they ‘secure’, was the community ‘safe’, did they
receive ‘humane’ treatment, were they treated for
drug and alcohol ‘dependency’, and was the time well
spent getting the ‘education and training’ needed for
them to succeed on the outside?
The fact is that, to date, our corrections system continues to fail in achieving these goals. Within three
years of their release from prison, about 70 percent of
nonviolent releases are rearrested for new crimes. In
fact, if we look back, over 80 percent of these releases
had prior convictions suggesting the ‘failure’ of their
earlier prison experience.4 They are cycled in and out

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Measuring Success: Improving the
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of our prisons, recommitting crimes in our communities along the way, and we continue to ignore the
impact of new crimes and the escalating cost of crime,
policing, and re-incarceration.
It does not and should not have to be this way. By
in large nonviolent offenders are young, they have
known drug and alcohol dependency, and they are
severely undereducated and unskilled with obvious
training needs. These offenders need the confidence
that new skills provide giving them legitimate careers.
There is clear and convincing evidence that successful,
well-managed prisons can make small but significant
program investments that are both cost effective and
will reduce recidivism by up to 40 percent.5
The dimensions for defining a successful correctional
facility are clear. They must be safe, secure, humane,
provide effective correctional programming, and be
well managed. Not only is crime and its associated
costs reduced, but the overall effect is widespread.6
For every dollar spent on treatment for this population, somewhere between three and seven dollars
in savings is gained in crime-related cost savings,
increased earnings, and reduced health care expenditures, not to mention improved outcomes for offenders.7 Individuals who participated in correctional
education programs earned higher wages upon
release than non-participants.8 Recidivism rates of
participants in correctional education, vocational, and
work programs have been found to be 20 to 40 percent
lower than those of non-participants. Participants
in work programs are more likely to be employed
following release and have higher earnings than nonparticipants.9 Correctional facilities without effective
programs are only adding to the problem.

JUSTICE AS A BUSINESS
Deb Minardi, Deputy Administrator of
Community Corrections Programs, Office of
Probation Administration for the State of
Nebraska, recently commented that “in the world
of justice we have to start thinking like a business, and in business you wouldn’t do things that
weren’t producing results. We do have to pay more
attention to the research so the results make sense
and have positive impact, in particular as it relates
to recidivism. This is the wave of the future.”10
Gaseau, M. (2006)

2

WHAT IS A SUCCESSFUL CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY?
A successful prison is one that can demonstrate to
its elected officials, public, press, correctional agency
managers, staff, and offenders that all mission critical
areas are being addressed. Many corrections professionals say that their primary mission is to protect the
public. However, they have yet to adopt the notion
that this mission includes preparing the offender for
successful return to society by providing programming that reduces the likelihood the offender will
commit more crimes.
The determination of a successful facility includes
the provision of a safe and secure environment where
offender quality of life meets basic welfare needs. Additionally, the successful prison must have programs
that prepare the offenders for reentry into society,
thus protecting the public from further effects of
crime upon the release of the offenders from custody.
Finally, the successful prison must be accountable for
and manage the scarce taxpayer provided resources to
achieve the greatest impact, while continuously looking for innovative, efficient, and effective ways to improve service as well as identified outcome standards.

INDICATORS OF A SUCCESSFUL FACILITY
The main areas of correctional facility performance
can be measured within four dimensions. These
dimensions are not unique and every facility has the
ability to gather data or to tap into these basic areas of
facility operations. These dimensions can be further
defined and subjected to systemic measurement either
at the organizational or specific institutional level.
They can be readily measured through classification
records, infirmary visits, incident logs, grievance
records, offender work records, disciplinary records,
education records, mental health records, and personnel records. Further, surveys of offenders and staff
can be employed like a census, to assess attitudes
towards a wide variety of correctional facility issues.
Historically, correctional systems’ focus of primary
concern is one of ‘public safety’ and punishment.
However, corrections professionals tend to limit the
scope of that activity to keep offenders within the
prison. In actuality, successfully keeping the public
truly safe would require reducing the likelihood that
those released from prison will go on to re-offend.
Therefore, in addition to punishment, it is time to

Measuring Success: Improving the
Effectiveness of Correctional Facilities
reconsider the traditional goals of corrections—we
must make the most of the time an offender spends
behind bars in order to prepare them for their successful return to society. Truly, only then is long-term
public safety and protection achievable.

