AB 1331 Passage in California a Win for Increased Data Transparency in the Justice System
Yesterday, with the passage of AB 1331 Criminal Justice Data, the California Assembly has mandated greater transparency within the criminal justice system. This new bill will require agencies that submit data to the California Department of Justice to include criminal identification and information, incident and court numbers -- which will result in better data reporting. It also clears the way for courts to share data with research organizations.
“Good decision-making starts with improving the data reporting process at the local and state level and increasing access to data for outside researchers,” said Amy Bach, Founder and Executive Director of Measures for Justice. “This is an exciting step forward, and welcomes California into a group of pioneering states like Florida and Connecticut that have passed bills to improve criminal justice data transparency.”
According to the DOJ, there is a “35% gap in disposition reporting,” meaning that 35 percent of arrest records are missing case disposition information. Missing case disposition information means that arrests that either have not been filed or resulted in conviction appear as pending cases and remain on criminal records that are disseminated to employers and licensing boards. Through the reforms under this new law, the California Department of Justice can better ensure defendant records are being adequately tracked and that there is no unfairness in sentencing or pretrial decisions because of inaccurate or incomplete data.
A lack of comprehensive data reporting can also become a threat to public safety when information is either wrong or missing in the process of reviewing criminal records at sentencing or pretrial -- or even when conducting background checks for gun purchases.
"By improving the quality of criminal history records, AB 1331 advances fairness and public safety for everything from record clearance to gun control,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “We are grateful to have collaborated with Assemblymember Bonta on this long overdue, critical first step towards modernizing California's criminal justice data systems."
Assemblymember Robert Bonta and District Attorney Gascón introduced AB 1331 on the heels of a report released in April -- co-authored by Measures for Justice and the Stanford Criminal Justice Center -- that highlights the lack of accessibility of criminal justice data in California for both the public and researchers alike.
About Measures for Justice: Measures for Justice (MFJ) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to bring transparency to the criminal justice system from arrest to post-conviction at the county level. MFJ collects and analyzes criminal justice data from counties and displays them on a Data Portal that is free to the public.