Welcome to the North Carolina Systems Evaluation Project (NCSEP)

Across the country, indigent defense programs lack effective data collection and program evaluation, which hampers our ability to improve our systems and advocate for fair criminal justice policies. We need what other large scale systems have: the ability to collect and analyze indicators that measure system performance. What are our outcomes? How well do we meet the needs of our clients? If an agency initiates a new practice or policy, was the policy successful? These are questions every indigent defense agency should have the tools to answer. In a world where big data is everywhere, empirical evidence is one of the most valuable tools available to advocates of indigent defense.

The North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services (NCIDS) created NCSEP to develop performance measures that would evaluate system outcomes and enable defense agencies to assess, with empirical data, how well the indigent defense system meets the needs of our clients, the criminal justice system, and the community. With empirical data NCIDS will be able to improve the quality of legal representation for the poor, increase system efficiency, and quantify the social and economic benefits that quality indigent defense services generate.

NCSEP's task has proven to be an extremely challenging undertaking because, until now, no indigent defense system in the country has measured system outcomes objectively. Now NCSEP is poised to accomplish what has not been done before and develop uniform Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the defense community. For the first time, the goals and objectives of a high-quality indigent defense system have been defined and KPIs that measure system outcomes have been operationalized to work across indigent defense jurisdictions. Using these metrics, agencies can track their performance over time; evaluate the impact of policy changes; compare results across defense delivery methods, including retained attorneys, public defenders, assigned counsel, and contract counsel, as well as pro se clients of attorney; and so much more.

Finally, NCSEP will help NCIDS fulfill its statutory obligation, under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-498.1(4) and 7A-498.5(a), to evaluate the services we provide and to identify ways to improve the quality of indigent defense services, increase efficiency, and reduce costs to taxpayers.

NCSEP is pleased to share the results of our efforts with the defense community. This website is dedicated to helping indigent defense agencies build their capacity to perform evidence-based evaluations. We wish you luck on your journey and hope the reports, toolkits, and other tools provided on this website will help as you navigate your way.