HUMANE TREATMENT
While inmates are sent to prison as punishment by
the community, corrections professionals understand that it is not their job to further punish them
while they are incarcerated. Mistakenly, some in
society believe this is or should be corrections’
role. Warden Rich Gansheimer (2006)
All correctional facilities must be accountable to standard performance criteria that can be measured across
the system. Only then can we identify successful
correctional facilities as well as systems that are effective in reducing the number of offenders that return to
the correctional system. Facilities that perform well in
all of the following four dimensions of facility performance may indicate successful correctional facilities.

•

Facilities have an obligation to provide care,
not inflict suffering, and to prevent suicide,
malnutrition, and degradation of mental faculties.

•

To establish a safe and orderly environment, there
needs to be a due process system of discipline and
sanctions.

•

To address offender grievances with policy,
practice, and staff members, a system of
administrative remedies must be available.

•

Successful facilities are those that deliver proper
medical, dental, and mental health services, as
well as provide food and recreation.

•

Family networks are a connection to normalcy
and visits are often an important factor in offender
rehabilitation. Successful facilities provide continued contact with the outside and maintenance of
positive family networks.

Reentry Preparation
•

Safety and Security
•

Correctional facilities must be secure places,
without escapes.

•

Since most offenders have had drug problems,
staff must prevent drugs and other contraband
from entering.

•

Offenders and staff need to be kept safe (e.g.
assaults, work accidents). There should be no
murders, no hostage situations, few assaults on
either offenders or staff, and a small number of
racial disorders or gang related incidents.

•

Disorder should be kept to minimum allowing
offenders to work and attend programming.

Quality of Life
•

Offenders are entitled to basic “core” human
rights (e.g., proper housing, clothing and bedding,
personal hygiene, health care, contact with the
outside world, and access to a qualified representative of the offender’s chosen faith).

•

Offenders should be housed in decent conditions;
correctional facilities can be evaluated on the basis
of crowding, population density, cleanliness, light,
air quality, and sanitation.

A system of risk/needs assessment leading to
classification is essential to protect society and
segregate offenders, while providing additional
experiences where offenders can learn pro-social
behavior. An orientation to program opportunities
is a critical function.

ESTIMATED PERCENTAGE REDUCTION
IN RECIDIVISM RATES
Work and Education Programs for the General
Offender Population
Basic adult education programs in prison –5.1%
Vocational education in prison –12.6%
Correctional Industries programs in prison –7.8%
Employment training and job assistance in the
community –4.8%
Programs for Drug-Involved Offenders
Cognitive-behavioral drug treatment in
prison –6.8%
In-prison “therapeutic communities” with
community aftercare –6.9%
In-prison “therapeutic communities” without
community aftercare –5.3%
Aos, et al. (2006)11
•

Because many offenders lack a positive work
ethic and skills, facilities need to have a system
that provides access to job training opportunities,
enabling employment with career job availability

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that provides a living wage to support the inmate
and family.
•

As most offenders do not possess a basic
education, educational programming geared
toward diploma attainment is essential before
returning to the free world.

•

Substance abuse and other treatment programs
address specific criminogenic needs that offenders have. Successful facilities provide cognitive
behavioral treatment programs targeted to issues
that contributed to the offender’s incarceration.

•

Offenders need to learn to use free time productively, through involvement in recreational
activities and use of libraries. Successful facilities
provide organized recreation programs that
parallel programs outside of prison.

•

When offender programming is implemented
effectively, recidivism is reduced. Successful
facilities (and systems) are those that reduce
recidivism.

•

Engaging private industry in building real
factories behind fences that provide training,
wage earning, and a product that can be sold unrestricted on the open market.

Management
•

A stable staff complement provides a more
responsive environment; staff turnover and absenteeism can contribute to security and safety gaps.

•

With high levels of staff vacancy, overtime is
required, resulting in staff burnout, morale issues,
and training requirements that affect the overall
performance and productivity of the facility.

•

Monitoring the efficiency and effectiveness of
operation provides insight into what drives the
per-diem costs. The public is increasingly aware of
the cost associated with operating facilities and is
demanding that tax dollars be spent wisely.

