U.S. Department of Justice, Office Of Justice Programs, Innovation - Partnerships - Safer Neighborhoods
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Working for Youth Justice and Safety
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Adjudication: Judicial determination (judgment) that a juvenile is responsible for the delinquency or status offense that is charged in a petition or other charging document.

Alternatives to detention: Alternative services provided to a juvenile offender in the community to avoid placement in a detention facility. See detention facility.

Antisocial behavior: A pervasive pattern of behavior that displays disregard for and violation of the rights of others, societal mores, or the law (such as deceitfulness, irritability, consistent irresponsibility, lack of remorse, failure to conform to social norms).

Arrest: Hold time in legal custody, either at the scene of a crime or as a result of investigations. Arrest also can be the result of a complaint filed by a third party, an outstanding warrant, or a revocation of probation or parole.

Assessment: Evaluation or appraisal of a candidate's suitability for placement in a specific treatment modality/setting and the relationship to custody and supervision. In mental health, an assessment refers to comprehensive information required for the diagnosis of a mental health disorder. An assessment differs from a screening, which is used to determine if an assessment is needed. See screening.

Average daily population (ADP): ADP is calculated by dividing the total number of days all placed youth spent in a program/facility by the number of days in a specified period (e.g., sum of all days in the program/facility for all youth placed during the year/number of days in the year).

Average length of stay (ALOS): Average length of stay is usually calculated on those youth who end a service/placement during the reporting period. ALOS is the sum of all the stays for those released during the period divided by the number of "releases." See length of stay.

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Case rate: Number of cases disposed per 1,000 juveniles in the population. The population base used to calculate the case rate varies. For example, the population base for the male case rate is the total number of male youth age 10 or older who are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts.

Child abuse: Acts that cause physical and/or emotional injury to the child (not necessarily resulting in a court finding). Types of child abuse include physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.

Child neglect: Acts that include abandonment, expulsion from the home, failure to seek remedial health care or delay in seeking care, inadequate supervision, disregard for hazards in the home, or inadequate food, clothing, or shelter (not necessarily resulting in a court finding).

Civil rights violation: The violation of a right or rights belonging to a person by reason of citizenship including especially the fundamental freedoms and privileges guaranteed by the 13 th and 14 th Amendments to the Constitution and subsequent acts of Congress including the right to legal, social, and economic equality.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC): CSEC describes a constellation of crimes of a sexual nature committed against youthful victims (younger than 18 years old) primarily or entirely for financial or economic reasons. These crimes include, for example, trafficking for sexual purposes, prostitution, sex tourism, mail-order-bride trade and early marriage, pornography, stripping and sexual performances.

Commitment: A court order giving guardianship of a juvenile to the state department of juvenile justice or corrections. The facility in which a juvenile may be placed may be publicly or privately operated and may range from a secure correctional placement to a nonsecure or staff-secure facility, group home, foster care, or day treatment setting.

Community Assessment Center (CAC): An integrated case management system that provides youth with a single 24-hour centralized point of intake and assessment to ensure the provision of appropriate and unduplicated treatment services. CACs use a collaborative approach that leads to more integrated and effective cross-system services for juveniles and their families. CACs are designed to positively influence the lives of youth and divert them from a path of serious, violent, and chronic delinquency.

Community service: Work performed by an offender for the benefit of the community. It is justified in a restorative justice perspective as a method of addressing the harm experienced by communities when a crime occurs. However, it can be used instead for retributive purposes or as a means of rehabilitating the offender. What distinguishes its use as a restorative response is the attention given to identifying the particular harm suffered by the community as a result of the offender's crime, and the effort to ensure that the offender's community service contributes to repairing that particular harm.

Coping skills: The ability to regulate the emotional consequences of stressful or potentially stressful events.

Correctional facility: Any public or private residential facility with construction fixtures or staffing models designed to physically restrict the movements and activities of juveniles or other individuals that is used for the placement, after adjudication and disposition, of any juvenile who has been adjudicated as having committed an offense, or of any other individual convicted of a criminal offense. For preadjudication placement, see Detention and Detention Facility.

