Criminal Justice Reporting
& Public Data

Sept. 6, 2018 - Brown Institute

Tom Meagher / @ultracasual

Things are better, but...

"Public" data is rarely open or publicly available,

and when it is, it's usually not easy to use.

Obvious data we don't have

how many people have a criminal record

how many people have served time in prison or jail

how many children are on some type of supervision or probation

how many juveniles become adult offenders

how often people reoffend after release

how many shootings there are in America

how many police are investigated or prosecuted for misconduct

how many people in America own guns

how often police stop pedestrians or motorists

how many incidents of domestic violence are reported to police

what percentage of those eligible for parole are granted release from prison

how many corrections officers are disciplined or prosecuted for abusing prisoners

how many criminal cases are referred to prosecutors and how they decide which to pursue

The causes


Broad suspicion of transparency

Lack of will

Public data is slooooooowww

Public data isn't online (or accurate)

Public data isn't being collected

Public data doesn't answer questions we actually have

The solution: Roll your own databases!

Pick up the phone

Go to the courthouse

Get the piles of paper

Liberate the PDFs

Make your own data that answers the questions you have.

Other attempts at filling the gaps


Questions? Email Tom or ping me on Twitter