How Information Sharing Can Improve Justice Reform


In order for justice reinvestment to be successful, criminal justice agencies accustomed to keeping disparate data have to streamline information sharing, according to a new paper by the government-funded nonprofit SEARCH.

The purpose of justice reinvestment is to a portion of the savings from criminal justice reform to treatment alternatives, training, and other community programs.

“Fulfilling this promise, though, requires that those who make policy for, and allocate funding to, justice reform initiatives recognize the importance of making timely, accurate information available to the front-line practitioners—probation and parole officers, treatment providers and healthcare professionals, and the organizations providing services and programs to people under supervision” writes SEARCH Executive Director Scott Came. “Without this flow of information, justice reform will likely fall far short of policymakers' and citizens' expectations, and may in the end neither reduce expenditures nor improve public safety.”

In the paper, Came highlights initiatives that built “automated pipelines of information” to help practitioners make better decisions about adjudication, supervision, and rehabilitation for people accused of and convicted of crimes.

In a 2013 Kentucky initiative, judges began using Public Safety Assessment (PSA), a data-driven risk assessment tool that uses nine predictive risk factors from administrative data to help make decisions about defendant pretrial release. In the first year of using PSA, Kentucky reduced crime among defendants on pretrial release by 15 percent, according to the paper.

“Experience in recent years and in pioneering jurisdictions has demonstrated that defendants released pending trial are less likely to violate their release conditions if they know that they are more likely to be caught and face severe consequences,” Came writes. “Enabling judges, law enforcement officers, and probation and parole officers to know when supervised individuals have violated conditions requires information that is timely and accurate.”

He points to Maine’s implementation of a system that notifies probation officers via email every time a probationer is arrested or issued a summons, and Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, in which participants receive “swift and certain sanctions” for probation violations.

Read the full paper HERE.

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