Stanford Law’s Criminal Justice Center Report on Major Gaps in California Criminal Justice Data Spurs New Proposed California Law

The Stanford Criminal Justice Center (SCJC) and Measures for Justice (MFJ) released a report on April 23, 2019, that exposed major data gaps in the California criminal justice system that inhibit critical transparency in the largest criminal justice system in America. The joint report explains how these data gaps limit the ability of researchers, policymakers and the public to assess criminal justice policies, especially critical during the current period of reform.

Many of the issues discussed in the report spurred the proposal of the Criminal Justice Data Improvement Act, introduced by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and California Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The bill is geared to improve the quality of criminal history data available to law enforcement agencies and advance data transparency by making comprehensive criminal justice data available to researchers and policymakers.

“Every day you’re making decisions without data is a day you’re not making the best decisions,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “The absence of good data is a threat to public safety, but it’s also a threat to good governance. We cannot make the best use of taxpayer resources and effectively manage our most important institutions on a hunch.”

Professor Robert Weisberg

According to the report, although transparency is fundamental to California’s culture and history, the state’s criminal justice data is not readily available to the public. “California should be a model for criminal justice research, but research efforts are hindered by failures in both data collection and data transparency,” said Robert Weisberg, Stanford Law Professor, Faculty Co-Director of SCJC and co-author of the report. “Without remedying the problem, legislators are working in the dark, promoting policies with no data to assess their effectiveness.”

At a late- April California public safety committee hearing, committee members voted to move the Criminal Justice Data Improvement Act forward, agreeing with the Stanford Criminal Justice Center report on the need for California to take steps to close its criminal justice data gap.

About Stanford Criminal Justice Center

The Stanford Criminal Justice Center (SCJC) serves as Stanford Law School’s vehicle for promoting and coordinating the study of criminal law and the criminal justice system, including legal and interdisciplinary research, policy analysis, curriculum development, and preparation of law students for careers in criminal law. The center is headed by faculty co-directors Robert Weisberg and David Sklansky and executive director Debbie Mukamal. For more information about our current and past projects, please visit our website.

About Measures for Justice

Measures for Justice (MFJ) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that founded in 2011 to develop a data-driven set of performance measures to assess and compare the criminal justice process from arrest to post-conviction on a county-by-county basis. MFJ collects county-level data, cleans and codes them, and runs them through a set of performance Measures. For more information, please visit our website.