Where’s the Data? Addressing Your Research Needs

This panel highlighted the need for more data related to policing, sentencing, and corrections in order to assess the efficacy of current policies as well as the viability of new programs. Reporting requirements and data collection can illuminate which policies contribute to or detract from public safety, human dignity, and fiscal responsibility.

William J. Sabol, director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, addressed the challenges of collecting data, which include convincing hesitant state agencies to volunteer their data, as well as cleaning, parsing, and assessing the quality of the data collected. University of Texas law professor William R. Kelly followed up by discussing some of the ways reformers could be using data. Further, he urged that in order to alter criminal behavior and reduce recidivism, reformers need to engage more fully with the data analysis provided by organizations such as those represented on the panel.

Urban Institute senior fellow Ryan King explained that examinations of the criminal justice system often lack effective performance measures for understanding the outcomes of funding and policy decisions and consequently making the necessary systemic improvements. It is especially important, he argued, that we improve the reporting and collection of recidivism data in order to identify the most effective sentencing and corrections policies. He also highlighted the need to collect more data on prosecutors, including case flow data and data on charging decisions.

Tony Fabelo, research director at the Council of State Governments, echoed the importance of collecting more data. He noted that agencies frequently collect data but cannot bear the administrative costs of analyzing it.

Charles Koch Foundation program officer Allison Kasic moderated the panel and concluded by reiterating the primary data needs identified by the panelists as well as the obstacles to effective data collection that must be overcome. To learn more about supporting these research needs, please visit the Charles Koch Foundation’s Request for Proposals page.

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