This summer, the nonprofit organization Measures for Justice will launch a new public database intended to track the performance of Monroe County’s criminal justice system.
Measures for Justice developed the data tool, Commons, to track a variety of metrics such as race, gender and age of defendants, cases sent to prosecutors, cases diverted and offense types. The organization previously launched the tool in Yolo County, California. Monroe County is among the next set of communities to serve as testing grounds for the tool. When the database is launched, the public will have access to it.
“We need to know and be able to answer questions about how our justice system works,” said Amy Bach, CEO of Measures for Justice. “Not only that, but how does it compare across the country? Justice in America happens at the county level.
To deploy a local version of Commons, Measures for Justice is partnering with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Rochester Police Department. Criminal justice reformers, legislators and law enforcement officials in New York City have long been frustrated by the lack of comprehensive data on court cases.
Lawmakers moved to address a related issue when they passed a package of bail reforms in 2019. That legislation included a provision requiring the state Office of Justice Administration to keep detailed data on indictments and defendants, including the number of defendants who were arrested and charged with a new offense while on bail. This will allow anyone interested to see how reforms and other policy changes are playing out in the real world.
Measures for Justice is based in Rochester, but it piloted Commons last year in Yolo County, California. Yolo County is a northern California county near Sacramento with a population less than one-third that of Monroe County. Similar pilots are also underway in Louisiana, Missouri and New Mexico.
The data tool displays quick facts about criminal justice proceedings, whether policy goals are being met, and whether policy changes or underlying events have had an effect on measures.
For example, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig has set a goal to increase the number of defendants charged with crimes that have been diverted from incarceration to 10% by September 2022. timeline shows how the number of defendants referred to diversion programs increased from 2020 onwards, and it adds contextual markers such as political decisions that may have influenced trends and things such as the shutdown of COVID- 19, which changed the way courts across the United States did business.
In a February interview, District Attorney Sandra Doorley said Commons will provide a more complete picture of what’s going on in the Monroe County courts beyond selected anecdotes and statistics.
“We need to see the issues, that’s why we need to see this data, this data is so important,” Doorley said. “We need to stop talking anecdotally, we need to look at the data.”
Gino Fanelli is a staff writer at CITY. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or firstname.lastname@example.org.