In 2017, Florida passed ground-breaking legislation to standardize the way the state collects and shares data. The bill proceeded from recommendations MFJ made to the Florida judiciary about the state of its data. Based on that bill and on our extensive experience with data collection, management, and release, we have developed Model Legislation that can serve as a guide to any state legislature invested in improving data and, by extension, its criminal justice system. While MFJ recommends tailoring this Model Legislation to the existing statutory framework and data infrastructure in each state, at minimum, all states need clear mandates regarding the following:
- Data collection: all state and local criminal justice agencies should be required to collect a core set of data elements necessary for tracking how people and cases move through the criminal process.
- Data centralization and standardization: all data should be standardized and housed in a single, centralized data repository
- Data access: data should be available, with varying levels of anonymization, to policymakers, practitioners, researchers, journalists, and the general public.
Data Repository Best Practices
MFJ recommends that all states identify a state agency to act as a criminal justice data aggregator and repository for data from local criminal justice agencies across the state. The specific agency serving in this function will vary based on state-specific dynamics and the organizational structure of the state criminal justice system. Below are a set of capabilities that a data aggregator and repository agency should have:
- Uses open web standards. Little use of proprietary technology.
- Uses security on the transport layer. Website is https (rather than http) even for non-login pages.
- Uses modern scaling technologies (Tech that allows you to handle large spikes in traffic).
- Has people on staff that are dedicated to web user-interface coding.
- Has people on staff that are dedicated to web service ("server-side") coding.
- Makes data available in machine-readable, open format files (i.e., you can get full datasets without scraping).
- Makes data available and searchable via modern web APIs (access to data directly through programs, not just by humans going to web pages).
- Has the capability to aggregate, stitch together and validate the data coming in.
- Can handle, for example, duplicate, overlapping or missing data and has processes for the rejection and re-transmission of invalid data.
- Uses standard best practices for data protection and redundancy (remote backups, logging, event detection). If you’re interested in MFJ assessing your state’s data or want to know more about how to improve data collection, recording, and sharing, please contact us.