This report — the seventh installment in a series devoted to revolutionizing detention programs and practices in America — is all about tackling the daunting issue of data and information technology. Agencies learn how to put numbers to work (starting with 9 real-world examples of data in action) to successfully plan for, evaluate and support reform.
Introducing your juvenile detention reform data guide
Findings & Stats
Creating the ideal information system isn’t easy. To set yourself up for success, identify clear reform goals so that you know what data to collect. Then, scrutinize your statistics from the get-go to resolve potential snags early and be ready to call for technical help.
Data in Action: Sacramento
Sacramento County, California, analyzed the date of a referral, intake type and the top alleged offense for each referral annually over a five-year span. This simple but essential planning tool enabled them to gain a clearer sense of who was coming in to their detention system.
Data in Action: Illinois
Cook County, Illinois, gathered the dates that youths were admitted to and then released from detention as well as their reason for confinement. They used this information to create a bed space chart, which shows the detention center’s population count — categorized by offense type — and how many beds each of these groups were occupying over time. This chart is a vital planning tool for reform efforts that focus on reducing the use of detention and rationalizing the admission process.
Supply List Essentials
Sites investing in data-smart planning will need these 4 items: 1. a computer with plenty of memory; 2. a high-quality printer; 3. software for merging and formatting data; 4. software for generating reports.
A Matter of Perspective
Frontline workers are conditioned to look at each case on an individual basis. Data planning done right requires an opposing, bigger-picture viewpoint. This shift in perspective, as you might guess, isn’t always a smooth one for employees to make. But remember: Good data is essential to the planning process.
A Sharper Focus
By using data to answer critical questions, jurisdictions can gain a better understanding of who is in detention and how their current system operates. They can also pinpoint expected outcomes and determine if their results satisfied initial expectations and public safety concerns.
Statements & Quotations
The exceptional case attracts the most attention and, without balancing factual information, tends to drive policy.
Last year’s priorities will not be this year’s priorities, and the reform team must continue to go back to the data to see not only whether new policies are having the desired effect but also whether new trends must be addressed.
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