In January 2018, Brooklyn District Attorney (DA) Eric Gonzalez announced his Justice 2020 Initiative, which aims to identify and prosecute individuals who do the most harm, while finding new ways to hold accountable people who can safely be diverted; at the same time increasing fairness and equal justice. To accomplish this, the DA and his team are pursuing strategies that range from expanding alternatives, to reducing prosecutions for school-based offenses, to training staff in cultural competency and ethics as laid out in the Justice 2020 Action Plan. Also among them are strategies to facilitate a culture of data-driven decision-making and transparency in the Office, which DA Gonzalez recognizes is a critical component of both advancing effective reforms and being accountable to the public. It was this recognition that led him to establish a Justice 2020 subcommittee dedicated specifically to data and transparency.
The Data and Transparency subcommittee recommended that a data-driven reform agenda should be grounded in a thorough investigation of both the Office’s current data, systems, and analytical capacity; and its primary data and information needs (those related to high-level monitoring and evaluation and individual case management). Toward both of those ends, with funding from Arnold Ventures’ National Partnership for Pretrial Justice and the William T. Grant Foundation, the Brooklyn DA’s Office partnered with ISLG to launch a Data and Transparency Initiative consisting of two phases of work. The first phase is a one-year capacity-building project in which ISLG is helping the Office identify and implement a series of measures to improve its ability to track, analyze, and use the data that speak to its most important policy and practice goals. In line with the recommendations of the Data and Transparency subcommittee, this work began with a diagnostic of current data, systems, and practices to identify the extent to which current capacity supports operational, measurement, and evaluation needs; what gaps exist; and what steps can be taken to fill those gaps. It will be followed by a nine-month implementation phase during which ISLG will work with Office staff to implement the steps identified as most critical for monitoring and evaluating the Office’s highest priority questions—including those related to Justice 2020 progress and outcomes—and informing robust decision-making among the Office’s prosecutors.
Once these improvements have been put in place, ISLG will build off of them with an analysis of prosecutorial decision-making. This analysis will focus on five key decision points: case acceptance, charging, pretrial release, disposition, and plea bargaining.
Ultimately, this work will not only help the Brooklyn DA’s Office understand the effectiveness of Justice 2020 reforms, but also help demonstrate the effectiveness to other prosecutorial offices and the broader community, and set a model for data-driven reforms that ensure both safety and fairness.
For more information, please contact Jennifer Ferone at Jennifer.Ferone@islg.cuny.edu.