Court referral: A complaint or petition filed with the juvenile court.

Cultural competency: The ability of service agencies to understand the world view of clients of different cultures and adapt practices to ensure their effectiveness.

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Delinquency: An act committed by a juvenile that would be criminal if committed by an adult. The juvenile court has jurisdiction over delinquent acts. Delinquent acts include crimes against persons, crimes against property, drug offenses, and crimes against public order.

Depression: A mood state characterized by a sense of inadequacy, a feeling of despondency, a decrease in activity or reactivity, pessimism, sadness, or related symptoms.

Detention: Usually refers to the placement of a youth in a secure facility under court authority at some point between the time of referral to court intake and case disposition. Detention prior to case disposition is known as predispositional detention. At times there is a need for detention after sentencing, known as postdispositional detention. The reasons for postdispositional detention generally include awaiting placement, short-term sentencing to detention, or being a danger to self or others.

Detention facility: A secure predispositional/postdispositional public or private facility (local or regional) with construction fixtures or staffing models designed to physically restrict the movements and activities of juveniles or other individuals that is used for the placement, after adjudication and disposition, of any juvenile who has been adjudicated as having committed an offense, or of any other individual convicted of a criminal offense. There are generally three types of detention centers: local, regional, and state. Local facilities are owned and operated by one local political jurisdiction. Regional facilities are owned and operated jointly by more than one local political jurisdiction; these facilities are eligible to receive youth from each member jurisdiction. State facilities are owned and operated by a state agency; these facilities are eligible to receive youth from designated (or all) localities within the state.

Disposition: Sanction ordered or treatment plan decided upon or initiated in a particular case by a juvenile court. The range of options available to a court typically includes commitment to an institution; placement in a group or foster home or other residential facility; probation (either regular or intensive supervision); referral to an outside agency, day treatment, or mental health program; or imposition of a fine, community service, or restitution.

Diversion: A mechanism designed to hold youth accountable for their actions by sanctioning behavior and in some cases securing services, but at the same time generally avoiding formal court processing in the juvenile justice system.

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Evidence based program and/or practice: Programs and practices that have been shown, through rigorous evaluation and replication, to be effective at preventing or reducing juvenile delinquency or victimization, or related risk factors. Evidence based programs or practices can come from many valid sources (e.g., Blueprints for Violence Prevention, OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide). Evidence based practices may also include practices adopted by agencies, organizations or staff which are generally recognized as “best practice” based on research literature and/or the degree to which the practice is based on a clear, well-articulated theory or conceptual framework for delinquency or victimization prevention and/or intervention.

Exposure to violence: Exposure to violence includes both direct victimization (e.g., child abuse, neglect or maltreatment) and indirect victimization (e.g., witnessing domestic violence or community violence). Children may also be exposed to other forms of violence such as violence in the media, terrorism, and war.

Family functioning: Interactions with family members that involve physical, emotional, and psychological activities.

Formal processing: Cases that appear on the official court calendar in response to the filing of a petition, complaint, or other legal instrument requesting the juvenile court to adjudicate a youth as a delinquent, status offender, or dependent child or to waive jurisdiction and transfer a youth to criminal court for processing as a criminal offender.

Gang (youth gang): A youth gang is commonly thought of as a self-formed association of peers having the following characteristics: three or more members, generally ages 12 to 24; a gang name and some sense of identity, generally indicated by symbols such as clothing style, graffiti, and hand signs; some degree of permanence and organization; and an elevated level of involvement in delinquent or criminal activity.

Gender-specific services: Services designed to promote healthy attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles, and promote social competence in girls. Key program elements generally address issues in the context of relationships to peers, family, school, and community.

Goals: Broad statements (i.e., written in general terms) that convey a program's overall intent to change, reduce, or eliminate the problem described. Goals identify the program's intended short- and long-term results.