•

Correctional facilities run on the basis of rules and
fairness in the application of the rules; facilities
must ensure that systems which address offender
misconduct and provide administrative remedies
for offenders are fair.

•

Use of volunteers contributes to better community
relations, a reduction in post release challenges,
and expanded program services.

•

Collecting input from staff and offenders on the
facility operation provides valuable insight and

4

actionable ideas about all facets of the institutional
environment.
•

Planning for reentry from day one is consistent
with the purpose of prison and supports offenders
with what they need to be successful in society.

The most important ingredient in a successful
facility is management. A safe, secure, and industrious
facility depends on its staff. Indeed, the recruitment
and retention of staff is the single most important ingredient in a successful facility. High turnover can be
indicative of poor morale, which can lead to
operational problems. A successful facility is one with
“low” employee turnover and high levels of employee
satisfaction, which can be measured or assessed
through system-wide employee surveys.

SOCIAL CLIMATE AND FACILITY
PERFORMANCE
The Federal Bureau of Prisons uses the Prison
Social Climate Survey to gather extensive information on prison performance. The data are then
subjected to close examination by highly trained
researchers. Prisons can then be ranked on various
dimensions to ascertain performance and evaluate
management of its facilities.12

MEASURABLE OUTCOMES
Creating a national performance measurement system
is needed to clarify misunderstandings, establish outcome-based standards, design measurable outcomes,
allow cross-agency evaluations, encourage management to be future oriented, and provide motivation for
using performance as a basis for management and the
decision-making process.
There is a need to include both the agency and
individual units or prisons as levels within the
criteria.13 The driving forces behind both of these
organizational levels are the mission, goals, and
objectives. Understanding these guiding premises is
essential in the broader context of prison operations
and potential differences between institutions.
Further, there is a need to capture data on important
characteristics of the offenders (e.g., demographics—
sex, age, race/ethnicity, offense type, average sentence
length, and average time served). The data collection
“should capitalize on the best information available,
including prison audits, objective indicators, survey of
staff and inmates, and under some circumstances, narratives of the context in which the analysis is done.”14

Measuring Success: Improving the
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OUTCOME STANDARDS
A formal system of outcome standards for
America’s prisons will absolutely reduce crime,
reduce costs, and significantly increase effective
and humane treatment of inmates.
Consistent with the indicators of success, institutions need to be held accountable for outcomes and
delivering services that meet performance standards.
Outcome measures follow from the standards for a
successful correctional facility mentioned above. The
performance standards and related outcome measures
would likely include:
Safety and Security
•

Escape rate.

•

Inmate death rate (i.e., homicides/suicides/
natural).

•

Disturbance rate.

•

Assault (i.e., all types) rate.

•

Sexual misconduct/harassment rate.

•

Safety/incident rate.

•

Amount and type of contraband found.

•

Positive drug test rate.

•

Inmate to staff ratio.

•

Reentry failure rate.15

Quality of Life
•

Proportion of inmates on treatment plans for
chronic health, dental and mental health
situations, and whether conditions were
maintained or improved.

•

Overcrowding rate.

•

Degree of sanitation within the correctional
facility.

•

Perception of meal quality.

•

Proportion of inmates actively involved in
recreation program(s).

Reentry Preparation
•

Proportion of offenders working in meaningful
career building experiences.

•

Proportion of eligible offender education (i.e.,
ABE, GED, High School, Post Secondary)
completions.

•

Career and technical training certificates.

•

Proportion of inmates involved in product
production or product services.

•

Substance abuse education/treatment
completions.

•

Proportion of inmates participating in spiritual
development program(s).

•

Proportion of inmates actively involved in
programs (i.e., all types).

•

Proportion of inmates engaged with family and
friends (i.e., phone calls, letters, and visits).

Management
•

Staff voluntary and involuntary terminations
(i.e., turnover rate).

•

Overtime (i.e., hours and costs).

•

Proportion of allocated funds not spent.

•

Inmate daily per-diem cost.

•

Proportion of staff who meet training requirements (i.e., type, level, proportion of staff).

•

Proportion of inmate misconduct findings upheld.

•

Staff misconduct rate.

•

Proportion of grievances dispositions upheld
(i.e., medical, dental, mental health and food).

•

Volunteerism rate.

•

Staff and offender perceptions (i.e., safety,
security, quality of life, and management).

FACILITY COSTS
The cost of operations to any [contracting] entity
is very crucial and will be a deciding factor in the
public eye. Warden James Frawner (2006)
In addition to outcomes, there are a number of process
actions (i.e., inmate screening, facility accreditation,
inmate misconduct reports, frequency and efficacy
of institutional searches, level of sanitation within
the facility, inmate grievances filed by type, etc.) that
institutions must also take into account to provide
context for other performance measures.16 Prisons are
responsible for effectively implementing actions and

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programs that will result in a reduction in the number
of inmates who are returned to prison, leading to a
count of inmates who failed to successfully reenter
society (i.e., recidivism rate).
Facilities that uniformly work to improve outcomes
within these dimensions are progressing towards
a success-oriented model. Improving performance
requires facilities to benchmark activities over time;
performance data is essential to demonstrate progress.

PERFORMANCE DATA
Establishing outcome-based standards and associated
measures for performance alone will not lead to better
quality institutions. The Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) recognized this need
and is now developing a set of standard definitions
and a national data collection system. Data needs to be
collected on each outcome area and made available to
the media, elected officials, and public. Demographic
data will also need to be collected on inmates to help
determine if any factors that are present are influencing the outcomes. The system must be standardized so
that institutions can be compared for effectiveness. As
of today, this system is still being developed.
Standardized measures of success are needed to track
the correctional industry’s progress in reaching the
expectations for the nation, as well as to guide public
planning and policy making. Comparative information on quality is also needed for use in selecting effective and efficient programs and institutions. Furthermore, valid and stable quality measures are integral to
efforts to improve performance, and, when standardized, encourage correctional organizations to learn
from each other through a process of benchmarking.
Despite the increase in frequency of efforts to measure
and report on operational quality, useful information
is neither uniformly nor widely available.
Improving our ability to measure quality has been the
object of significant public and private sector activity
over the last decade, reflecting the expectation that
measurement can serve both as a catalyst and a tool
for improvement. While considerable advancements
have been made in the quality measurement field in
recent years, current efforts fall short of fully meeting
the outcomes necessary to support efforts to reduce
recidivism.

6

PUBLIC DISCLOSURE
The quality of any decision is entirely dependent on
the nature and use of the information available. It
is well known that timely and reliable information
guides the formulation of policy and initiates reform.
Given the emphasis on reform in the present paper,
this elementary point cannot be overstated. Resultsoriented management establishes a basis by which
policymakers and the public can assess long and
short-term progress, as administrators monitor, evaluate, and report results to gauge success or failure.
Managing for performance and time-oriented outcomes contributes to fiscal efficiency, quality decision
making, reliable operations, and the quality and utility
of information at the disposal of the legislature and
the public. Increasing public access and review of
performance results enhances the information
available to and incentives for managers in their
quest for efficiency and effectiveness in delivering
public services. Effective, well-performing institutions are models to emulate; such models require
both accountability and transparency.

WE NEED ORGANIZATIONAL
LEADERSHIP
The American Correctional Association (ACA)
began the process of developing operating
guidelines more than 125 years ago. The
Association of State Correctional Administrators
(ASCA) has also been very active in the development of an outcome-based performance measures
system, with a recent major initiative to establish
national standards, definitions, and counting rules.
ASCA has created a technology infrastructure to
facilitate data collection and exchange through
a Web-based application. These are very important steps toward a uniform, performance-based
measures system. However, there is need for more
public awareness and completion of the project,
which still has several standards remaining to be
addressed. Further, some agencies nationwide still
do not maintain a performance indicator system.
(Sources: The ACA and ASCA Web sites, 2006).

