Before we continue the discussion about the basic descriptive data elements that are needed to answer the question I previously posed, it is important to understand what we mean by descriptive statistics. Descriptive statistics describe the features of the data collected. In other words, descriptive statistics describe “what” the data looks like, but it does not tell you why or how data elements interact or influence one another. Descriptive statistics provide a defender with summaries about the data collected and these summaries may be either quantitative or visual. Quantitative descriptive statistics are the sum of data points that are usually reported as total numbers or averages in a report. For example, defender offices can use descriptive statistics to determine the total of open felony cases per attorney in one year or say that on average they had x number of open cases in the last two years. These are considered to be summaries of caseloads that describe the data collected but it does not tell you if a certain variable (number of cases opened in this example) has an influence (or is correlated) with the final outcome of a case. When we say that a variable is correlated we mean that the knowledge of a certain variable (caseload numbers) can allow you to consistently predict the action of another (final dispositional outcomes). For example, if you mix two hydrogen and one oxygen (H20), you get water. We know that every time you have the interaction of these variables, you can statistically infer that this combination of elements (variables) will consistently give us a substance that we call water. Descriptive statistics do not allow you to make this type of predictions or inferences;...
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...s, public defense providers are committed to providing zealous and high-quality representation and their leaders advocate for criminal justice systems that are fair and equitable. Experientially, attorneys, social workers, investigators, and other staff know the difference they make on the lives of people and communities. However, it is difficult to effectively advocate in the budgetary and policy arena when there is little or no data about our systems or their impact on important outcomes. Our inability to measure client outcomes and assess system performance makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the defense community to quantify the social and economic benefits of a high-quality, well-resourced public defense system.
See Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon; and Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, et al. v. State of Florida
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