Graduated sanctions: A graduated sanctions system is a set of integrated intervention strategies designed to operate in unison to enhance accountability, ensure public safety, and reduce recidivism by preventing future delinquent behavior. The term graduated sanctions implies that the penalties for delinquent activity should move from limited interventions to more restrictive (i.e., graduated) penalties according to the severity and nature of the crime. In other words, youth who commit serious and violent offenses should receive more restrictive sentences than youth who commit less serious offenses.

Grant: An award of financial assistance the principal purpose of which is to transfer a thing of value from a federal or state agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States (see 31 U.S.C. 6101(3)). A grant is distinguished from a contract, which is used to acquire property or services for the Federal Government's direct benefit or use.

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Individual-level performance measures: Indicators that provide information about the actual changes, or lack thereof, in the target individual or group of individuals (e.g., youth who reoffend) that are directly related to a program's goals and objectives.

Intake decision: The decision made by juvenile court intake that results in a case being handled informally (see Diversion) at the intake level or petitioned and scheduled for an adjudicatory or transfer hearing.

Intervention: Programs or services that are intended to disrupt the delinquency process and prevent a youth from penetrating further into the juvenile justice system.

Juvenile: Youth at or below the upper age of original juvenile court jurisdiction, which varies depending on the state (e.g., the age is 15 in some states and 17 in others).

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act: Congress enacted the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act (P. L. No. 93-415, 42 U.S.C. § 5601 et seq.) in 1974 and reauthorized the majority of its provisions in 2002. The JJDP Act mandates that states comply with four core protections to participate in the JJDP Act's Formula Grants program. This landmark legislation established OJJDP to support local and state efforts to prevent delinquency and improve the juvenile justice system.

Length of stay: The length of time that a juvenile stays (is enrolled) in service or placement (in days). The length of stay (LOS) is a critical ingredient in projections of juvenile custody populations. A corrections or detention population can change dramatically if a facility's LOS begins to change, even if admissions are stable. The LOS is calculated by counting the number of days from the start date to the end date and calculating each person's LOS for a given time period. LOS is usually calculated on those youth who end a service/placement during the reporting period. The LOS total is divided by the number of stays to produce the average length of stay. See Average length of stay (ALOS).

Logic model: A graphic representation that clearly lays out the logical relationships between the problem to be addressed, program activities, outputs, and outcomes.

Long-term outcomes: The ultimate outcomes desired for participants, recipients, the juvenile justice system, or the community. For direct service programs, they generally include changes in recipients' behavior, attitudes, skills, and knowledge. They also include changes in practice, policy, or decisionmaking in the juvenile justice system. They are measured within 6–12 months after a youth leaves or completes the program. They should relate back to the program's goals (e.g., reducing delinquency).

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Memorandum of understanding (MOU): An interagency agreement whose purpose is to enable all parties to facilitate the conduct of certain efforts of mutual interest. For example, an MOU between a police department and a school system would specify the types of information to be shared, state the terms of the agreement, and include the signatures of all parties to the agreement.

Mental health disorder: Any clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome characterized by the presence of distressing symptoms, impairment of functioning, or significantly increased risk of death, pain, disability, or loss of freedom. The concept does not include deviant behavior, disturbances that are essentially conflicts between the individual and society, or expected and culturally sanctioned responses to particular events.

Mentoring: A process in which the mentor serves as a role model, trusted counselor, or teacher, who provides opportunities for development, growth, and support to less experienced individuals. In career mentoring, for example, individuals receive career-related information, encouragement, and advice.

Needs assessment: Systematic process to acquire an accurate, thorough picture of a youth's strengths and areas of vulnerability. The process is utilized to identify and prioritize treatment goals, develop a treatment plan, determine the appropriate level of supervision, and allocate funds and resources for services.

Neglect: Acts that include abandonment, expulsion from the home, failure to seek remedial health care or delay in seeking care, inadequate supervision, disregard for hazards in the home, or inadequate food, clothing, or shelter.

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Objectives: Objectives are derived from the program goals and explain how the program goals will be accomplished. Objectives are well-defined, specific, quantifiable statements of the program's desired results and should include the target level of accomplishment, thereby further defining goals and providing the means to measure program performance.

