American Criminal Justice Policy: An Evaluation Approach to Increasing Accountability and Effectiveness

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American Criminal Justice Policy examines many of the most prominent criminal justice policies on the American landscape and finds that they fall well short of achieving the accountability and effectiveness that policymakers have advocated and that the public expects. The policies include mass incarceration, sex offender laws, supermax prisons, faith-based prisoner reentry programs, transfer of juveniles to adult court, domestic violence mandatory arrest laws, drug courts, gun laws, community policing, private prisons, and many others. Optimistically, Daniel P. Mears argues that this situation can be changed through systematic incorporation of evaluation research into policy development, monitoring, and assessment. To this end, the book provides a clear and accessible discussion of five types of evaluation – needs, theory, implementation or process, outcome and impact, and cost-efficiency. And it identifies how they can be used both to hold the criminal justice system accountable and to increase the effectiveness of crime control and crime prevention efforts.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Criminal justice policy in the United States is most often based on outdated customs, ideologically based politics, and ill-conceived common sense. Sober but also optimistic in his outlook, Daniel Mears seeks to sophisticate crime control discussions by showing us how to use various evaluation strategies to create informative, policy-relevant evidence. Masterfully written and rich with real-world examples, this volume is, at once, essential reading for scholars, ideal for teaching students the nature and importance of evaluation research, and invaluable as a blueprint for policymakers wishing to design effective and humane criminal justice interventions.” – Francis T. Cullen, Distinguished Research Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati

“Dan Mears has written an important book for criminal justice. He provides a compelling and comprehensive case for the role of evaluation in criminal justice. The stakes for an effective and efficient criminal justice system have never been higher. Mears argues that the system is broken, but can be fixed. Sound evaluation research provides a foundation for repairing the system. This book should appeal to a broad readership. Those who don’t heed its lessons will do so at their own peril. There is a sound prescription for fixing criminal justice, and Mears has it.” – Scott Decker, Arizona State University

“Reading this book made me excited about teaching a course in evaluation. Mears addresses research and policy issues in a new way and clearly places evaluation as a priority in achieving an accountable and effective criminal justice system. American Criminal Justice Policy forces the reader to reevaluate our criminal justice policies. It is a must-read for students, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers interested in or advocating for an evidence-based criminal justice system.” – Doris Layton MacKenzie, The Pennsylvania State University

“The world would be a better place if evaluation methods and findings were understood, valued, and most importantly used as the basis for criminal justice policy. Policies and programs would be designed in response to the causes of social problems. Gone would be the days of social experiments and engineering that are ideologically based. Dan Mears’s American Criminal Justice Policy illuminates how policy would change. Even more so, he illustrates how solid evaluation methodologies can eliminate idiosyncratic policymaking. No doubt, every elected official could use a copy of this book. Then again, every staffer of the same elected politicians should be required to read this book and also pass a test on evaluation methods before they can develop policies and legislation. This book signals how new policies can be shaped by better methods.” – Faye S. Taxman, George Mason University

"...this highly readable book is an excellent introduction to evaluation research in criminal justice. Moreover, because it is written at a fairly high level, established scholars will find it useful in their own research. Ideally, the book would be a part of a graduate course, but at the very least, we should expect our students to have read it.... The book should be required reading for all criminal justice researchers who seek federal and state funding, for all staff of federal and state agencies that fund criminal justice research, and for scholars and practitioners who serve on grant review panels for these agencies. Doing so will lead to better quality proposals, better quality reviews, and ultimately better quality research." - R. Barry Ruback, Pennsylvania State University, Criminal Justice and Behavior

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521762465
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/12/2010
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel P. Mears is a Professor at the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. He has published widely in criminology, including more than 80 articles, chapters, and reports, and has examined a wide range of criminal justice policies. His work has appeared in Criminology, the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, the Law and Society Review and other journals, and his views, including editorials, have been frequently cited in such media outlets as the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. Irrational criminal justice policy; 3. A solution for improving criminal justice policy: evaluation research; 4. Needs evaluations; 5. Theory evaluations; 6. Implementation evaluations; 7. Outcome evaluations and impact evaluations; 8. Cost-efficiency evaluations; 9. Conclusion.

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