11.1 Uses for Performance/Outcome Information

All the work required for collection and analysis of performance management and outcome data will not be worth the effort if it is not used to help improve the system’s response to sexual violence. The findings from the data collection, analysis, and reporting can be used to:

    1. Help develop, and subsequently justify, budget and staffing recommendations.
    2. Identify overall progress and trends based on changes in outcome data over time.
    3. Identify problem areas that need attention and corrective action.
    4. Identify victim subgroups with significant differences in outcomes, such as groups with selected characteristics (g., age, race/ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, local resident/tourist).
    5. Assess outcomes that follow from changes in sexual violence case processing policies and practices.
    6. Identify characteristics of cases for which victims do not report incidents to law enforcement or do not participate in the investigation — indicating a need for new practices or changes to existing practices.
    7. Identify patterns among cases to determine: (a) which types of cases law enforcement did not refer for prosecution; and (b) which types of cases prosecutors declined to prosecute —thereby permitting an examination of why such cases were not referred or were declined so that any obstacles can be alleviated.
    8. Encourage partnerships and increased cooperation and coordination among law enforcement, advocates, medical forensic examiners, and prosecutors by providing linkages for sharing data (while protecting victim confidentiality) and holding regular “How Are We Doing” meetings.
    9. Identify staff training and technical assistance needs.
    10. Motivate personnel to continuously improve their response to sexual violence.
    11. Encourage innovation.
    12. Adjust staff work allocations by identifying the types of cases that appear to need the most effort and resources; forecast workload based on case complexity levels and frequencies of sexual violence crimes g., to support training and resource requests.

All partners responding to sexual violence cases – not just prosecutors’ offices – would be able to use the data in these ways to inform their work and improve practices.

11.1-A. Steps to Maximize Utility of Sexual Violence Prosecution Performance and Outcome Data

1. Prepare and disseminate performance and outcome reports on a regular basis (quarterly or biannually).

Make reports readily available to all involved in sexual assault response. Reports should include the latest findings from victim feedback surveys as discussed in Chapter 9, as well as the performance and outcome data based on office records.

2. Assign someone in the prosecutor’s office the responsibility to analyze the data, highlight key findings, and identify issues that might need attention.

A particularly useful focus of these analyses would be examining findings by victim characteristics (as discussed in Chapter 4) and levels of case complexity (as discussed in Chapter 5). As noted in the previous chapter, this person might be a prosecutor who enjoys working with numbers or someone with technical knowledge employed by or partnered with the prosecutor’s office.

Seek explanations for unexpected findings, whether poor or good. One primary purpose of the performance and outcome measurement process is to identify problem practice areas and seek explanations as to why those problems exist. While outcome measurement does not explicitly provide information on why the outcomes occurred, outcome information can provide useful clues. Here are suggestions as to what you can do:

a. Ask staff and partners for their insights on why the unexpected outcomes occurred;

b. Dig into the data to identify which victim or other case characteristics are related to case outcomes. For example, the problem might occur primarily for one specific subgroup of cases, indicating a practice issue related to those cases. (The box titled “Search for Explanations” below provides an example. The analytic procedures discussed in Chapter 10 provide more specific suggestions).

c. Examine the answers to “open-ended” questions asked of victims in the ongoing victim feedback process discussed in Chapter 9. These questions ask sexual violence victims to say, in their own words, why they rated some services/interactions with system responders negatively and to suggest improvements.

d. Conduct roundtables with the law enforcement and prosecutors involved in the investigation and prosecution of a sample of cases to walk through decision-making processes at each critical stage — initial report, investigation, examination, charging, and disposition (if applicable) — to identify reasons for particular outcomes and areas that suggest refinement of practices is necessary. The sample number of cases will depend on the size of the jurisdiction, the sexual violence caseload, and the time and resources available to dedicate to such review. Professionals interested in conducting roundtables should first create a case review protocol to ensure a comprehensive and uniform assessment of selected cases. The roundtable could also be preceded by a systematic case review of a smaller team to identify trends and themes in the data, which can provide the basis of the larger roundtable discussion.

See Appendices M through O for a sample case review protocol, data tracking spreadsheet, and suggested timeline.

3. Hold regular “How Are We Doing” meetings for prosecutor’s office personnel (quarterly or biannually).

At these meetings: (a) review the latest performance and outcome information; (b) identify successful and disappointing findings; (c) discuss why findings may have occurred; (d) identify any corrective action needed; and (e) make a plan for who needs to do what by when. Progress on these actions should be examined at future meetings.

Remember, the point of using performance and outcome information is to evaluate sexual violence response practices and improve them. It should not be used to highlight or call out specific personnel performance issues.

4. Hold regular “How Are We Doing” meetings with partners (police departments, advocacy agencies, and medical providers).

Many prosecutor’s offices already hold similar meetings as part of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), so these meetings may provide an existing opportunity to present performance management information. Having available outcome and performance data enables partners to have meaningful conversations that go beyond individual cases, anecdotes, and feelings around sexual violence prosecution to allow for data-driven analysis and strategic planning for improvement.

5. Provide the public with regular outcome reports (perhaps annually).

Provide a comprehensive picture of the outcomes and performance in sexual violence prosecutions. This includes information pertaining to success, challenges, and failures, which, if properly reviewed and analyzed, can provide opportunities to learn from failure and improve practices.109

The process of reporting data to the public may raise community consciousness regarding the prevalence of known sexual violence crimes and the need for appropriate action. By regularly reporting performance management and outcome data, prosecutors’ offices have an opportunity to raise public concern over sexual violence while signaling the criminal justice system’s willingness to be accountable  for its investigation and prosecution of these crimes.

An expanded list of actions is provided in Exhibit 11-1.


109 See generally Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox, Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press, 2010).