Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

A Model and Test of Policymaking as Process

Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

A Model and Test of Policymaking as Process

Article excerpt


The prior policymaking literature has been largely theoretical and focused upon agenda setting and the initiation mechanisms of policy change, namely triggering events. Notably absent from the prior literature have been studies aimed at developing and empirically evaluating models of policymaking as a process with outcomes. Such a process/outcome model of policymaking would necessarily include initiation mechanisms, or triggering events, agenda setting, politics, and subsequent outcomes (intended vs. unintended). This paper applies such a process and outcome model through an evaluative case study of the tragic death of Martin Lee Anderson in a Florida juvenile boot camp. The death of Martin Lee Anderson in January, 2006 sparked a major debate and a series of subsequent policy initiatives in Florida related to juvenile boot camps, the treatment of juveniles in confinement, and overall accountability of the state's juvenile justice system. Employing multiple data sources, the evaluation assesses the triggering events, subsequent processes, and resulting policy outcomes. The findings demonstrate that policymaking occurs in a sequential manner with identifiable stages. Different actors influence each stage of the process and help to shape the final policy outcomes. However, using the methods of in-depth interviews and participant observations revealed that outcomes are also shaped by various political negotiations which are not easily captured through conventional research and evaluation methods.

Keywords: policymaking, juvenile justice, policy evaluation, policymaking process

1. Introduction

In recent years increasing scholarly attention has been focused upon policymaking. While many scholars remain opposed or indifferent about the importance of policymaking to their academic pursuits, a growing number of scholars have embraced policymaking as a fundamental and integral part of their role as researchers. Emerging prominent from the growing interest in policymaking have been several theoretical accounts of what initiates policy development or change. Among these accounts are the Advocacy Coalition Framework (Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith, 1993), Punctuated Equilibrium (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993), and Kingdon's (2003) often cited contribution of "policy windows". Kingdon (2003) contends that there are particular events that precipitate opportunities to change or develop policy (pp. 166-167). Several other authors have extended or refined the policy windows argument in their respective efforts to advance theoretical understanding of policy agenda setting (Burstein, 1991; Birkland, 1997, 2004).

Most of the various theoretical accounts of policymaking have been focused upon identifying what initiates policymaking or change. Kingdon (2003) places emphasis upon social crises or unpredictable events, Downs (1972) identifies five stages of the "issue attention cycle", and Peters and Hogwood (1985) focus upon política 1/public attention and associated organizational activity. These different accounts have each identified the initiation, agenda setting, and/or policy opportunities and have demonstrated the important relationship between the initiation of policymaking and the larger context of society. Stated differently, these various theoretical accounts have revealed that policymaking and related initiatives are not timeless, nor do they emerge from a social vacuum. Rather, policymaking efforts are responsive to and shaped by various social, political, and economic events in which they take place and to which they are relevant. Nonetheless, these important theoretical contributions concerning the different factors involved in precipitating and shaping the policymaking agenda, the literature remains conceptually and empirically incomplete. Specifically, John (2003) has concluded that future policymaking theory and research will need to move beyond policy windows and agenda setting and toward the identification of the proximate causal mechanisms that subsequently drive policy change. …

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