Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Collecting comprehensive criminal justice information

“Massachusetts leads the nation with developing this first-of-its-kind central repository for criminal justice system data. The Cross-Tracking System is a groundbreaking project designed to enhance transparency, provide vital insight into criminal justice trends, identify gaps in treatment needs for system-involved individuals, and support overall improved efficiencies and system outcomes. We are grateful to our partners at Egen for supporting the successful implementation of an anonymized system that required remarkable levels of engagement and participation across countless stakeholders.”
– Kerry Collins, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Safety and Security Undersecretary

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) needed a more robust way to view and share criminal justice information from across various sources, so it asked the data experts at Egen to create a central data hub.

The EOPSS team knows access to comprehensive and reliable criminal justice information is important to a wide range of stakeholders, from government agencies who need to report on it and use it to drive informed policies, to researchers seeking to identify trends and citizens looking to better understand their communities.

EOPSS faced several challenges with gathering, analyzing, and sharing information. Historical criminal justice data in Massachusetts was stored in archaic sources such as microfiche and scanned documents. Newer information was in siloed sources across government agencies throughout the commonwealth. These individual data sources gave an incomplete picture of the incarcerated population, limiting transparency and collaboration among stakeholders looking to generate insights.

Egen created the Criminal Justice 360 Cross-Tracking System, a new, central data hub of criminal justice information for Massachusetts that brings together and normalizes decades of information from commonwealth and local agencies in a centralized location. It provides team members from across different agencies with access to information on a range of criminal justice topics, including admissions and releases, charges, sentencing, convictions, and correctional programming.

The system has data on more than 17.3 million criminal justice-related events, such as booking, sentencing, parole, probation, and risk assessments. Data streams in from 13 counties and 17 agencies across the commonwealth, including the the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, the Massachusetts Court System, the fingerprint office, and the parole and probation agencies.

The hub additionally provides two views of the data. One view offers anonymized and aggregated data for public review and research use cases. Another view is not anonymized, giving government team members with the proper clearance access to detailed information for use in their roles as custodians of the inmate population.

The 360-degree views include details on more than 472,000 past and present inmates, with demographics such as gender, race, and ethnicity. The hub shows incarceration events in chronological order on an anonymized individual-level basis while taking privacy into consideration, ensuring sensitive data is appropriately protected. With these tools, EOPSS can report on the entire incarcerated population in the commonwealth, not just people who have already been convicted and are in jail or prison.

By bringing criminal justice data into a central hub, stakeholders and team members can now find the information they need to drive insights. Government agencies can generate required regulatory and compliance reporting, write grant proposals, and review trends to develop evidence-based solutions related to crime and justice. Researchers and members of the public are empowered to see organized, aggregated data that meets privacy requirements, download datasets for independent study, and deepen their understanding of the criminal justice system.

With Egen’s help, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now enhancing transparency around criminal justice information and driving informed policymaking.

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