Measuring Success: Improving the
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ACCOUNTABILITY: WHERE DOES THE
BUCK STOP?
The public must hold correctional institutions and all
those involved responsible for their actions. Traditionally, governments have emphasized organizational
forms in which responsibilities are arranged hierarchically, with the ultimate responsibility for detailed
decisions resting at the top, with the executive or
legislature itself. A well-managed system is one that
clearly identifies responsible parties for the governance over the use of public resources.
Institutional management and staff should be judged
against a formal set of outcomes. In this manner,
agency heads can take action when facilities under
perform. Actions should be based on a system which
includes a set of incentives for stellar performance,
as well as sanctions up to and including replacement
for failing to meet benchmarked outcome thresholds.
In addition to this system of accountability, there is a
need to tie in performance-based budgeting.
Performance-based budgeting for government
services is one of the most advanced reforms sweeping the halls of government. Put simply, performancebased budgeting is the allocation of funds based on
performance and results, not on political favoritism
or arbitrary adjustments to last year’s budget request.
It effectively ties appropriations to outcomes so that
agencies spend tax dollars on the programs or activities that produce the highest level of outcomes—in
other word’s, the most “bang for the buck.” The use
of performance-based budgeting leads to qualitative
enhancements in public administration by
promoting improved outcomes. Since performancebased budgeting shifts government agencies’ focus
squarely to how best to deliver results and performance, it not only reinvents the budgeting process, it
reinvents government itself.
By implementing performance-based budgeting,
the true cost of services can be known—and with
the transparency of true costs, comparisons can be
made to other programs and cost-benefit analyses
conducted. Elected officials and the public should
expect a high level of transparency. Operating under
a condition of complete openness sustains elements of
accountability, and thus, is important in establishing
an environment that is accountable. Simply stated, a
transparent environment means that “all the cards are
on the table.”

RETURN ON INVESTMENT
It is critical to achieve a return on taxpayer investments in the corrections system. With performance
measures and a system to capture and publicly
display data, elected officials and corrections professionals can now discuss how to improve outcomes.
With greater targeted investments in programs that
demonstrate they work, more offenders will be
leaving with the academic and technical skills
needed to get and hold a job. If offenders leave better
prepared to succeed in society and the workplace,
criminal justice costs, such as policing, courts, and
reincarceration, will be reduced. Further, reducing the
collateral costs to the community and collecting taxes
that might be paid by working ex-offenders all point
to a huge return on the investment in corrections,
specifically in regards to prison programs.

RECIDIVISM REDUCTION SAVINGS
Applying the average cost of $64.10 per day17 with
over 650,000 offenders being released each year18
and a return to prison rate of 51.8 percent within 3
years19, the estimated return on the investment of
prison and reentry programming is well over $100
million for incarceration costs alone, for every percentage point drop in recidivism achieved.

PUBLIC POLICY INVESTMENTS
Once performance based outcomes are established
and information is publicly disclosed, legitimate
discussions can take place about what type of investments are needed to address factors that adversely
impact the outcomes that the public cares most about.
Focusing on the real issue of achieving specific
outcomes and delivering service according to
performance standards eliminates arguments over
who provides a service (i.e., public or private).
Reentry is a critical to the successful transition of
offenders. We need a system that provides reentry
guidance and supports the needs of offenders released
under supervision, as well as processes that help those
who are no longer under commitment to the criminal
justice system. With a multitude of adjustments
required, release and reentry programs are worthwhile investments.

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CONCLUSION
America’s correctional professionals must focus on
what works, and it is also time for our corrections
system to focus on reporting outcome-oriented organizational and program results. The competitive
nature of resource allocation requires correctional
professionals to be clear about intentions, measuring
and understanding results, and making adjustments
where necessary, if they are to assure taxpayers that
their money is being spent wisely, as well as secure
continuing and additional resources.
The coming challenge in corrections is the development and implementation of outcome standards for
effective facility operations and management. The
problem with the American corrections system is not
so much a lack of financial resources as it is a general
failure to be held accountable for effective change for
all who inhabit our correctional facilities. Corrections
organizations must be held accountable to a standard
greater than the current practice. Simply releasing
offenders and “hoping for the best” is no longer viable
given the financial burden on state and federal
budgets. The public is demanding a more effective
and efficient mode of operation, and it is our job to
meet this need.

8

Policy-makers have a public responsibility to
establish clear expectations for performance based on
outcomes, holding those that do not measure up
accountable. Hundreds of thousands of offenders flow
through this country’s prison and jails, and correctional
administrators are at the mercy of the systems that
shuffle around individuals who end up in the correctional web and strapped fiscal budgets. Correctional
organizations exist in a larger complex environment
heavily influenced by public opinion, the media, and
political activity. However, managers overseeing poor
performing facilities cannot expect to continue to collect more of the taxpayer dollar. Therefore, decisions
must be based on performance, rather than politics.
There can be no clearer argument—an offender’s time
in a facility should be well spent in order to avoid a
return stay. Maintaining a safe and secure facility is
primary, for nothing goes further unless this mission
is achieved. However, correctional facilities must be
accountable for the time offenders spend behind bars
and the degree to which efforts have improved the
condition of the offender such that the propensity to
re-offend is reduced. Without changing the current
path, incarceration will rise, outpacing facility
capacity and squeezing ever-shrinking resources.

