How to Leverage Your Data to Improve Social Service Programs – A Case Study

How one county jail seeks to reduce recidivism rates with custom, data-driven program planning.

Recidivism rate – the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend – is a number that federal, state, and local incarceration facilities across the nation seek to reduce. Lowering recidivism benefits communities by improving public safety and reducing taxpayer spending and means that formerly incarcerated individuals are successfully transitioning back into the community, resuming family and social responsibilities.

While a recent report from The Pew Center for the States has found that Minnesota has the third lowest rate of incarceration in the nation, Minnesota’s Crow Wing County Jail (CWC) still seeks to lower their recidivism rates by understanding what factors contribute to reconviction. According to a 2017 performance report issued by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, which looks at post-release felony reconviction and reincarceration rates between 2010 and 2015, two-year reconviction rates were between 24 – 26%, and three-year rates remained between 34 – 36% over those six years

How CWC Aims to Lower Recidivism: Data-Driven and Custom Programming

Programming is an integral part of preparing offenders for release to the community, and CWC offers a variety of social, education, treatment, and employment programs to help offenders successfully return to society. As with any social program that seeks to improve the well-being of individuals, CWC knows that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Individual offenders vary in a myriad of ways (criminal history, demographic, education, employment, chemical dependencies, and so much more), so CWC wanted to customize discharge planning on an individual basis using offender data combined with data about social services proven to help lower recidivism.

Their Biggest Obstacle: Lots of Data, But Difficult Analysis

CWC has no shortage of data surrounding their social programs, but the lack of an automated and cohesive reporting system complicated efforts to understand the impact of their efforts to reduce recidivism. Their first problem was that data was generated by several departments in different systems. In order to do analysis, they manually aggregated data into Excel and spent hours cleansing and normalizing the data. This method was not only vulnerable to errors, but it was also very difficult for CWC to do sophisticated analysis like comparing data sets against all potential factors that contribute to recidivism.

Knowing they needed a more advanced analytics system to achieve their mission, CWC brought Analytics8 in to build a system that eases analysis and translates their data into meaningful and actionable information. Read more about the solution Analytics8 built for CWC.

New Data and Analytics Solution Allows Social Workers to Put More Focus on Rehabilitation

With a single solution that now houses all historical and new incoming data, CWC can now do time period analysis and view recidivism rates over time to identify any trends or outliers. They can also easily join data sets, such as program completion and case worker time, which helps identify any correlations with recidivism rates. Social workers also feel more confident in their discharge planning – they can instantly gather all the information needed to create customized and informed discharge plans and then track the outcome over time.

“The analytics solution that Analytics8 built has not only helped our leadership team track the results and outcomes of the discharge planning program, but it has also made life easier for the social worker who coordinates the discharge planning program. With our new solution, she can easily identify individuals who may benefit from discharge planning services as well as track outcomes for those for whom she has developed a plan.”   –Business Manager, Crow Wing County Community Services

CWC has been able to demonstrate – with real data – that their community would benefit from expanding discharge planning into a comprehensive reentry program. With their success, they hope to expand their reentry programs to other counties in their region this year.

Questions about how to do more with your data? Sign up for a data strategy session, and one of our analytics experts will consult with your company about your data and analytics strategies and processes.

Jen is on the Marketing team at Analytics8. She's passionate about executing data-driven marketing plans with a focus on digital, SEM, and email marketing. Outside of work, Jen enjoys hiking, sports, food (almost all of it), and crafting.


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