In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Performance Measurement and Accountability Systems

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Juvenile Justice

Criminology Performance Measurement and Accountability Systems
Nerea Marteache Solans, Michael Maxfield
  • LAST REVIEWED: 07 May 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 April 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0106


Performance measurement is one of a family of tools to rationalize and evaluate the actions of people working in complex organizations. It also commonly refers to evaluation of subunits in organizations. In all cases, performance measurement serves an accountability function that is most important for public organizations, or subunits of private organizations that cannot be easily evaluated on an economic “bottom line.” This is a defining feature, and the most basic function of performance measures: because performance on objective criteria is difficult, other measures and systems must be devised. References here center on organizations and subunits, not on individuals. Various human resources efforts have developed scales or protocols to rate individual performance on a series of items. On the other hand, unit-level performance measurement has much in common with certain approaches to process and outcome evaluations. Some references included here describe evaluation approaches often used in performance measurement. The guide begins with broader examples of performance measurement generally. Much of this stems from efforts in public administration to “reinvent” public organizations so that they are more attentive to assessing service quality. And like so much in public administration, performance measurement has been adapted from tools used in private-sector organizations, usually in back-office units that support revenue-generating activities. We then consider efforts to develop performance measurement in different domains of justice agencies. Most attention in recent years has been devoted to police performance measurement, in connection with problem-oriented policing, community policing, and the use of data-based accountability systems generally known as Compstat (derived from practices introduced into the New York Police Department). Interest in performance measurement has expanded in other areas of criminal justice, especially community-based corrections and related efforts to divert problems from formal adjudication.

General Overviews

“Reinventing government” sparked renewed efforts to improve public agency performance. While he was vice president, Al Gore headed efforts to transform routine practices of federal agencies that were based on the popular book Osborne and Gaebler 1992. Kettl and DiIulio 1995 offers an evaluation of the first year of those efforts. Halachmi and Bouckaert 1996 describes broader approaches to improving agency performance. Harrell, et al. 1996 presents the general principles of program evaluation design that can be applied to a wide range of human services programs. An assessment of performance management efforts at a local and state level can be found in Sanger 2008. Finally, De Lancer 2006 questions to what extent performance measurement is a useful tool for effective management. A different, more humorous approach to the topic is offered by Walters 2007.

  • De Lancer Julnes, Patria. 2006. Performance measurement: An effective tool for government accountability? the debate goes on. Evaluation 12.2: 219–235.

    DOI: 10.1177/1356389006066973

    Performance measurement was first defined in terms of managerial efficiency, centering narrowly on costs. Later it took on a broader meaning, managing for results. However, some have criticized the information that results from performance measurement systems as inadequate for guiding government resource-allocation decisions.

  • Halachmi, Arie, and Geert Bouckaert, eds. 1996. Organizational performance and measurement in the public sector: Toward service, effort, and accomplishment reporting. Westport, CT: Quorum.

    This book is divided into four sections: “The Challenge,” “Service Efforts and Accountability Reporting,” “Performance Measurement in Context,” and “Performance Measurement: International Perspectives.” See especially the chapter by J. M. Greiner, “Positioning Performance Measurement for the Twenty-First Century.”

  • Harrell, Adele, with Martha Burt, Harry Hatry, Shelli Rossman, Jeffrey Roth, and William Sabol. 1996. Evaluation strategies for human services programs: A guide for policymakers and providers. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

    Lays out the basic principles of program evaluation design. It signals common pitfalls, identifies constraints that need to be accommodated, and presents ideas for solving potential problems. These principles are general and can be applied to a wide range of human services programs.

  • Kettl, Donald F., and John J. DiIulio, eds. 1995. Inside the reinvention machine: Appraising governmental reform. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

    This was the first independent assessment of the Clinton administration’s “reinventing government” plan (the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, or NPR). It discusses the difficulty of setting goals, which differ at different levels of aggregation, and measuring outcomes.

  • Osborne, David E., and Ted Gaebler. 1992. Reinventing government: How the entrepreneurial spirit is transforming the public sector. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    In this important book the authors argue that American governmental bureaucracy is not the best system of governance for the post-industrial information age. They prescribe entrepreneurial government, which focuses on results, decentralizes authority, reduces bureaucracy, and promotes competition both inside and outside government.

  • Sanger, Mary B. 2008. From measurement to management: Breaking through the barriers to state and local performance. Public Administration Review 68.s1: s70–s85.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2008.00980.x

    Reviews some recent developments in performance measurement in state and local governments around the country and considers their role in achieving greater accountability, responsiveness, and operational performance from public agencies. It also identifies obstacles to performance improvement through measurement and management efforts. Available online to subscribers.

  • Walters, Jonathan. 2007. Measuring up 2.0: Governing’s new, improved guide to performance measurement for geniuses (and other public managers). Washington, DC: Governing Books.

    Easy and funny to read, this book highlights the importance of performance measurement while using real-world examples to make this topic more appealing and understandable for the general public.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.