Inconsistent data isn’t just a problem in the criminal justice system-it could make the difference between someone going free or serving time regardless of guilt.
The California state legislature has passed a bill, AB-1331, that would improve data handling for criminal justice. The measure would set clear data collection and reporting standards for both the courts and law enforcement, such as a requirement that agencies hand over criminal ID and information, incident and court numbers. It would also let courts share some data with researchers hoping to interpret justice data and hold officials to account.
The bill has not yet been signed, but it could be a major movement in California’s attempts at criminal justice reform. Currently, the state does not have a cohesive data law-it varies from region to region which is what causes issues among law enforcement agencies and data sharing. This would ensure that pre-trial decisions and sentencing are based on complete data, and would ensure that an arrest doesn’t stay on a criminal record simply because there’s missing info.
Florida enacted a law in March 2018 that set its own standards for data gathering and public reporting, while Colorado is publishing jail capacity data. California’s shift could put additional pressure on other states to follow suit, however. If that happens, you could see fewer people slipping through the cracks and greater transparency that could catch systemic problems.