A modern country deserves a modern criminal justice system powered by comprehensive, accurate, and readily available data. To get there, we need to improve the way states collect, record, and release their data. Often this means developing and implementing data standards. This is how we do it:
MFJ does not lobby for specific policies, but we do work with policymakers, researchers, and others to improve statewide data policies. We do this by assessing a state’s legal and technological infrastructure for criminal justice data 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.
State of the Data
Here you’ll find a comprehensive overview of what criminal justice data looks like state by state including what the existing criminal justice data laws are, what agencies collect criminal justice data, and whether states have taken any recent steps to improve their data infrastructure or access. The microsite also includes a compendium of best practices and model legislation.
Criminal Justice Data Landscape Assessments
A critical step for improving criminal justice data policy is assessing the existing data landscape. This includes reviewing state laws and regulation regarding data collection, reporting, and access; interviewing policymakers and practitioners to understand state and local data culture; and conducting a technical review of statewide data sources. If you’re interested in having MFJ conduct an assessment in your state, please get in touch.
Another way to support criminal justice data infrastructure is 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 are essential for sharing, integrating, and interpreting data within and across jurisdictions.
National Open Court Data Standards (NODS)
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.
As part of a project initiated by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and led by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, MFJ is currently working on a 3-year effort to develop data standards across areas of criminal practice. MFJ is leading the first phase of this effort, convening practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders in law enforcement, courts, prosecution, indigent defense, jails, prisons, and community corrections to establish a set of key metrics, along with standards for data collection.