Crowdsourcing a Better Criminal Justice System

August 22, 2018

From coast to coast, and throughout police departments, our courts, and our prisons and jails, there is no shortage of efforts to improve our nation’s criminal justice systems. Many of these reform efforts are integrated with or informed by technology solutions to help improve efficiency and reduce barriers to opportunity. But in this growing field of tech-informed criminal justice there has been little coordination and collaboration across the country. That’s where Jason Tashea saw an opportunity: despite the overlap between those trying to build resources to aid in reform, there was no one-stop shop to more efficiently share knowledge and leverage resources.

 

As the founder and director of Justice Codes, an organization that strives to improve criminal justice through technological innovation, Tashea sought to make sense of the volume of activity by logging the growth of data-driven projects that cover all aspects of the criminal justice system. Since Tashea began his efforts at John Jay College in 2015, his database has more than doubled in the size of projects it tracks.

 

Now, with funding support from Koch Industries, the Justice Tech Catalog relaunched this week to document more than 130 ongoing criminal justice data and technology projects across the country. The projects, he wrote in the ABA Journal, include county-level datasets, blockchain applications that help people pay bail, and smartphone probation monitoring.

 

“In a small way, this resource is an attempt to make it easier for founders, civic technologists and justice system actors to be aware of what is happening in the criminal justice and technology space and to build on it,” Tashea said.

 

While noting that a project’s inclusion in the catalog does not imply an endorsement, Tashea said that he hopes it will “jump-start more experimentation and entrepreneurship in the criminal justice system.”

 

“We’ve seen firsthand in states across the country how the effective use and implementation of data and other technology can lead to better outcomes for individuals and communities,” said Jenny Kim, vice president, public policy and deputy general counsel, political law at Koch Companies Public Sector. “By gathering these tools in one place, the Justice Tech Catalog will save valuable time for people to collaborate on meaningful reforms and help more people improve their lives.”

 

Users can browse projects by reform category (comprehensive, corrections, courts, intake and referral, law enforcement, legal, parole and probation, and reentry), project type (stakeholder tools, crowdsourcing, data, and predictive tools), and tag.

 

“While I’m excited to share this site with the larger legal, justice and technology communities, the project will never be complete,” said Tashea, who is asking for help crowdsourcing information about new developments. “It is near impossible for me to stay on top of every new project.”

 

Check out the relaunched website at JusticeTech.info.