Thanks to unanimous approval from the Board of Commissioners, Franklin County will be the first local government in the country to join the Justice Counts initiative intended to provide criminal justice statistics quicker and improve safety.
Legal experts have previously identified problems in the nation’s various criminal justice system, including that information is too siloed and that data used for statistics are not provided uniformly. As a result, officials from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Council of State Governments created a new database system called Justice Counts. The database was created with input from more than a dozen other federal agencies.
Then, the group asked Franklin County to take the lead in this initiative, which is also called, Justice Counts by being the first local agency to participate.
“We are honored federal officials want Franklin County to lead this national effort,” Board of Commissioners President Erica C. Crawley said. “People should not have to wait years to receive vital information that will help bring light to disparities within the justice system that need to be rectified. This initiative will allow pressing issues like inequitable treatment to be identified earlier and will provide policymakers the tools they need to make better-informed decisions.”
Agencies who work in the various stages of the criminal justice system already voluntarily provide data to a FBI database and other criminal databases, so Justice Counts will not require agencies to do collect more data. Information to be added to Justice Counts starts with data from police. Then jailers, prosecutors, probation officers, and court officials will provide additional data, creating a more comprehensive picture of crimes, victims, and assailants than has ever been available.
Franklin County officials will formally accept the federal invitation to lead this initiative tomorrow at the Franklin County’s Criminal Justice Planning Board meeting.
“Justice Counts will make a difficult process easier for victims, especially for those hurt by domestic violence or sexual abuse. As it stands now, victims must recall the abuse over and over again as their case progresses through the justice system because each agency needs that information. Before Justice Counts, there were no federal databases where that information is shared,” Commissioner John O’Grady said. “This system will help to eliminate some of that duplication, which is an enormous benefit for those who have already been victimized.”
Franklin County officials are urging other local governments to participate. More than 20 critical national organizations already partner in this initiative, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, the American Probation and Parole Association, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Many people who have been in the justice system repeatedly suffer from mental health or substance abuse disorders,” Franklin County Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said. “And Justice Counts will provide a clearer view of the reasons behind arrests and then, more importantly, we will be able to find better ways to help these people in order to reduce recidivism.”
The Justice Counts repository for statistics in Franklin County will be housed and managed by the Franklin County Office of Justice Policy and Programs. Efforts will be advanced next year to migrate the reporting process to a specially designed database created by the Council for State Governments.
“As Director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, and as a Member of the Board of Advisors of the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, I applaud Franklin County’s leadership in implementing ‘Justice Counts.’,” Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Thomas J. Stickrath said. “The use of cutting-edge technology to improve our criminal justice data systems will serve to improve public safety.”
More information on the Justice Counts initiative will be available at the Criminal Justice Planning Board meeting today, Dec. 14, 2022 at 2 p.m. The meeting will be held at 369 S. High St., Columbus in Meeting Room A.