EBR among first in US to get new public criminal justice data tool

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office has partnered with several national organizations to unveil a new website that aims to make prosecutorial decision-making more transparent.

Designed in an effort to pursue a more equitable and efficient criminal justice system, the website—called Commons—allows the public to access information dating back to 2016 and track a variety of metrics, from the length of time a case takes to complete to how frequently defendants of one race are charged compared to other races. 

It’s the result of a partnership between Measures for Justice, a Rochester, New York-based criminal justice nonprofit that designed the public dashboard as a template; the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, which will help scale the widespread adoption of the data tool; and the Tableau Foundation, which provided $12 million in grant funding over three years for the project as part of its Racial Justice Data Initiative.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore is among a few district attorneys throughout the U.S. that has thus far committed to joining the program’s pilot cohort of 15 offices. Others include the district attorney’s offices in Jackson County, Missouri, and Bernalillo County, New Mexico, while Fairfax County, Virginia, will receive technical assistance to put them on the path to a public dashboard.

“Prosecutors must have adequate data to assess their decision-making, and communities need that data to hold their prosecutor accountable,” says Amy Bach, CEO of Measures for Justice, in a prepared statement. “Commons is a win for everyone. It’s about finding a way to communicate with one another in pursuit of a shared goal: a better, more fair and efficient criminal justice system.”

Essentially, each DA’s office assembles a team of community leaders to share what data and policy goals are important to them. The dashboard, in turn, provides access to clear data about the cases that pass through the office, along with patterns and trends broken down by defendant, victim demographics and case characteristics, and progress toward specific policy goals.

Though the site does not provide information on individual cases, anyone with access to the internet can access the site and study, for instance, how often cases for certain drug offenses are filed against defendants of color versus white defendants.

Louisiana’s website is still in progress, but an early version of the site that was implemented in Yolo County, California, last month offers a glimpse into how the data tool works. Check it out here.