SB 159: Better Criminal Justice Data
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Year after year, the Utah legislature creates new criminal penalties alongside various reforms to the justice system. And while it’s easy to look at one area of the system that needs reform and pass a bill to fix the issue, it’s important to understand that these laws and reforms do not exist in a vacuum. These laws have all sorts of unintended consequences, both good and bad, that are not always understood by policymakers. Why? A lack of solid data.
While it’s possible to pull court data from here, and jail data from there, there is no statewide mechanism to connect the various entities within Utah’s criminal justice system in order to track the outcomes of an individual from their initial arrest all the way until probation completion, for example. This makes it difficult to track the impacts of larger projects, like the Justice Reinvestment Initiative the Legislature began to implement to reform the justice system in 2015.
Senator Jake Anderegg is sponsoring Senate Bill 159 this session as a first step to solve this data problem. The bill would require the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice “to assemble a panel of professionals and experts to study and make recommendations regarding the collection and management of public safety data throughout the state.” Once the panel meets and studies how to move forward with a solid plan for agencies to be able to effectively communicate data with one another, they will present their findings to the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee in November of 2021.
Creating a statewide system to enable good criminal justice data is no easy feat, and it will require years of work to balance individuals’ privacy rights with the vision of data-driven public safety reforms. But this is a much-needed step forward in the fight for smart reform.