Performance measures/performance indicators: Particular values used to measure program outputs or outcomes. They represent the data/information that will be collected at the program level to measure the specific outputs and outcomes a program is designed to achieve. Therefore, they must be developed for each program objective. There are two types of performance indicators:

Output indicators measure the products of a program's implementation or activities. These are generally measured in terms of the volume of work accomplished, such as amount of service delivered, staff hired, systems developed, sessions conducted, materials developed, policies, procedures, and/or legislation created. Examples include number of juveniles served, number of hours of service provided to participants, number of staff trained, number of detention beds added, number of materials distributed, number of reports written, and number of site visits conducted. Also referred to as process measures

Outcome indicators measure the benefits or changes for individuals, the juvenile justice system, or the community as a result of the program. Outcomes may be related to behavior, attitudes, skills, knowledge, values, conditions, or other attributes. Examples include changes in the academic performance of program participants, changes in the recidivism rate of program participants, changes in client satisfaction level, changes in the conditions of confinement in detention, and changes in the county-level juvenile crime rate. There are two levels of outcomes:

  • Short-term outcomes for direct service programs are the benefits or changes that participants experience by the time they leave or complete the program. These generally include changes in behavior, attitudes, skills, and/or knowledge. For programs designed to change the juvenile justice system, short-term outcomes include changes to the juvenile justice system that occur by the funding's end.
  • Long-term outcomes are the ultimate outcomes desired for participants, recipients, the juvenile justice system, or the community. For direct service programs, they generally include changes in recipients' behavior, attitudes, skills, and/or knowledge. They also include changes in practice, policy, or decisionmaking in the juvenile justice system. They are measured within 6–12 months after a youth leaves or completes the program. They should relate back to the program's goals (e.g., reducing delinquency).

Permanency plan: A proposal by the juvenile justice system and other youth-serving agencies to establish a permanent placement for youth in foster care. The goal of the permanency plan is to expeditiously secure a safe, permanent placement for every child in foster care, either by making it possible for children to return to their own families or by finding safe adoptive homes for them.

Postdisposition: The period following the imposition of a sanction ordered or treatment plan decided upon or initiated in a particular case by a juvenile court.

Predisposition: The period after the filing of a charge and prior to a sanction ordered or treatment plan decided upon or initiated in a particular case by a juvenile court.

Prevention: Programs, research, or other initiatives to prevent or reduce the incidence of delinquent acts and directed to youth at risk of becoming delinquent to prevent them from entering the juvenile justice system or to intervene with first-time and nonserious offenders to keep them out of the juvenile justice system. This program area excludes programs targeted at youth already adjudicated delinquent, on probation, and in corrections ..

Probation: Cases in which youth are placed on informal/voluntary or formal/court-ordered supervision. A violation occurs when a youth violates the terms of the probation.

Problem-solving skills: The ability to recognize a problem and identify a practicable solution (e.g., alternative solution thinking, consequential thinking).

Program: A specific activity or project funded at the local, state, or federal level with OJJDP grant funds. This includes activities and projects funded at the subgrantee level with Formula or Block Grant funds.

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Reoffend: A measure of recidivism that counts the number of youth who were rearrested or seen at juvenile court (intake) for a new delinquent offense. While there is no commonly accepted measure of recidivism, it is generally measured at one of four access points in the juvenile justice process: arrest, intake, adjudication or incarceration. The measure of reoffending used here applies to youth at either of the first two access points. Both of these access points have many advantages for measuring reoffending, but each also has disadvantages. Arrests may identify youth who were later released by the police, whose charges were dismissed by the courts, or who were found not guilty at an adjudication hearing. On the other hand, intakes can overrepresent the number of youth brought before the court more so than arrests because cases can be referred to court intake by a number of sources besides law enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, arrest and intake are used here in order to provide flexibility to the user.

Residential placement: Includes cases in which youth are placed in a residential correctional or treatment facility because they are awaiting adjudication or have been adjudicated for an offense, and cases in which youth are otherwise removed from their homes and housed out of home (e.g., child abuse, abandonment, running away). Residential placements can include secure confinement, residential treatment facilities, nonsecure confinement, group homes, foster care, shelter care, etc.

