"As data become more complete, analysis more rigorous and predictions more accurate, information becomes intelligence. Sentences, definitely including prison, then might reflect the best return for money spent on public safety. Logic dictates that the Legislature will make this decision-making tool available statewide and see that it is maintained and used.
"Others in policing and corrections should cash in on this warehouse of experience and insight, too. Parole and probation officers should be able to tailor recommendations more precisely as they see their charges succeeding or failing in given programs."
--excerpted from Fears, beliefs face
"What the public really wants is safety. We know we can't lock up every criminal forever.
"With the highest nonpolitical incarceration rate in world history, America is squandering an incredible amount of resources. It only makes sense to bring the logic of reinvented, outcomes-based, carefully measured government onto the dark island of corrections.
"Multnomah County is still finishing up work on the DSS system Judge Marcus is advocating. But the entire state of Oregon is studying the model.
"As the model develops, we may finally all see a way, to spend less, and achieve a lot more, from our criminal justice system.
"When that happens, the "prison-industrial complex"-- now incarcerating Americans and spending on prisons at a world-rate speed may finally have met its match."
--excerpted from Portland judge seeks
"A handful of state and local jurisdictions around the country, including in Colorado and Brooklyn, are experimenting with creating and sharing databases between law enforcement agencies and the court system. While the immediate goal is to improve communication among agencies, a longer-term goal is to use all the information gathered to improve criminal sentencing.
"One of the more ambitious efforts in this regard is being undertaken by Multnomah County in Oregon. This month, the county is expanding a computer system launched in January that currently links together databases from four law enforcement agencies: the police department, the sheriff's department, the district attorney and the public defender. By the end of July, the state courts will be added to the system. Eventually, it will include databases from 10 agencies . . . .
"The effort to use a shared database to measure outcomes and assist in sentencing puts the Multnomah project on the cutting edge of public sector projects. However, the concept of using what are known as 'decision support systems' is nothing new to the private sector, where numerous companies use them to measure, for example, consumer tastes and buying patterns. In the private sector, the concept is sometimes called 'knowledge management.'"
- excerpted from Computer Networks Get Their
Day in Court
"Someday soon, Michael Marcus and other Multnomah County Circuit judges will have a data warehouse at their fingertips. Say a 50 year-old white male with substance abuse problems and two prior property crimes is before the judge to be sentenced on a new crime. The judge might be able to plug those characteristics into a computer and find out what kind of sentences and programs had prevented similar defendants from committing new crimes. . . .
"Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk . . . is cautious about building expectations, but he thinks the system could have many uses.
'It has tremendous potential for public safety at the sentencing level,' Schrunk said. 'You'll be able to make eyes-open decisions."'
- excerpted from Data warehouse will be a first
for justice system
"Even if judges get all this information [on available resources and defendants' medical and mental health histories], they don't know which treatments or sentences work best.
"This is inefficient. It is also unacceptable for the special-needs population whose lawbreaking has more to do with illness than criminal intent.
"There is a nation-leading opportunity -- first in Multnomah County, then the rest of the state -- to overcome these defects. It urgently requires continuing, top-level political, financial and interagency support to create a new information system . . . .
* * * *
"The first goal is to find how different types of offenders respond to the various treatments and sentences.
"Marcus recently took an early model of the measurement tool on what literally was a trial run:
'When I first ran the tool on the bench against real data . . . I sent an e-mail to (several hundred) judges all over the world . . . analogizing the event to the Wright Brothers' first flights at Kitty Hawk. On the one hand, I am confident that this step will have as much impact on criminal justice and its culture as Kitty Hawk had on transportation. On the other hand, we have about as far to go to a completely functional tool s the Wright Brothers had to go to a Boeing 737.'"This is the take-off stage. Incomplete data limit the sentencing-support tool's useful range. But fuel is being added. Detailed information on a larger pool of offenders and available sentencing/treatment options is being collected, sorted and sifted in Multnomah County, and then compared to results.
"Oregon's Department of Corrections, with more than 9000 inmates (18 percent with serious mental illnesses), no doubt will want to adapt this tool. It could be adjusted easily to assess effectiveness of programs in prison and to fine-tune others that Corrections workers are developing to help inmates succeed after release.
"Information systems can and should help judges, medical staff and social workers choose the best matches of treatment programs or sentences for mentally ill defendants and clients as well as others.
"It is critical, though, not to confuse output with outcomes. Turning data into intelligence will be futile if resources aren't there to allow suitable referrals."
--excerpted from Sentencing in the dark
of six parts of a series]
"Sentencing Support Technology for Public Safety: Sentencing support technology under development in Oregon, so far unique in the world, seeks fundamental change in the sentencing process. The new tools display correlations between sentencing elements and recidivism for offenders like the one before the court. This allows informed argument and analysis of which choices are most likely to divert which offenders from criminal careers and thereby protect public safety, regain public trust for the courts, and transform the very nature of both sentencing arguments and policy making."
-- Association of American Law Schools Criminal Justice Section Newsletter,
"The Decision Support System will alow judges to plug a defendant's characteristics into a computer and find out what kind of sentences and programs prevented similar criminals from committing new offenses."
* * * *
" . . . Multnomah County Presiding Judge James Ellis, a member of the committee overseeing the database development, said he wants to see the system used by everyone from district attorneys to lawmakers. 'If we make the program available to all the participants in the criminal justice system, then those who do determine the sentences, since most are determined by plea agreement, can also use it,' he said.
'I'm very enthused about using data to make our sentencing decisions, rather than anecdotes and gut responses.'"
--excerpted from Database gives judges
new tool in fight to steer offenders away from crime
"Oregon’s sentencing support technology allows judges, during sentencing hearings, to see which sentencing options have best correlated with reduced criminal behaviour when imposed on offenders and for crimes like those before the court. The hope is to improve public safety sentencing outcomes by making ‘what works’ matter in the courtroom."
--excerpted from Oregon (USA) Judge Aims Policy
and Technology at Smarter Sentencing