Arizona, like the majority of states around our nation, has placed an emphasis on reviewing standing laws and policies that govern our state’s criminal justice systems in order to promote greater equity and fairness for our citizens.
As part of this call for action, there has been a growing demand by policymakers and special interest groups that criminal justice agencies begin reporting data. Arizona is not alone in that the calls for what criminal justice data should be collected has been like trying to listen to who can shout the loudest in a crowded room.
This call for more data brings to mind the term “data rich and information poor” that was first used in the 1983 business book, “In Search of Excellence,” to describe organizations that were rich in data, but lacked the processes to produce meaningful information from that data to create a competitive advantage. Well, government is just about the worst kind of organization with its many siloed departments and levels that make the integration and fusion of data all the more difficult.
That is why the Arizona Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey should be applauded for their foresight in passing and signing House Bill 2166 into law.
This law will designate the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission as the central collection agency for criminal justice data for the state and will require commission to conduct a comprehensive survey of data from criminal justice agencies across the state to create a state criminal justice data inventory report identifying what data is housed at each type of agency.
Through this effort, Arizona will be establishing a first-of-its-kind comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice data that is being collected and thus establish the foundation for what data can and should be reported to better inform policymakers, researchers, and the public.
The commission has also committed to doing the necessary work to present a plan to the Legislature by the beginning of the 2022 session that will outline the costs associated with building a state system that will electronically collect and report the identified data from criminal justice agencies that can be reported out via a web-based platform – much like the commission’s current Data Visualization Center does on our website.
The net result of HB2166 will be to give Arizona the best chance at creating a process that will lead to long-term success in collecting criminal justice data in a way that allows policymakers to turn data into information upon which they can make sound policy decisions.
As Arizona looks ahead to the future, we should recognize that while this is a critical step in the right direction, this is only the first step in creating better criminal justice reform practices.
– Andrew T. LeFevre is executive director for the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.