Milestone in Criminal Justice Data Collection Initiative

The Baker-Polito Administration announced a major milestone in an unprecedented effort to standardize data collection and information sharing across the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system. Conceived as part of the 2018 Criminal Justice Reform (CJR) law signed by Governor Charlie Baker, the data-driven initiative known as the Cross Tracking System is designed to improve data quality, enhance transparency, and inform public policy. To expand public access to the newly integrated data, the Administration launched a new online dashboard, which now provides population metrics from state and county correctional agencies.

The initial dataset consolidates 9.4 million records submitted by the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) and 14 County Sheriff Offices dating back five years to January 2017. The dashboard empowers users to distinguish between pre-trial and sentenced populations and visualize demographic subsets of the populations by sex, race-ethnicity, and age. The public can view organized aggregated data and download datasets for independent study.

“The Cross Tracking System reflects our administration’s commitment to improve criminal justice outcomes through inter-agency information sharing, data-driven policies, and transparent decision making,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with our partners in the courts and across state and county government and their commitment to improved data standardization, collection, and reporting. Enhanced access to quality data will help us to better serve the community and advance the principles of a more fair and effective criminal justice system.”

“Our Administration recognizes the importance of the Cross Tracking tool to study individual and system-wide outcomes of justice involved individuals,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This important resource will create new opportunities for stakeholders, advocates, legislators, and system-decision-makers to convene around accurate and complete data and develop effective solutions for emerging issues.”

 The 2018 criminal justice law mandated the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), in coordination with the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS), to create a standardized data collection and cross tracking system for criminal justice agencies and the Trial Court. The system was designed to provide a streamlined, 360-degree view of an individual engaged with the criminal justice system by assigning them a statewide identification number, which follows that individual from the point of arrest to entry into a custodial institution and eventual release to parole supervision.

The integrated system required the development of uniform data collection and reporting standards across a broad range of agencies and independent constitutional offices. EOPSS promulgated regulations to establish consistent data definitions, define the governance framework, develop outline integration requirements, and support technology, and develop operational and implementation procedures. In addition to EOPSS, EOTSS and the custodial agencies, other contributors include the Trial Court, Massachusetts Probation Service, Massachusetts Parole Board, the Office of the Attorney General, the District Attorneys, and state and local police departments. Additionally, the Justice Reinvestment Policy Oversight Board and numerous criminal justice advocacy groups provided valuable insight and guidance.

“It is difficult to overstate the scope and immense complexity of this groundbreaking project. The publication of this data tool marks the culmination of an intense process that required remarkable levels of engagement and participation from countless stakeholders,” said Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy. “On behalf of EOPSS, I wish to extend our sincere gratitude to the many agencies and participants who continue to support the state’s efforts to bring this ambitious project to fruition. Our shared commitment to advancing a more fair, just, and transparent criminal justice system and a generous spirit of collaboration continues to make this initiative possible.”

“The reporting of standardized and consistent information across criminal justice agencies will provide vital insight into criminal justice trends, identify gaps in treatment needs for system-involved individuals, and support overall improved efficiencies and outcomes of the justice system agencies,” said Kerry Collins, undersecretary for forensic science and technology at the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. “I commend the collaboration and partnership demonstrated by countless participants who have played an instrumental role with the implementation of this ambitious and vital initiative.”

“I often say that vision without data is a hallucination. By improving the collection of criminal justice data across the Commonwealth, the Cross Tracking System brings us one step closer to our shared vision of a more equitable justice system,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian.  “This is another example of Massachusetts leading the nation to help incarcerated individuals, their loved ones, and system stakeholders at all levels. While we still have work ahead of us, I want to thank all those who have worked tirelessly on the Cross Tracking System and the profound impact it will likely have.”

“The Department of Correction has prioritized Cross Tracking because we recognize the opportunity as an integral part of our rehabilitative mission to enhance our ongoing efforts to develop personalized treatment plans,” DOC Commissioner Carol Mici said. “As many entrusted to the care of our state facilities have previous involvement in the criminal justice system, Cross Tracking will make these comprehensive histories readily available to our team of skilled programming, clinical, and correctional professionals. I commend the broad range of partner agencies across the Commonwealth who made the first phase of this dashboard possible.”

EOPSS developed a three-phased approach to achieve the CJR mandate. Phase One established regulations and consolidated correctional data from the DOC and county sheriffs, which culminated in the launch of the online dashboard. Phase Two will improve data flow between partner agency record management systems. Finally, Phase Three will incorporate comprehensive criminal justice data provided by the Trial Court, Probation, Parole, State and Local Police Departments (e.g., bail, dispositions, offenses, demographics, and recidivism). The public data platform will also expand to include real-time information and statutory data fields about governing offenses (date, time, location, admission/release dates, etc.).

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