For the past 50 plus years the United States has been debating the very nature of our criminal justice system. Are we too lenient? Are we too vindictive? Do we give too much power to our cops and prosecutors or too many protections to defendants? But maybe most important, is there a better way? Can we ensure we have both safety and dignity built into our system?
These questions are extremely difficult for law makers to answer because of the moral implications involved with crime and punishment, but also because of one glaring weakness: data sharing and reporting. We simply do not have comprehensive data collection systems for policy makers to draw on to design interventions that can protect public safety and help heal community wounds.
While there is no silver bullet that will fix these problems, we believe attention should be paid to: 1) fixing inconsistencies in key terms so data collection can be universal, 2) fixing the issues with delayed reporting so the data we have is up to date for researchers and policy makers, and 3) addressing issues with inadequate and inconsistent data storage so not only will the data be available but assessable to those who can use it to improve the system.