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Key performance indicators used in Prisons


Prison KPIs

Among other responsibilities, Governments have to guarantee peace and stability in the land, by assuring the enforcement of law and order. Along with this comes the need for an effective and well managed prison system.

Prison management represents an important aspect for public services, as it is designed to serve short term goals, such as punishing the inmates for their crimes, and long term goals, like returning them to society as better individuals. Therefore, KPIs are used in order to ensure that the goals and objectives of the prison are attained.These KPIs are focused on outcomes, allowing the system to assess the impact it has on reducing the re-offending and improving the resettlement opportunities. It is important to mention that some targets can be lowered if the initial ones are impossible to meet.

Some of the KPIs used by prisons are the following:

Escapes. It is considered an escape if a prisoner is not recaptured within 15 minutes, or earlier than 15 minutes, but not before committing a further offence. Absconds do not fall in this category, as in this case, an inmate gains liberty by an abuse of trust without having to overcome physical security restraints and when not guarded by an officer specifically assigned to do so.

In this category, three main KPIs can be identified: one ensuring that no Category A prisoners escape, another that the rate of escapes from establishments and escorts to be lower than 0.05 %, expressed as a percentage of the average prison population, and the last that the number of escapes from contracted out escorts is less than one per 20,000 inmates handled.

Serious assaults. This KPI has to ensure that the number of serious assaults on prisoners, staff, and others, expressed as a proportion of the average prison population, is smaller than the previous year.

Drug testing. The purpose of this KPI is to ensure that the average rate of positive random testing for drugs is lower than 10 %.

Purposeful activity. It has to ensure that prisoners engage in purposeful activity at least 24 hours per week.

Overcrowding. To ensure that the number of prisoners held two to a cell designed for one does not exceed 18%, expressed as a percentage of the average population.

Self-inflected deaths/suicides. The rate of suicides has to be lower than 112.8 per 100 000 of the average prison population.

Offending behavior. Two KPIs fall in this category: one that ensures that at least 8,444 prisoners complete certain programes that are accredited as effective in reducing re-offending, and another one used to ensure that at least 1,168 prisoners complete the Sex Offender Treatment Program.

Staff sickness. The KPI has to ensure that the average rate of staff sickens does not exceed 13.5 working days per person.

Race equality. The KPI has to ensure that at least 5.5 % of the prison staff is part of an ethnic minority.

Education. In order to get employed after leaving the prison, the inmates need to achieve a certain standard: they must have at least a Basic Skills Level 2 (there are four levels, in order of the importance: Basic Skills Entry level, Basic Skills Level 1, Basic Skills Level 2 and Key Work Skills). Therefore, 4 KPIs are used for each level, in order to measure the number of inmates that attain that level. The targets are different for every category.

Resettlement. The KPI has to ensure that 29,044 sentenced prisoners have a job, education or training outcome within one month of the release.

It is important for these aspects to be measured and quantified, as they reveal the efficiency of the prison management. This impacts both the prisoners and the quality of their lives inside, as well as their own security and that of the members of the staff. And after leaving the prison, the safety of the population, as the re-integration into society impacts both the lives of the ex-prisoners and that of those working near them.

Note: The numbers used were for prisons from England and Wales.


Photo Credits: Mark Harvey / Social Issues Photography

Measuring and improving the translation process with KPIs
Measuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at Tate Lyle

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