Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
It’s a pleasure to be with you this afternoon. Thank you to all who helped make today’s launch possible – my Justice Department colleagues, the outstanding team at the Council of State Governments Justice Center, our 21 national partners and everyone tuning in with an interest in strengthening our criminal justice system. It’s a privilege to join you and to help kick off this exciting initiative.
I want to thank Justice Boggs for his leadership as Chair of the Justice Counts steering committee and for guiding us to this moment. My thanks, as well, to Megan Quattlebaum, Marshall Clement and the staff and advisory board from the Council of State Governments. And of course, thanks to my colleagues in our Bureau of Justice Assistance – especially Kristen Mahoney, Ruby Qazilbash and Heather Tubman-Carbone. And a big shout-out to my friend Amy Solomon, the head of our Office of Justice Programs.
When it comes to most public policy issues – jobs, health, education, the environment – Americans can generally trust that their elected leaders are operating with complete, consistent and up-to-date information. But criminal justice is another story.
The data we have about public safety – whether it’s information about arrest rates, jail populations, or probation and parole – is often months, if not years, old. In many cases, the data exists, but no one has had the time or the resources to analyze it and share what they find with those who need to know. So our legislators, policymakers and budget agencies are forced to make critical decisions in a vacuum, and sensational narratives are permitted to run wild without official, real-time statistics to confirm or dispute those narratives. This erodes public confidence in our public safety strategies and undermines trust in the criminal justice system itself.
The foundation of our justice system should rest on bedrock principles of fairness, effectiveness and efficiency. Justice and equity demand that we constantly seek to improve the system’s operations and that we operate with transparency. But if we can’t measure even the most fundamental actions of law enforcement, corrections and other criminal justice professionals, how can we diagnose and fix the shortcomings?
The better equipped we are with timely data, the more effective we can be serving our communities and the better able we will be to secure the trust and confidence of those we serve. This is what Justice Counts is all about – leveraging the data we have to help leaders make informed fiscal and policy decisions without expensive upgrades in technology and manpower.
We’re already on the road to achieving this elusive and important goal. The Data Scan on the Justice Counts website serves as a blueprint for what we’re hoping to accomplish. It consolidates key corrections metrics published across all 50 states. This will help stakeholders locate timely information, identify critical gaps in data and understand how components work as part of a system. Our next step is to work with our partners to develop a set of metrics and tools to enable this for every part of the system. Then, we can help states apply this data to their decision-making. You’ll hear more about our strategy over the next hour-and-a-half.
But before we discuss these next steps and dive into specifics, we want to take a moment to hear from those who depend on this information – the practitioners, the policymakers and people who have had direct experience with the justice system. After all, every statistic represents someone for whom sound, reliable data can make a difference. Let’s hear from them now.