NJ Law Called National Model on Criminal Justice Data

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A new law requiring the New Jersey attorney general to compile and analyze a wide range of criminal justice information could serve as a model for the nation and fuel future reform efforts in the state, reports Law360. The measure, signed last week by Gov. Phil Murphy, calls on Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to set up a program to “collect, record and analyze data” on defendants 18 or older, including their race, ethnicity, gender and age, and what happens to their cases, including systematic plea negotiation information that typically goes unrecorded. The data collection and analysis will provide a closer look at potential problems in the system and better equip lawmakers to tackle those issues.  For example, the data could provide insight on racial disparities in prosecutions and mass incarceration.

Mikaela Rabinowitz of the justice research organization Measures for Justice said the law could be a national model in terms of the breadth of the data collection and the recognition of “the need to centralize these disparate sources” of information. Because criminal justice data is spread across various agencies, the law acknowledges that “in order to actually understand how the criminal process is working, we need to take data from these disparate agencies and disparate sources and put it all in one place,” she said. The data will include “warrants, arrests, charges, filing of criminal complaints, and indictments,” “dismissed or downgraded charges,” and “plea agreement negotiations, including data concerning plea offers extended and accepted or rejected by the defendant, plea agreements entered or rejected by the court, and whether the plea agreements involved probation or incarceration.”  “This is potentially groundbreaking legislation, and it calls for data collection and reporting that currently exists nowhere in the United States,” said Duke University law Prof. Brandon Garrett.

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