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People and governments around the world are asking more of criminal justice systems today than ever before. Officials expect modern techniques of policing, prosecution, and rehabilitation to reduce crime and the fear of crime. Advances in technologies of surveillance, less-lethal weaponry, and forensic science are raising public expectations of accuracy and professionalism. Yet crime must be reduced, human rights respected, and technical capacity raised all within budgets that are as tight as ever.
Officials in charge of the safety and justice sector need reliable measurement tools if they are to meet this complex set of demands. Unfortunately, even the most inspired and capable leaders soon discover that the measurement tools they require do not yet exist. The Justice Systems Workshop aims to meet that need, creating performance measures and sustainable systems of indicators for national and state justice systems that are simple, affordable, and reliable.
A committee co-chaired by Bruce Western, professor of sociology, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, and the director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, has produced a new report entitled, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences, urging lawmakers to consider criminal justice policy reforms to reduce the numbers of Americans behind bars. The report was released on April 30, 2014 by the National Research Council.
A look back and important lessons learned from the dramatic, rapidly-developing investigation that followed the deadly explosion of two bombs at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon in 2013 resulted in new research is now available from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS):
New Report Tracks How Boston Police Leveraged Social Media during Boston Marathon Bombings
Social Media and Police Leadership: Lessons from Boston
New White Paper Examines Response to Marathon Bombing Events
Why Was Boston Strong? Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombing
A New Era for Justice Sector Reform in Haiti
Prior to the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, the nation’s judicial system was struggling to put a credible justice system in place, and there were some signs of increased police accountability, improved training for judges and reductions in deadly violence in its overcrowded prisons.
Policing Los Angeles Under a Consent Decree: The Dynamics of Change at the LAPD, program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management
The Los Angeles Police Department is completing one of the most ambitious experiments in police reform ever attempted in an American city. After a decade of policing crises that began with the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and culminated in the Rampart police corruption scandal in 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in May 2000 that it had accumulated enough evidence to sue the City of Los Angeles over a pattern-and-practice of police misconduct. Later that year, the city government entered a "consent decree" promising to adopt scores of reform measures under the supervision of the Federal Court.
Report of the NY State Task Force on Police-on-Police Shootings
Since 1981, some 26 police officers across the United States have been shot and killed by fellow police officers who have mistaken them for dangerous criminals. These fatal shootings are doubly tragic, first because both the shooters and victims in such situations are risking their lives to enforce the law and protect the public, and second because many of these deaths are preventable. The dangers that give rise to these deaths are inherent in policing, but those dangers can be reduced and more deaths prevented.
The fragmentation of the safety and justice sector is commonplace, with police, prosecution, punishment, legal aid, and victim assistance managed in most countries by separate institutions. This fragmentation frequently leads institutional managers to measure their performance against that of their counterparts in other countries, but this can sometimes be a mistake because justice systems themselves differ so markedly. For example, the levels of arrest for minor offenses that seem to reduce serious crime in New York may be ineffective and even counterproductive in Moscow, Tokyo, or Sao Paulo.
To avoid this mistake the Justice Systems Workshop first measures how closely the activities of each institution are aligned with others in the same system. It is then possible to compare the degree of alignment among countries, rather than the performance of any single function.
With support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management convened a meeting at Harvard in March 2008 on the design and use of indicators of justice and safety in developing countries. Attended by international organizations, multilateral institutions, national aid agencies, private donors, academic researchers, and government officials, the workshop examined old problems as well as new strategies in the growing world of indicators. The meeting facilitated several breakthroughs in the global conversation about how to measure progress in justice and safety, and produced a shared understanding of how governments might collaborate with civil society organizations in the construction of new indicators – ones that suit developing countries, advance local aspirations for justice, and capitalize on a multiplicity of methods for measuring the value of justice systems.
With additional generous support from DFID, the Program in Criminal Justice Policy plans to support this ambition by working with a group of national governments over the next three years to build additional capacity within these governments and their civil society partners to design and implement indicators along these lines.
The Program has begun work in Jamaica, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. Updates from this project will be posted on this page as information becomes available.
The Justice Systems Workshop is building measurement tools that take account of levels of trust, data reliability, and resources available for statistical analysis. The Workshop strives to ensure that its indicators respect the distinct legal traditions and political contexts, the particular blend of formal and informal justice institutions at work, and the particular threats to public safety in each project location. At the same time, the Workshop will help participating governments align their systems with international human rights norms and meet professional standards in law enforcement and adjudication.
To bridge that gap between local conditions and global standards, the Workshop organizes its empirical analyses around functions rather than institutions. For example, the Workshop assembling management information tools to guide the use of arrest powers without regard to whether arrests are made by one police agency, multiple agencies at different levels of government, or a blend of state, private, and customary "police." By focusing initially on functions, the Workshop will facilitate the sharing of experience and the development of comparable performance indicators across legal traditions. Then, by mapping these functions onto particular institutions within individual countries, the Workshop will develop measurement tools that are practically useful to participating government officials.