Measures for Justice (MFJ) was founded in 2011 to arm communities with their own data to solve systemic problems in criminal justice.
The organization was the brainchild of CEO, Amy Bach, who spent years in county courtrooms researching for her book, Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court. Her research pointed to the importance of data for a) being able to see trends and patterns that are otherwise invisible and b) grounding policy in fact.
With these conclusions in mind, MFJ adopted the following change model:
We collect, standardize, and publicize county-level criminal justice data from across the United States
so that policymakers, practitioners, advocates, and the general public can understand how the criminal justice system is performing
so that they can identify well-performing and low-performing jurisdictions
so that they can make changes to policy and practice
so that the criminal justice system is more fair, efficient, and effective.
Of course, it’s not enough just to collect existing data; you need to help improve data collection, recording, and release practices across the country. And you need to ensure the data, once released, are easily understood and can be put to good use.
MFJ is active in all these areas.
Our work began in earnest in 2013, with a grant from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to measure criminal justice performance in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. With the help of several measurement experts, we developed an initial set of measures we piloted in Milwaukee County, and then extended to cover the entire state. Based on the success of that pilot, MFJ received funding to measure more states.
In 2017, we launched a free Data Portal with six states’ worth of performance measurement data. Today we have data from more than 1200 counties across twenty states.
In addition, we’ve produced data gap analyses in Florida and California, which helped notify these states about deficiencies in their data infrastructure. Since then, both states (California and Florida) have passed forward-thinking data bills that raise the bar for what it means to be a fully transparent state when it comes to criminal justice.
Most recently, we have launched a new public data dashboard for individual agencies, beginning with prosecutor offices. Known as Commons, the dashboard is jointly created by communities and the prosecutors, police, and courts that serve them. Commons tracks monthly data and makes shared policy goals public. We launched the dashboard in Yolo County, CA. Commons will next be serving communities in New York, Louisiana, and New Mexico.
As we look ahead, we’re also developing new tools, services, and research offerings further to contextualize our data and customize how users experience them.