Metrics tend to be a common part of life in the work world. We see them all the time as companies are measured for performance, athletes determine if the break world records with them, and we judge new products for sale by metrics to determine if they are worth our money and time. Even in school, everyone learns how to apply basic metrics to understand whether something is working or not. However, ironically, one of the very systems we depend on nationally to set parameters for communities doesn’t seem to be measured very well at all.
This is the point of the video, “Measures for Justice – What We Do” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN7zXhAT8LY).
Case after case began to highlight a need for years that something more was needed to identify disparities in justice from location to location. There were simply too many stories of individuals ending up with legal system results that were entirely aberrant from the stated outcomes of the national justice system.
The proof was in the details at the local level. Measures for Justice was begun as a data collection program to highlight these differences objective so that anyone, prosecutor or defender, citizen or activist, could take the same case outcome data and speak to the policy versus just anecdotal information.
The results have already been eye-opening. As Measures for Justice was applied in the state of Minnesota, it became clear a lot depended on where one lived. As the video shows, in one county a diversion program has made a huge difference.
In a diversion program a criminal defendant is given an option to go through a help program, whether it be addiction or anger management or something else and complete that process to improve their life. The results were shocking in how much the diversion process was reducing local recidivism, the problem of people churning through the legal system and getting arrested and convicted again. Yet, next door, in the adjacent county, no diversion was applied, and a whopping majority of defendants were ending up committing crimes again, and going through trial and needing a bail bond agent repeatedly. The metrics told the story everybody knew but no one could objectively measure.
The results of Measures for Justice are localized, but ideally the program wants to see the methodology expanded to multiple states and nationally. Caseload data is not new, the Department of Justice has been collecting crime stats for years. However, outcome data provides a new perspective, especially when detailed at the county level versus state by state.