Developing a Process Evaluation

Process evaluations document policies, procedures, organizational structures, technological resources or innovations, and the characteristics of those using the arrest alert system.

Arrest alert systems may vary substantially based on the characteristics of the region, jurisdiction, or neighborhood where they are used, and based on the nature of priority targets (felony offenders, violent offenders, or persistent low-level offenders). In order to conduct a basic process evaluation, the evaluator must use a variety of data sources including documentation that describes the original goals, objectives, policies, and staffing associated with the arrest alert system, as well as interviews or focus groups with community stakeholders. Interviews or focus groups should include discussions with the individuals who are in charge of the arrest alert system, as well as a sample of line prosecutors who have experience using it. Another strategy is to ask prosecutors to complete a brief survey in which they can indicate how frequently they create and/or use arrest alerts and which of their decisions are influenced by the system (see example of a brief survey in Appendix A).

Below is a list of questions that can be used when evaluating an arrest alert system.

1. How are priority targets identified?
» What is the role of input from local law enforcement or community members?
» Do priority targets vary within a jurisdiction depending on the needs or priorities of specific neighborhoods? Do priority targets throughout the jurisdiction share common characteristics (i.e., gang members, violent offending, weapons offending, drug crime, prostitution, or other low-level offenses)?

2. Is the arrest alert system being implemented as planned?
» Are local law enforcement and community members providing input or coordinating with the prosecutor’s office as intended?
» What type of information is included in the arrest alert?
» Is there anything that can be added/removed to improve the usefulness of the arrest alerts?
» Are outdated arrest alerts being identified and removed from the system in a timely manner (i.e., this includes defendants who may have been sentenced to long prison terms, left the state, or passed away)?
» Are the services and resources being delivered to the intended persons (prosecutors)?

3. Do a sufficient number of line prosecutors use the arrest alert system?
» At what stage of the criminal process are line prosecutors most likely to utilize arrest alerts?
» Which decisions are influenced (bail/ release, debriefing decision, dispositions, sentencing, etc.), and are decisions influenced in the intended ways, according to prosecutors?

4. Are prosecutors provided the information necessary to know how to use and create arrest alerts?

5. What is the quality of the relationship with local law enforcement, and does this relationship vary within the jurisdiction (from one neighborhood/ area to another)?

6. What are the perceptions of the usefulness and ease of navigation of the arrest alert system?

7. Are there any implementation obstacles?

8. In what ways has the arrest alert system deviated from the original goals and policies? Is this deviation seen as a necessary adaptation or maladaptation?

Once the plan for a process evaluation has been put into place it is important to develop an outcome evaluation. Utilizing these two evaluation tools allows an evaluator to determine if the arrest alert system is being implemented and managed according to the original goals and if this level of implementation is producing the desired outputs and outcomes.