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Better Infrastructure Needed for Local and Federal Criminal Justice Systems

Gun violence should spur Congress to improve gun data, writes Asheley Van Ness in the Dallas Morning News

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As an infrastructure bill makes its way through Congress, Democrats and Republicans need to think about the nation’s criminal justice data infrastructure. Whether local courts and jails, or national trends in gun violence, accurate data collection and sharing is critical to running an effective criminal justice system, Asheley Van Ness, Director of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures, said in a letter to the Dallas Morning News last week.

Without access to objective data, policymakers struggle to craft constitutional and effective policies that can reduce the number of firearm deaths and injuries, whether from accidents, suicides or violent crime.”

Her letter was a response to an editorial calling for better data tracking in local courts and jails. 

It’s hard to analyze crime data if you don’t collect it,” the Dallas Morning News editorial board wrote. But essentially that is what is happening in Dallas County.”

Whether court practices or gun violence, our nation needs a more rigorous system of collecting, storing, and sharing information so that policymakers can determine what works and what doesn’t in the criminal justice system. This means improving and expanding the data infrastructure at all levels. Congress has a specific responsibility to take on this task, which also includes funding research into gun policy after largely ignoring the field for more than two decades. 

A recent report by Health Management Associates pegs the cost of repairing and expanding these systems as less than $160 million over five years and the cost of funding necessary research as less than $480 million over five years,” Van Ness wrote. 

Read the full letter here: Criminal justice data is key.”