NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

It's Time to Compstat Corrections

June 20, 2003

Using a computer-based process called Compstat, the New York Police Department rigorously analyzes police data and makes local commanders responsible for public safety in their jurisdictions. In the same way, prison and parole officials should have to answer for the re-arrest and job-participation rates of ex-offenders, says Heather MacDonald (Manhattan Institute).

Parole headquarters should develop a Compstat-like system that would allow the analysis of parolee crime patterns and the data-driven comparison of parole bureaus (which are responsible for different geographic areas).

To be effective, MacDonald says, parole Compstat will have to measure recidivism according to re-arrest rates, not only re-incarceration rates:

  • In New York state, for example, the parole department does not even know the re-arrest rate of its parolees -- or at least, it is not telling.
  • But the re-incarceration rate is a flawed measure of public safety, since many arrested parolees are offered plea bargains for their crimes, which keeps them out of prison.

Parole Compstat, MacDonald explains, should also measure coordination between the parole and police departments. Has the parole officer briefed the relevant precinct about the parole conditions of recently released parolees, for example -- whom they are not allowed to associate with, where they are forbidden from going, when they are supposed to be at home? And has the officer responded appropriately when cops discover violations of those conditions?

Source: Heather MacDonald (Manhattan Institute), "Post-Prison Reform," New York Post, June 15, 2003.

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