What Works Anyway? Prove it!

Posted by Evan C. Crist, Psy.D. on 2/18/15 1:24 PM

This is the 11th of a 12 part series on Evidence Based Principles.  Subscribe to our blog and get this series and the upcoming Risk Principle Simplified series delivered right to your inbox.

Principle 7: Measure Relevant Processes/PracticesEBP Measurement Outcomes

Last year in a Wall Street Journal article, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates discussed some of the most important lessons learned in his work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in developing countries. He explained, “In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal.”

I know of no industry with such hard working, patient people as community corrections. This relatively small, but growing, community is full of people that still believe they can save the world like Mr. Gates. Work ethic and heart keep offenders on the right track, bring families back together, assist mentally ill offenders with the management of their medications and enhance public safety daily. That is the good news. The bad news is that we do not do an adequate job of measuring. The worse news: In some cases, the measurements actually exist, but it is nobody’s job to compile and interpret the data.

We can continue to explain that it is difficult to measure the processes in the human service field or we can just start using the mountains of data that we have to improve individual programs and community corrections as a whole. Can’t get everyone on the same page to define “recidivism”? OK, measure something else. Find out what correlates with success. What is the profile of your typical successful client? What makes them different than the unsuccessful client?

As community corrections moves away from a “compliance” mentality in which checking boxes and meeting paperwork deadlines is the primary measurement to a “performance” worldview, measurement will become vital. Policy makers will no longer support the positive emotion of helping people without evidence that it is actually helping. This will not be an easy transition for community corrections agencies, but, while some interventions will be justifiably tossed, the data will validate much of the hard work and passion of its workers.

Ideally, every process in a community corrections program directly or indirectly leads to greater offender success. Is that criminal thinking awareness treatment producing the desired results? Is there a particular criminogenic need that predicts significantly greater success than others? Measuring results in a program is more than just measuring success rates. Knowledge of the interventions and characteristics that produce that success is the most important information available to you.

If you are still using pencil and paper, or even a master of spreadsheets, you are wasting time and information. It is impossible to do any process research without organized, codified data. If your case management system was initially designed and adopted in a year that begins with a “19”, it is time to improve it or lose it. While this principle is not about “technology” per se, attempting to measure anything without it is a fool’s game. Technology prices are a fraction of what they were ten years ago. Use it to capture, organize, and analyze your data. Not only do your staff and clients need a continuous culture of measurements, the community corrections field needs your insights!

Key Points to Consider:

  • Data: Evidence Based Principles begin with measurement and analysis of data. Your data can be turned into evidence too.
  • Staff: Measuring staff performance is just as important as measuring offender performance.

  • Technology: Computers organize and analyze data much better than humans do.


In our next blog in this series, we will address Principle 8, Provide Measurement Feedback. Subscribe to our blog and get this series and the upcoming Risk Principle Simplified series delivered right to your inbox.

Evidence Based Principles: Simplified White Paper

This a 12 part series. Here are all 12 blogs in the series:

  1. An Introduction to Evidence Based Principles (EBP)
  2. EBP: Building the Therapeutic Relationship
  3. Community Corrections Interventions Must Begin with Assessment
  4. To Be or Not to Be: Framing Offender Motivation
  5. EBP: How Good is Your Aim?
  6. Discovering Values in Collaboration
  7. Practice Makes...Habit
  8. Structure & Accountability Still Matter!
  9. Catch Them Being Good!
  10. It Takes a Community to Transition an Offender
  11. What Works Anyway? Prove it!
  12. Feedback Please!
To request more information or schedule an online demonstration of our Community Corrections Software, click here. We offer integrated software and support services for Probation/Parole, Residential and Reentry programs. Our Program Foundation Platform and twelve robust modules were designed by community corrections professionals to guide organizations toward a powerful EBP implementation, relieve them of strenuous paperwork and manual processes, and enable them to focus on what matters - people!

Topics: Community Corrections, Evidence Based Practices

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