Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation

In this chapter, I will focus on the two different types of applied research—policy analysis and program evaluation. Specifically, this involves researching and recommending new programs and policies and then evaluating their effectiveness once implemented. Regardless of what part of the criminal justice system you like and what you plan to do when you finish school, it is likely that what is discussed in this chapter will be relevant to your career. Either you will be directly involved in this type of work, or people whom you associate with will be doing it. That prediction might sound pretty far-fetched right now, especially if you anticipate going into a field with non-office jobs, such as law enforcement. Even if you do start out in the field, you should aim to work your way up the ranks. Law enforcement, corrections personnel, court administrators, victim-witness advocates, and just about every' criminal justice and social service profession has people in the higher ranks making decisions all the time. They have to analyze problems and propose new policies and programs. Then, they either have to evaluate the new system put into place or work alongside those who are called in to do the evaluation (like me!). If you just turned to your aunt, uncle, or grandparent who is a retired officer or case worker, and that person said that this is all nonsense because their jobs did not involve any policy or evaluation work, they aren’t lying to you. What you must realize is that the field is changing, so things are different today. When your relatives entered the field, they did not need to have a college education, but you do now. It is now common for agencies to require their leaders to have master’s degrees, which was something unheard of years ago. Our field is going to continue to move in the direction of relying on evidence-based policies, so this kind of work is going to be part of your future.

Policy analysis and program evaluation are two very' different jobs that occur at different times in the life of a policy or program. Policy analysis, also known as problem analysis, is the process of identifying potential solutions to a current or anticipated problem. Program evaluation comes after policy analysis and involves studying how well the policy or program was implemented and whether it had the predicted impact.

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