Loyola University Chicago

College of Arts & Sciences

Spotlight On: Criminal Justice and Criminology

David Olson, Donald Stemen, and Elizabeth Webster from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology worked with officials across the United States to research, develop, and implement data tools to guide best-practice strategies and reform in the criminal justice system.

This week’s faculty spotlight focuses on three College of Arts and Sciences faculty at Loyola University Chicago and their groundbreaking collaboration with prosecutors across the nation to develop a dashboard of metrics that enable reform-minded prosecutors’ offices to fashion priorities and outcomes that advance public safety, effectiveness, fairness, and transparency.

David Olson, professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Donald Stemen, associate professor, and Elizabeth Webster, assistant professor, have collaborated in the project for the past three years with the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s offices. They gathered and analyzed data and conducted in-depth interviews with elected officials, staff attorneys, and prosecutors to help develop measures that focus on important issues of equity, fairness, efficiency, and effectiveness.

The Prosecutorial Performance Indicators (PPIs) data dashboard was unveiled in five jurisdictions late in late 2020. The system was developed by researchers from Loyola University Chicago and Florida International University, with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety & Justice Challenge.

The PPI comprises 55 new measures of prosecutorial performance toward three goals: capacity and efficiency, community safety and well-being, and fairness and justice. They offer a complete toolbox to track progress over time as prosecutors implement reforms and best practices in the justice system. PPIs chart such indices as timely disposition of cases, racial and ethnic disparities, recidivism rates, and diversion outcomes. The measures are comprehensive, impact oriented, and now available to any of the more than 2,300 prosecutorial offices across the United States.

The PPIs are “an effective way to understand the impact of prosecutorial decisions and practices on individuals, communities, and the general public,” says Stemen, principal investigator on the PPI project. “As more prosecutors promote a new vision of justice for the future, having comprehensive measures of performance are critical.”

The project has a goal to advance both social science and prosecutorial practice. It is an effort to work with prosecutors to be smart on crime, think about new ways to maximize public safety, enhance fairness, create new systems of public accountability and address inequities in the justice system. The project has been featured in media around the country.

“This is pathbreaking scholarship in collaboration with local government and community groups that transforms knowledge into the pursuit of greater equity, effectiveness and justice,” says Peter J. Schraeder, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It embodies our Jesuit mission of seeking to resolve the difficult and complex social issues of our time and doing the hard work to understand and to achieve greater societal good.”

Over the next two years, the project will begin working with prosecutors in Charleston, SC and Philadelphia, PA to implement the PPIs in additional sites. For more on the PPIs, visit prosecutorialperformanceindicators.org.