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State Criminal Justice Officials Use Data To Guide System Reforms

Derek Key

A multi-agency team – including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, mental health professionals and law enforcement – are using data-driven pilot programs to enact criminal justice reforms and improvements. 

But the end-results could be a generation away.

The criminal justice improvement group has been meeting for about a year. A national grant funded the pilot program, known as Evidence Based Decision Making, in six counties. The program uses research to guide decisions made across the justice system. The group’s co-chair Justice Steven David says the end goal is a better justice system.

“No adverse public safety consequences and there’s less recidivism,” says David. “The right people are in jail for the right amount of time and the right people getting services.”

David says, in the shorter term, the group is identifying achievable milestones – setting goals for reducing recidivism and directing more offenders to mental health services. He likens their effort to rebuilding a plane while it’s flying…but says having so many different people at the table makes that easier.

“[It’s] based on building relationships and collaboration across branches,” he says. “[We are saying], ‘Oh I see, I understand, now we can…’ ‘But you’ve got to understand my point, okay…’ ‘Well, you know, we can do this better.’”

The group is applying for a second grant to expand the pilot program to more counties.  

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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