Courts' integration plans to get funding boost from Justice Department grants

Courts' integration plans to get funding boost from Justice Department grants

Some state juvenile justice programs could receive federal funds by next year to integrate court systems.

The federal Justice Department awarded a $2.3 million grant to the National Governors Association to run a proj-

ect for states to plan for justice systems integration.

Thom Rubel, NGA's state information technology program director, said the State Strategic Planning for Criminal Justice Information Systems Initiative was designed to involve governors directly in justice systems integration.

Rubel said 49 states applied for the project and received $25,000 each to develop their plans and to attend an NGA strategic planning workshop. NGA will hold the workshops in Nashville, Tenn., San Antonio and Santa Fe, N.M. South Dakota did not apply for a grant.

Innovative plans

Robert Greeves, policy advisor for the federal Office of the Assistant Attorney General, said once states submit their plans, Justice will choose states with the most innovative plans to receive seed money for justice integration planning.

'We have the funds already waiting,' Greeves said. 'We just need to see what kinds of plans states develop.'

Tom Unruh, NGA senior policy analyst, said integrating justice systems does not pose technology problems, but issues arise with cooperation among state agencies.

'Governors play a key role to work out arrangements at the executive policy levels,' Unruh said. 'The technology is already available. But governors are needed in the process to take budget issues to the legislature so states can obtain the technology. Governors also can help work out agreements between agencies such as who controls data and how data is going to be shared.'

In addition, Unruh said, governors can bring attention to privacy concerns when agencies share information.

'It's important to know what happens to data when one agency gathers the information and then it is used by another agency,' he said. 'There are all kinds of legal questions involved that need to be worked out at the executive level.'

The project applications required states to submit a letter of commitment from the governor and the name of a senior official to act as the state's team leader. The team leader must report directly to the governor.

'We want to see states include in their plans everything related to budget, policy, human resources issues, and all of those other things that affect the ability to implement integrated justice systems,' Unruh said.

Plans are due to NGA by March 1.

'Donna Young

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