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Data-Informed Jails: Challenges and Opportunities

NCJ Number
Corrections Today
Joe Russo; Michael J. D. Vermeer; Dulani Woods; Brian A. Jackson
Date Published
25 pages

This is a report on the goal, participants, proceedings, and outcomes of a workshop that discussed challenges and opportunities in the effective use of jail data to improve decision-making and outcomes for jail operations and inmates.


Because of the size of the jail population and the expanding scope of services jails are expected to provide, there is a vast amount of jail data on inmates, jail staff, jail facilities, and jail operations. Although some jails are leveraging these data to inform policies and improve operation and outcomes, most jails are not consistently collecting and analyzing data for the purpose of improving jail services and management policies and practices. The workshop that is the focus of this report assembled a diverse group of jail administrators, researchers, and representatives from national organizations to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to the more effective use of jail-related data. The workshop identified 43 priority needs, with five major themes emerging from the list of identified needs. These themes pertain to leadership and organizational issues, procuring and implementing a jail management system, data collection and analysis, applying the data, and information-sharing. Some barriers to progress in these areas were also identified, including misconceptions about protected data, a lack of trust in outside organizations, and a lack of confidence in the jail’s ability to manage the risks involved. Workshop participants discussed technical hurdles and recommended the development of effective strategies for planning and building jail information systems that can interface with appropriate external entities within a jurisdiction. Extensive figures and tables and 27 references