AS A CANDIDATE and now as President, Donald Trump has promised to lock more people up. Undocumented immigrants. Drug dealers. Gang members in Chicago. But the tough on crime approach favored by President Trump won't just hurt people in cities he's painted as urban hellscapes. New research finds that the areas helping drive America's rapidly rising incarceration rates are in rural America—areas, in other words, that voted for Trump.
Here's an idea: What if we were to collect data from our criminal justice system, like we do for hospitals and schools, and use that data to tell us more about how our system is working for us? Could we save taxpayers money and yet make our communities as safe — or safer?
For the past six years, Measures for Justice has been hard at work on a dream tool for policy analysts, journalists and criminal justice activists. The tool, a free criminal justice data portal that so far covers over 300 counties in six states—with more on the way—will be launched next week. Lead funders for the project include the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Google.org and the MacArthur Foundation.
Google.org has awarded Measures for Justice $1.5 million to help measure criminal justice system performance in California.
"We believe better data can be part of the solution, which is why we're investing in organizations using data and evidence to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system," said Justin Steele, a Google.org principal.
MFJ is thrilled to be a part of Google.org's efforts to support racial justice and transparency in the working of local criminal justice systems.
Measures for Justice is thrilled to announce the addition of two new members to our board: Judge Rosemary Barkett and Carter Stewart.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation awards MFJ a grant to pursue strategies to automate and streamline data collection. This will require machine learning tools and a better sense of the data that are out there for acquisition. The Arnold grant allows MFJ to implement a National Data Acquisition Strategy to map the country’s data availability and suitability and to initiate large-scale data processing marked by automated techniques that efficiently and effectively scale our research efforts.
Deborrah Brodsky, the director of the Project on Accountable Justice, recently published an op-ed about the Council of Economic Advisors’ report on the cost of incarceration. The piece is, specifically, about the benefit of deferral programs in Florida (and elsewhere) and how big data can help us measure what works. Brodsky mentions MFJ prominently, which recognizes the value of our work to measure performance and to share the results.
MFJ believes that data are bipartisan and not the province of the Left. So we were pleased to see the op-ed recapped in the Charles Koch Institute's newsletter, The Daily Wrap.
The Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), which advises the White House on economic policy, recently released a report on the economics of incarceration that includes new data from MFJ. The data address the success of diversion programs like drug courts in counties that routinely divert defendants from traditional sentencing.
We hope the CEA’s report is a harbinger of how our data will be used once they are released. As a country, we spend a lot of time decrying what’s not working—and there’s plenty—but sound, reliable, and comprehensive data can shine the same bright light on successful practices.
At a UN event on access to legal aid as a measure of access to justice, Ambassador Samantha Power mentions Measures for Justice.
Programs are already trying to do this here in the United States. One – which I flagged for you, which I think could have global reach – is called Measures for Justice, which will release data in June examining how our criminal justice system is performing – from arrest to post conviction – on fairness and accuracy, public safety, and financial responsibility.
Measures for Justice hosted its first gathering of the Methods & Measurement Council on August 19 in NYC to revise and ratify our measures. The Council's aim is to build on the great work of MFJ's Data Council, which drafted a first set of measures we later tested in a 72-County Wisconsin pilot. The Methods & Measurement Council comprises some of the brightest and most talented people in the field of criminal justice research and measurement. Its goal is to ensure our measures are valid, replicable and meaningful. The meeting was a big success. Enjoyable, too.
Tate Williams – Inside Philanthropy -- The statistics on the American criminal justice system are not pretty, whether looking at mass incarceration, police shootings, or recidivism rates. Can activists and law enforcement alike use this sea of grim numbers to fix the system? At least two funders think so.
NEW YORK, May 11, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As a nationwide, bi-partisan push is underway to reform the broken criminal justice system, The Pershing Square Foundation announced today a $3.1 million grant in support of Measures for Justice (MFJ), the first non-profit organization to use 'big data' to track and compare the performance of county criminal justice systems across the country.
During a workshop moderated by Kristen Mahoney, Deputy Director for Policy, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Amy Bach presented preliminary results of MFJ's first pilot study testing the Measures for Justice, enabling counties for the first time to compare the performance of their local criminal justice system. As quoted in the Crime Report,
You can look up data and see where the schools with good test scores are located are, or you can look up the water quality of a city...But not for the courts... We want to collect data that means something to the people using the courts and to be able to see where things can improve.
In his newly-launched blog, Derek Coursen, an expert in information management and systems within the public and nonprofit service sectors, explores issues relating to the systemic ways public service organizations can manage, organize and use information to ultimately make better decisions and more effective programs. Recognizing that human services have chronic problems with managing information, his blog is focused on solving them.
We applaud Derek for his dedication to addressing these complex issues and are thrilled he's part of our Data Council.
In his recent blog Made2Measure, Ingo Keilitz, a Senior Justice Reform Specialist at The World Bank, contemplates the potential of creating a Justice Index – even if imperfect – that measures the performance of criminal court systems.
We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
Amy Bach recently gave the Keynote address at the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy's celebration of Gideon versus Wainwright. The Kentucky Bar Association put together an exceptional event.
Amy also sat on a panel that followed a repartee by David Boise and former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson's. These guys are the super-litigators on opposite sides of Bush v. Gore, who also teamed up to win the fight for same-sex marriage in the U.S Supreme Court.
Amy Bach, MFJ Executive Director, recently spoke at the Spring Public Defenders Conference in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. Public defenders face immense challenges in Mississippi. Many of them carry soul-crushing caseloads with little to no resources provided to defend their clients and with every other actor in the criminal justice system pressuring them to quickly resolve their cases.
Amy spoke about the challenges in being part of such a system and how local criminal systems need to be able to present data on their performance to make the case for better resources or simply to defend themselves against budget cuts and the austerity measures being implemented nationwide.
As part of Attorney General Eric Holder's speech commemorating the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, Holder describes the MFJ Milwaukee County pilot as one of the Bureau of Justice's promising new initiatives to improve criminal courts:
BJA will provide $50,000 to implement the "Measures for Justice" initiative in Milwaukee – a rigorous evaluation tool that will help illuminate strategies for success and empower criminal justice stakeholders to make the changes they need.
Amy Bach, founder of Measures for Justice, receives the Gideon Award from Florida's Palm Beach County Public Defender office. The award recognizes exemplary work supporting equal justice for indigent communities. Past recipients include Barry Scheck and Bryan Stevenson.
Amy Bach will join Kenneth Starr on a panel to discuss indigent defense law and how well it provides the poor or disenfranchised access to justice.
Echoing Green recently selected Measures for Justice's founder, Amy Bach, as a Fellow out of 3,000 candidates worldwide. Echoing Green is a premier seed investor for social entrepreneurs.