Managing for Outcomes

The Department's success is determined by the extent to which the departmental outcomes of 'Protecting the Public' and 'Reducing Re-offending' are achieved.

Attribution and Accountability

Measurement of progress can be intrinsically difficult because outcomes are often infiuenced by factors beyond an individual agency's control. The nature of the measures developed for each outcome means that some measures are better suited to providing information on the impact of the Department's interventions, as opposed to those external factors.

The Department's interventions seek to change the behaviour of the persons who come under its care and control. The likelihood of individual offenders re-offending is assumed to be based, in part, on relatively stable (though potentially changeable) personal and social characteristics. Personal characteristics include violence propensity, substance dependence, attitudes and values supportive of criminality, as well as deficits in educational and occupational skills. Social characteristics include lack of social supports, homelessness and lack of employment. The Department therefore offers a range of services that are intended to:

  • reduce the severity of antisocial traits
  • build socially adaptive skills and abilities
  • resolve or mitigate environmental obstacles faced by offenders.

In addition to attempting to encourage personal change, and providing support and assistance to offenders, the Department also provides monitoring of and direction to those offenders subject to community sentences and orders. In doing so, the Department endeavours to prevent offenders from relapsing into undesirable patterns of behaviour, as well as enabling preemptive actions to be taken when risks become elevated.

The Department cannot completely control the outcomes experienced by offenders. Key limits to control include:

  • for many offenders, the sentence imposed is too short to allow meaningful engagement with rehabilitative services and programmes
  • many offenders are unmotivated to address the personal and social issues that underlie their offending risk (and, while there are systems to encourage them to address these issues, there are seldom reasonable or effective ways to compel them to do so)
  • when in the community, the location and behaviour of offenders cannot be continuously monitored, except in certain circumstances such as the first 12 months of an extended supervision order
  • events and circumstances well beyond the control of the Department, which may dramatically and abruptly alter an offender's risk of re-offending, can (and frequently do) occur.

Fundamentally, criminality is understood to be a relatively robust and enduring personal characteristic in adult offenders. Even when exposed to the most sophisticated and intensive rehabilitative and reintegrative services, a substantial proportion of offenders will still go on to re-offend. Through its suite of interventions, the Department endeavours to reduce the proportion of those who do so.

In relation to the wider justice sector end outcome of safer communities generally, the Department's contribution is in reducing risk associated with offenders who have already come under its care and control. The Department can exert no infiuence that might prevent offending by those who have not previously been under its control, or to reduce the number of young offenders entering the criminal justice system for the first time.

Measuring the Departmental Contribution to Achieving Outcomes

To demonstrate success, processes must be in place to measure achievement.

The Department has developed a set of measures, based on data collected through its offender management processes and similar information obtained from corrections agencies in other countries, which enable comparisons to be made. These measures provide a good starting point for assessing the Department's performance and will be enhanced over time in conjunction with the review of outcome measurement that is underway within the justice sector.

The measures are grouped under the departmental outcomes:

  • Progress in 'protecting the public' is assessed through measures that demonstrate the quality and efficiency of the Department's custodial functions.
  • Progress in 'reducing re-offending' is assessed by specific measures developed by the Department
    • the Recidivism Index (RI) and the Rehabilitation Quotient (RQ).

Achievements during 2005/06 against these measures are reported in detail in Part 2 of this Annual Report.

The Department also monitors the application of specific offender management processes to ensure they are properly and consistently applied.

Individual processes are also reviewed periodically to ensure that they remain effective, and, where necessary, they are amended. This activity is intended to support a process of continuous improvement while ensuring the integrity of the information used by the Department for assessing its contribution to outcomes.

International Benchmarks

The Department has developed close working relationships, and participates in the exchange of information with a number of overseas jurisdictions, such as Australia, Canada, England and Wales, and Scotland. Other international relationships are facilitated through the Department's membership of the International Roundtable for Correctional Excellence, the International Corrections and Prisons Association and the Ministerial Council on the Administration of Justice. The information exchanged has been used to develop benchmarks comparing performance across a range of indicators, including prisoner-to-staff ratios, costs of securing prisoners and occupancy statistics. This data is important because the Department is not able to compare performance in its core offender management functions against other New Zealand organisations.

Benchmarking also supports strategic advancement because it provides a means by which quality improvement can be identified and effected. Work continues on developing new measures and refining existing measures to ensure comparability. Current benchmarking data is included in Part 2 of this Annual Report in conjunction with the 'Protecting the Public' measures relating to the quality and efficiency of the Department's custodial functions, and is published each year in international reports.

Linking Outcomes to Outputs

The delivery of the Department's outputs directly contributes to the achievement of its outcomes. These linkages are demonstrated in the diagram on pages 16 and 17, which highlights how the Department's range of output classes and outputs contribute to its two outcomes of 'protecting the public' and 'reducing re-offending'.

Alternative Outputs Analysis

The mix of outputs delivered by the Department is not subject to radical change on a year-by-year basis. In particular, the core custodial outputs do not change greatly in their nature, comprising as they do the central functions of providing information to courts, and managing custodial and community-based sentences.

Rehabilitative programmes may be subject to greater change. Programmes administered by the Department have been developed against a background of both New Zealand and international research on what works with offenders. Programmes may change over time as new research, including specific evaluation work conducted by the Department in the New Zealand context, emerges.

Analysis of the Rehabilitation Quotient results that were presented in the 2004/05 Annual Report, together with the evolving knowledge about what works best with offenders, has led to decisions to change the mix of rehabilitative programmes. The essence of the changes will be to target medium-intensity programmes to medium-risk offenders and high-intensity programmes to high-risk offenders. These programmes will be supported by a comprehensive relapse prevention programme.

In addition, a Short Motivational Programme will be delivered to prisoners serving sentences less than two years in length. The effectiveness of other motivational programmes, such as Tikanga Maori programmes, Maori Focus Units and the Faith-based Unit, will also be assessed.

The Department will also be involved in continuing work to examine options other than imprisonment for the rising offender population. The Government has made it clear that there will not be any lessening in penalties for serious repeat offenders and hardened criminals, but that for some other offenders the use of non-custodial sanctions may be more productive, and a smarter, more effective use of taxpayers' money.

Evaluation, Research and Monitoring

The Department is committed to the development of evidence-based interventions that can be implemented successfully to assist with the achievement of its outcomes. The Department's own research and evaluation programme contributes to the development of new, or the modification of existing, interventions. This is especially so in the area of applying international work in the New Zealand context. The programme encompasses research on new interventions, assessment of the relevance of overseas approaches in the New Zealand context, and evaluations of the performance of specific interventions. This work provides a critical foundation for the selection of new interventions, or the modification of existing approaches, that support the Department's work in this area.

The Department reviews its research and evaluation programme each year, to ensure that the limited research funding available is targeted to the most appropriate projects.

Research and evaluation undertaken in 2005/06 is reported in Part 2 of this Annual Report.

Table 2: Linking Outcomes to Outputs

Linking Outcomes to Outputs diagram thumbnail image

Click to view larger version of Linking Outcomes to Outputs diagram