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Informed Decisions

NCJ Number
Date Published
11 pages
This paper explains how the Center for Court Innovation has used technology in its court demonstration projects to improve the courts' positive impact on the community and on offenders.
Information technology has been used in court demonstration projects in three principal ways: to help judges make informed decisions, to enhance the accountability of offenders, and to promote collaboration with old and new partners. Most criminal court judges do not know whether the offender appearing before them on a shoplifting charge is on drugs. Nor can they know whether any children live in a home where domestic violence is occurring. Such information should be an important factor in shaping a disposition or issuing an order of protection. Bringing information into the courtroom at the earliest stage of the court process is a fundamental principle of each of the Center's experimental projects; for example at the Midtown Community Court in New York City, judges, prepared with extensive data on offenders, have been able to sentence selected misdemeanor offenders to long-term drug treatment, which rarely happens in traditional criminal courts. Also, keeping up-to-date and informative records on all cases handled by the court allows judges to determine whether offenders are complying with court dispositions and thus to intervene to remedy violations and noncompliance. The result is that offenders can no longer "play" the system. All agencies involved in the work of demonstration courts are linked to the information systems needed to make informed and cooperative decisions. A final use of technology in the demonstration projects is to measure the effectiveness of court actions by compiling data on case outcomes and impacts. 4 exhibits