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States to pilot sharing corrections data

In the last decade, state policymakers have enacted measures aimed at reducing offender recidivism, lowering corrections costs and improving safety. However, those reforms may not reach their potential if states lack effective systems for exchanging accurate and timely criminal justice information, according to the National Governors Association.

For instance, one of the best ways to control costs is to reduce recidivism, according to the Association of State Correctional Administrators. Some states have been more successful than others at that effort, but because there is no system in place to share data or best practices, states are often on their own when developing programs to support those efforts.

That could all change with the implementation of the Cross Boundary Corrections Information Exchange Policy Academy, which is being funded through the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The National Governor's Association announced that three states would begin talks on laying out a framework for a system to share corrections data. The first three states participating in the program are Illinois, Iowa and Tennessee.

“Successful implementation will result in enhanced policies that promote public safety through improved reentry outcomes,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad at the event. “I am grateful for an opportunity to learn new ways to keep our citizens safe.”

The first meeting of the academy is scheduled for June, so there isn't much detail  on what such a system would look like, though many recent cross-state data-sharing initiatives such as the Southeast Consortium Unemployment Insurance Benefits Initiative have been cloud-based systems that can be accessed by officials in multiple states at the same time.

According to the original announcement the three states will address:

  • Effective sharing of data and information about offenders.
  • Establishing standards to safeguard correctional information.
  • Preventing duplication in information exchanges.
  • Providing appropriate access to the information that is exchanged.
  • Implementing evidence-based and data driven programs to improve information sharing.

Thomas MacLellan, director of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Division of the National Governor's Association, told Governing that the system will house a good deal of data covering the type of support that is given to prisoners and parolees.

If for example, MacLellan said, an inmate is on medication while in prison but then loses access to that drug once he is released, that destabilizing factor could cause him to reoffend.  Data that supports the idea that ongoing medication for parolees leads to lower recidivism rates in one state could help all states once the information sharing system is in place.

By the end of the policy academy, state teams are expected to have developed and begun implementation of a statewide strategic action plan, a component of which must be the adoption and implementation of one or more components of the Global Standards Package, a collection of interoperable solutions specifically supporting the exchange of justice information.

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