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Reform Requires Better Data

Calls to create a federal task force on local prosecutors’ offices must also be matched with a commission on criminal justice data, Arnold Ventures Executive Vice President Jeremy Travis writes in a letter to the Washington Post.

While President Biden is being urged to focus on local prosecutors as a key to larger changes in the criminal justice system, any reform effort must involve better data collection, Arnold Ventures Executive Vice President Jeremy Travis wrote in a letter to the Washington Post.

More than 100 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials sent President Biden a letter calling for the creation of a task force dedicated to reimagining the work of local prosecutors. This effort would be similar to the task force on policing created under the Obama administration after police shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Yet all too often the fundamental information about how these offices do their work is unavailable. 

These local officials play a critical role in efforts to reverse mass incarceration, confront racial disparities and end unnecessarily harsh punishments in the criminal justice system,” Travis wrote. However, we lack much of the basic data necessary to accurately assess these offices, set standards and measure outcomes.”

Travis pointed to a recent report by Measures for Justice that found few states adequately collect, store, and distribute information about prosecutions, courts, and jails. 

Of the 20 states studied in the report, only two had information available about the pretrial process, including bail, detention and release practices,” Travis wrote. 

In order to build out this criminal justice data infrastructure, the Biden administration needs to assemble a commission on criminal justice data modernization. The creation of this commission was recommended by an expert roundtable organized by Arnold Ventures with the guidance of Jane Wiseman from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Read the entire letter here: Better infrastructure needed to support prosecutors