Restitution: In its traditional sense, restitution has been defined as "a monetary payment by the offender to the victim for the harm reasonably resulting from the offense."

Reunification: The return of a child who was placed in out of home care (i.e., foster care) by the state to the birth parents or to the original custodian from whom the child was taken.

Rural area: An area located outside a metropolitan statistical area as designated by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Screening: A process designed to determine if informal or formal processing is warranted. In the mental health setting, screening refers to an initial look at a juvenile's mental health needs. This is contrasted with an assessment to diagnose a mental health disorder, which would occur after screening. See assessment.

Self-control: The ability to pause and evaluate a situation and the consequences that may result from one's behavior (i.e., exercise restraint) rather than rely on instinct or impulse.

Self-esteem: Perceiving oneself as worthy of esteem or respect.

Service: Activities identified by a program through formal consultation with program staff designed to provide accountability, public safety, competency enhancement, reparation to victims, and/or therapeutic treatment. Examples include community service, restitution, counseling sessions, probation visits, and course curriculum.

Sexual abuse: The involvement of the child in sexual activity to provide sexual gratification or financial benefit to the perpetrator, including contact for sexual purposes, prostitution, pornography, or other sexually exploitative activity (not necessarily resulting in a court finding).

Sexual misconduct: A comprehensive term used to identify various types of sexual violations. This may include sexual abuse, rape or sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other inappropriate sexual contact.

Short-term outcomes: For direct service programs, short-term outcomes are the benefits or changes that participants experience by the time they leave or complete the program. These generally include changes in behavior, attitudes, skills, and/or knowledge. For programs designed to change the juvenile justice system, short-term outcomes include changes to the juvenile justice system that occur by the funding's end.

Social competence: The ability to achieve personal goals in social interaction while simultaneously maintaining positive relationships with others over time and across situations.

Status offender: A juvenile charged with or adjudicated for conduct that would not, under the law of the jurisdiction in which the offense was committed, be a crime if committed by an adult. Status offenses include truancy, curfew violations, incorrigibility, running away, and underage possession and/or consumption of alcohol or tobacco.

Substance use and abuse: Use and abuse of substances including, but not limited to, illegal drugs (e.g., heroin), prescription and nonprescription drugs, and alcohol. Sometimes referred to as alcohol and other drug (AOD) use and abuse.

Supervision (youth supervision): Mechanisms for managing or overseeing the performance or activities of a person or group. In the context of juvenile justice, examples of supervision include probation, youth supervision orders, youth training centers, and aftercare services.

Supervision meeting: A meeting between a youth and the person designated by the juvenile justice system to supervise that youth for the purpose of monitoring the youth's progress toward fulfilling the justice system's requirements. Supervisors can include probation and parole officers, judges, and case managers, among others.

System-level performance measures: Indicators that provide information about the actual changes, or lack thereof, in the target system (e.g., court system, school system, or program as a whole) that are directly related to a program's goals and objectives.

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Targeted behavior: Any behavior-related problems (e.g., aggression, substance abuse) that a program is designed to modify through appropriate interventions.

Three-year plan: A document detailing a 3-year juvenile justice and delinquency prevention plan that states submit to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in order to receive Formula Grant funds.

Utilization rate: Used to examine the usage of a specific facility relative to its stated capacity. The utilization rate for a residential facility is calculated by summing the length of stay of all juveniles placed in the facility during the time period and dividing that figure by facility capacity (i.e., the number of beds multiplied by the number of days in a specified time period). If the facility is overcrowded, the utilization rate will be over 100 percent.

Valid court order: An order given by a juvenile court judge to a juvenile who was brought before the court and made subject to an order; and who received, before the issuance of such order, the full due process rights guaranteed to such juvenile by the Constitution of the United States.

Waived to criminal court: Cases transferred to criminal court as the result of a judicial waiver hearing in juvenile court.

Youth advocacy: Activities focused on improving services for and protecting the rights of youth affected by the juvenile justice system.

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