The idea that our tax dollars should be directed toward programs that deliver positive outcomes to the community is neither novel nor radical—but there are some interesting and innovative “pay for success” strategies for achieving this. Social impact bonds, which are being piloted in the United Kingdom, New York City, and Massachusetts, are perhaps among the best known of these. In the field of criminal justice, performance incentive funding (PIF) is another promising approach being tried in the United States.
PIF programs encourage local jurisdictions to supervise more offenders in the community and achieve better outcomes, namely lower recidivism and fewer prison commitments. They are premised on the idea that if the supervision agency or locality succeeds in sending fewer low-level offenders to prison—thereby causing the state to incur fewer costs—some portion of the state savings should be shared with the agency or locality. By delivering fewer prison commitments, agencies or localities receive a financial reward, which is reinvested into evidence-based supervision programs.
A new report from Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections—Performance Incentive Funding: Aligning Fiscal and Operational Responsibility to Produce More Safety at Less Cost—details how PIF programs can lead to better offender outcomes while reducing overall corrections costs. It presents the findings of a summit held in September 2011, which was convened by Vera, the Pew Center on the States, and Metropolis Strategies, to discuss the key challenges and tasks that states must address to develop and implement a PIF program.
Achieving positive outcomes, such as reduced recidivism and revocations and safer and stronger communities, is a goal that tax payers, policymakers, and criminal justice professionals can all agree on. By emphasizing the use of evidence-based practices, reporting on outcomes, and paying for success, PIF programs can help states reduce their corrections costs, strengthen their community supervision programs, and build safer neighborhoods.
Alison Shames is the Associate Director of Vera's Center on Sentencing and Corrections, where she manages staff, oversees budgets, develops grant proposals, and directs projects. Her recent work has included helping Illinois pass and implement its Crime Reduction Act of 2009, which legislated the use of evidence-based practices throughout the criminal justice system; facilitating county and state steering committees in Alabama to improve community-based supervision practices and address prison overcrowding; drafting and editing Vera reports on the fiscal crisis and sentencing trends; convening a national conference on performance incentive funding programs; and managing the Justice Reinvestment Initiative for Vera. Previously, Alison worked in Sydney, Australia, where she served as executive officer to the Committee of Criminal Justice CEOs in the Attorney General’s Department of New South Wales. Before that, Alison was the state copyright manager for the state of New South Wales and corporate counsel for Fairfax Media, one of Australia’s largest media companies. Immediately following law school, Alison clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Vance in New Orleans. Alison has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from New York University School of Law.
Updated: February 08 2018