While effects are modest and largely found in misdemeanor offenses, this rigorous test of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety indicates that New York City’s effort to improve the safety of public housing communities was beginning to show benefits by the end of 2019. Based on these findings, the results of MAP are promising.
Was the presence of the MAP initiative in some NYCHA developments associated with greater improvements in crime and victimization outcomes compared with the same outcomes in NYCHA developments not involved in MAP? The results presented here do not answer the question in full, but they offer an early look at efforts by the research team to generate more precise answers. Additional analyses are needed to rule out competing explanations and to examine the complex series of relationships among all the study’s variables. Based on the preliminary findings in this report, however, the results of MAP to date may be considered promising.
This second in a series of reports about the evaluation of the New York City Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP). This Evaluation Update: summarizes the goals and methods used to evaluate the Mayor’s Action Plan; describes the quasi-experimental design used to test the outcomes and impacts of MAP as well as the data sources assembled by the research team and how they are used; and portrays a logical framework the research team used initially to identify causal pathways through which various elements of MAP were intended to achieve their desired effect.
Justice practitioners and policymakers recognize the limited information available from official recidivism measures when agencies need to develop strong evidence of their own effectiveness. The wide array of alternative measures, however, can be overwhelming and many are either impossible or impractical from a data collection and data integration perspective. This training provides participants with added knowledge and skills with which to formulate a set of outcome measures that provide a fuller picture of the effectiveness of offender supervision and other justice interventions.
To evaluate the New York City Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP), an initiative to improve the safety of public housing developments, researchers estimated the counterfactual (no intervention) by selecting a set of comparison housing developments not involved in the initiative. The study relied on the statistical method known as propensity score analysis (PSA) to select the comparison group.
Experiments are also rarely able to reliably measure and isolate the effects of very complex justice interventions. Policymakers and practitioners in the justice sector should consider evaluation research as a portfolio of strategic investments in knowledge development. Randomized controlled trials are merely one asset in a broader investment strategy.
Rather than asking “what’s the recidivism rate?” we should ask an entirely different set of questions about justice interventions. Are we really helping people convicted of crimes to form better relationships with their families and their law-abiding friends? Are we helping them to advance their educational goals? Are they more likely to develop the skills and abilities required for stable employment? Are we helping them to respect others and to participate positively in the civic and cultural life of their communities?
Recidivism is not a comprehensive measure of success for criminal justice in general or for community corrections specifically. When used to judge the effects of justice interventions on behavior, the concept of recidivism may even be harmful, as it often reinforces the racial and class biases underlying much of the justice system. We encourage justice systems to rely on more flexible and more responsive outcome measures. Community corrections agencies should encourage policymakers to rely on outcomes related to criminal desistance and the social integration of people on probation or parole. Measures focused on social development and community wellbeing are more useful for evaluating the effects of justice interventions, and they are less likely to distort policy discussions.
Measuring positive outcomes in youth justice requires a shift away from recidivism as the sole indicator of program effectiveness. A youth justice system embracing the PYD approach would gauge its success by tracking positive youth outcomes, such as the formation of strong and supportive relationships, academic engagement, labor market readiness, and improved socio-emotional skills.