In this volume, we provide an overview of how prosecutors can create and implement a performance management system to track the effectiveness of their response to sexual violence. Performance management systems are structures for categorizing and analyzing information to assess the effectiveness of a particular organization or process. The first goal of performance management is to gather information necessary to assess effectiveness over time and improve practices accordingly. In this context, it is a process for examining the criminal justice response to sexual violence cases to identify which cases are most successfully prosecuted – and the implemented practices to be emulated or expanded upon – and which cases need an improved response in order to secure justice for victims and hold offenders accountable.
A key characteristic of performance management is that performance is assessed on a recurring basis, providing regular and timely feedback and enabling continuous insight into what is working and what is not. Thus, performance management seeks to provide prosecutors a window into their own practice and enable them to continuously improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their sexual violence case practices.
Performance measurement encourages stakeholders responding to sexual violence (the prosecutor’s office, law enforcement, health care providers, and victim advocates) to see themselves as partners — each an important component contributing to the success of the effort. Outcome measurement and analytic processes can lead to useful multidisciplinary discussions and improvement strategies; the involvement of key partners influences the values of individual outcome measures. For example, medical forensic examiners collect sexual assault kit (SAK) evidence and law enforcement will usually be involved in submission of SAKs to the lab; coordination of those steps is essential.
Our focus here is on the measurement and use of “outcome” measures. Outcome measures represent what prosecutors, with their partners, seek to accomplish, as well as goals important to victims and the public. “Output” measures, by way of contrast, represent the quantity or volume of work done, such as “number of sexual assault kits tested.” The primary focus in the RSVP Model is not on outputs themselves, but their results — the outcomes that occur and the implementation of promising prosecution practices associated with producing those outcomes.
The suggestions here, including identification of outcome measures and data collection procedures, have been pilot tested in seven unique jurisdictions and refined based upon lessons learned, but they are by no means definitive. They need to be tested in the field – beyond the initial pilot sites – to permit identification and correction of problems in the process that inevitably will arise.
1.2-A. What are the Prerequisites for Implementing Performance Management?
An openness to new ideas.
For most prosecutors, performance management requires a fundamental change in perspective. It requires them to abandon the practice of viewing cases in isolation, in favor of comprehensively examining trends across cases.
Performance management also requires prosecutors to look beyond conviction rates and to adopt a more expansive definition of successful prosecution. Such an approach may seem challenging at first but is crucial for obtaining a more comprehensive understanding of our sexual violence response.
Finally, performance management goes beyond the determination of “outcome measures” – in other words, what is happening – and provides guidance for determining why an outcome is happening. The process provides prosecutors’ offices with a roadmap for targeting areas needing improvement, perhaps through training and technical assistance.
A willingness to critically and constructively examine one’s own practice and the courage to share critiques with colleagues, staff, and communities.
No one likes to fall short of success. Performance management will reveal where prosecutors are doing well, but also where they need improvement. The best performance management systems identify areas for training and resources while avoiding unproductive criticisms of individual prosecutors. Still, performance management requires us to check our egos and maintain focus on how we can continually improve responses to secure justice for victims and hold offenders accountable.
High-level, active, and sustained buy-in.
Full implementation of performance management requires a long-term commitment. Sustaining the team’s energy and interest over time ensures the system will be fully implemented and the full benefits realized.
Availability of support from information technology (IT) staff, such as an IT unit within a prosecutor’s office or the county government.
One essential element of a successful performance management system is the mechanization of data collection, data processing and analysis, and reporting of outcome metrics. Engaging IT staff or other tech-savvy personnel to focus on the data is vital. The simplest data collection via
Excel spreadsheets may provide a useful foundation and, where such a method is the only option, can allow for basic data analysis. However, spreadsheets are too cumbersome and time-consuming for sustaining a quality performance management process. A very basic software solution could facilitate faster and more efficient data collection, processing, and reporting.
Ongoing support for routine reporting.
Staff with basic analytic and reporting skills are needed to examine the quantitative information and extract the issues, successes, and challenges provided by the data.