Creating an Evaluation Strategy
An important part of planning and implementing a new diversion program is the development of an evaluation plan so that its outputs and impacts can be evaluated. Early engagement with a research partner can help insure that the plan is sound, employs an appropriate methodology, has identified appropriate performance measures, and is collecting and preserving relevant data. Putting an evaluation plan together and having good data collection practices in place early on ensures that a program will be well poised to be evaluated.
Such a plan could track the numbers and types of cases that are being diverted, the case outcomes, revocations and sentences imposed, participant demographic information, social services mandates imposed and completed, community service hours performed, restitution collected, and information regarding the program’s costs and benefits.
Two useful tools for building an evaluation plan are a program logic model and case processing flowchart. A logic model helps identify a program’s goals, inputs, outputs, and outcomes. A case processing flowchart helps identify existing business processes and they may change with the new program.
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Evaluation of a diversion program is essential for measuring its outputs and impacts in a particular community. Collecting and preserving relevant data, identifying appropriate performance measures, and tracking the number and types of cases being diverted, along with additional outcome markers provides essential information about a program’s costs and benefits. Several such evaluations have been undertaken in an effort to track the development of diversion programs across the country.
o “From Diversion Experiment to Policy Movement: A Case Study of Prosecutorial Innovation,” Hung-En Sung & Steven Belenko (2006): A 2006 case study of the New York-based Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison (DTAP) initiative, a prosecutor-led program that diverts repeat felony drug offenders from prison to residential treatment. (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1043986206292368)
o “Audit of the Department’s Use of the Pretrial Diversion and Diversion-Based Court Programs as Alternatives to Incarceration” (2016): A comprehensive 2016 federal audit of the Department of Justice’s Smart on Crime initiative, which encouraged federal prosecutors in appropriate cases to consider alternatives to incarceration such as pretrial diversion and diversion-based court programs. (https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/a1619.pdf)
National Institute of Justice Studies:
Loyola University Chicago, Center for Urban Research and Learning
For an extensive set of online resources on how to evaluate a criminal justice initiative, see the: