Data Transparency

National Infrastructure

A modern country deserves a modern criminal justice system powered by comprehensive, accurate, and readily available data. To get there, we need to improve and expand the way states collect, record, and release their data. Often this means developing and implementing data standards and best practices.

Our only agenda is better data

We work with policymakers, researchers, and others to improve statewide data practices and rally for better data access rules and regulations. We do this by assessing states’ legal and tech infrastructure and providing guidance on best practices for collecting and standardizing criminal justice data, as well as on ensuring these data are accessible to researchers and the general public.

Data Transparency Legislative Work

We work to inform legislation that pursues criminal justice data transparency.

Florida Criminal Justice Data Transparency Bill

In 2017, Florida passed ground-breaking legislation to standardize the way the state collects and shares data. The bill requires courts, prosecutors, jail administrators, public defenders, and the Department of Corrections to collect and report out data in the same way, to the same centralized repository for public reporting.

The bill proceeded from recommendations MFJ made to the Florida House Judiciary Committee about the state of its data.

California Justice Data Accountability and Transparency Act

In 2022, MFJ helped broker conversations with a coalition including the Northern California ACLU, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Alliance of California, and community groups about standardized practices for data collection in prosecutor offices across the state based on the success of the Yolo Commons.

The result was a new law that mandates every prosecutor office collect the same data, in the same way, and report them to the same central repository for public display.

Collaborate with MFJ

If you’re interested in legislation or best practices for your state’s criminal justice data, get in touch!

Model Legislation

In 2017, Florida passed ground-breaking legislation to standardize the way the state collects and shares data. The bill proceeded from recommendations MFJ made to the Florida judiciary about the state of its data. Based on that bill and on our extensive experience with data collection, management, and release, we have developed Model Legislation that can serve as a guide to any state legislature invested in improving data and, by extension, its criminal justice system.

While MFJ recommends tailoring this Model Legislation to the existing statutory framework and data infrastructure in each state, at minimum, all states need clear mandates regarding the following:

Data collection

All state and local criminal justice agencies should be required to collect a core set of data elements necessary for tracking how people and cases move through the criminal process.

Data centralization and standardization

All data should be standardized and housed in a single, centralized data repository.

Data access

Data should be available, with varying levels of anonymization, to policymakers, practitioners, researchers, journalists, and the general public.

Criminal Justice Data Landscape Assessments

MFJ helps states understand the quality and availability of their criminal justice data, as well as the strength and shortcomings of their data infrastructure.

Data Standards

Another way to support criminal justice data infrastructure is to partner with other organizations to develop and implement data standards. Data standards, which include rules for recording and describing data, are important because they ensure consistency in both format and meaning, both of which provide essential context for sharing, integrating, and interpreting data within and across jurisdictions.

Justice Counts

Justice Counts is a national, consensus-building initiative designed to help policymakers make better decisions with criminal justice data that’s more timely, less disjointed, and as useful as possible. Working with the Council for State Governments, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and 20 other partners, MFJ is helping lead the effort to develop standardized metrics that have buy-in from a national coalition of criminal justice experts in multiple sectors, from law enforcement to defense counsel to community supervision.

National Open Court Data Standards

In 2019, MFJ worked with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to develop the National Open Court Data Standards (NODS). NODS include both business and technical court data standards to support the creation, sharing, and integration of court data by ensuring a clear understanding of what court data represent and how court data can be shared in a user-friendly format.


Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

To help prosecutors prepare for the increasing demand for greater transparency, the Association for Prosecuting Attorneys convened The National Prosecutorial Dashboards Advisory Group. The Group has released a resource guide for prosecutor offices interested in pursuing a public-facing dashboard as a means to increased community engagement, transparency, public accountability, and racial equity.