Endnotes

1

Harrison, P. and Beck, A. (2005). Prisoners in 2004. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. (October).

2

Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Corrections Reporting Program, 2002.

3

Durose, M. and Mumola, C. (2004). Profiles of Nonviolent Offenders Exiting State Prisons.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. NCJ 20781.

4

Langan, P.S. & Levin, D.J. (2002, June). Recidivism of prisoners released in 1994 (NCJ 193427).
Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

5

Brown, S.L. (2000, May). “Cost-effective correctional treatment.” Forum on Corrections Research, 12(2).
Correctional Service of Canada: Ottawa, ON.

6

Gerstein, D. R., Johnson, R. A., and Harwood, H. S., (1994). Evaluating Drug Recovery Services: The
California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Assessment (CALDATA). Sacramento, CA: Department of
Alcohol and Drug Programs.

7

Gerald G. Gaes et al., “Adult Correctional Treatment,” in Michael Tonry and Joan Petersilia (eds.),
Prisons (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Kim A. Hull et al., “Analysis of Recidivism
Rates for Participants of the Academic/Vocational/Transition Education Programs Offered by the
Virginia Department of Correctional Education,” Journal of Correctional Education 51, no. 2 (2000):
256–61; Kenneth Adams et al., “A Large-Scale Multidimensional Test of the Effect of Prison Education
on Prisoners’ Behavior,” The Prison Journal 74, no. 4 (2001): 433–449.

8

Wilson, D., Gallagher, C., and MacKenzie, D. (2001). A Meta-Analysis of Corrections-Based Education,
Vocation, and Work Programs for Adult Offenders. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
37: 347–368.

9

Wilson, D., Gallagher, C., and MacKenzie, D. (2001). A Meta-Analysis of Corrections-Based Education,
Vocation, and Work Programs for Adult Offenders. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
37: 347–368.

10

Gaseau, M. (2006). A bang for the Buck: Considering Outcomes in Alternatives to Incarceration.
Corrections. Com. P 1. Retrieved January 6, 2006 from
http://www.corrections.com/news/archives/results2.asp?ID=14709

11

Aos, S., Millar, M., Drake, E. (2006). Evidence-Based Adult Corrections Programs: What Works And What
Does Not. Report number #06-01-1201. Retrieved February 17, 2006 from
http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/06-01-1201.pdf

12

Kane,T.R.(2005).Operations Memorandum: Prison Social Climate Survey – 2005. Retrieved January 6, 2006
from http://www.bop.gov/policy/operations/005_2005.pdf

13

Gaes, G., Camp, S., Nelson, J. and Saylor, W. (2005). Measuring Prison Performance; Government
Privatization & Accountability. Alta Mira Press, New York, NY.

14

Ibid. p.141.

15

Prisons are responsible for effectively implementing actions and programs that will result in a reduction
in the number of inmates who are returned to prison, leading to a count of inmates who failed to
successfully reenter society (i.e., recidivism rate).

MTC INSTITUTE

9

Endnotes

16

Gaes, G., Camp, S., Nelson, J. and Saylor, W. (2005). Measuring Prison Performance; Government
Privatization & Accountability. Alta Mira Press, New York, NY. p. 144.

17

American Correctional Association (2005). 2005 Directory: Adult and juvenile correctional departments,
institutions, agencies, and probation and parole (66th ed.). Lanham, MD: American Correctional
Association. p. 20.

18

Harrison, P. & Beck, A. (2005, April). Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004, (NIJ 208801).
Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

19

Langan, P.S. & Levin, D.J. (2002, June). Recidivism of prisoners released in 1994 (NCJ 193427).
Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

10

MTC Institute
Measuring Success: Improving the Effectiveness of Correctional Facilities
500 North Marketplace Drive
P.O. Box 10, Centerville, UT 84014
(801) 693-2870 Fax (801) 693-2900
institute@mtctrains.com
www.mtcinstitute.com

 

 

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