Anywhere, USA / Chapter 4

Chapter 4: A decent data set is hard to find.

Data gaps. Chicken scratch. Old systems. New systems that don’t talk to each other. Inscrutable shorthand. Lack of standards. The list of reasons why criminal justice data is so hard to access and make sense of is long. A useful dashboard depends on good data.

The data files are pulled incorrectly. Or manually, which takes months. The agency isn’t entirely clear on what data it has. The guy who handles the data for the agency quits, retires, and the next best contact works abroad and is somehow unreachable. Just to be able to pull the right files requires having to write new code. Procedures and processes for data recording and release are inconsistent and outdated. The data files are missing so much information, they can’t be used as is. The data is housed in seven to ten different locations, with exponentially more tech hurdles to jump to access each set.

There’s a reason so few are doing this work, despite its urgency. It’s hard.