“They can’t change what they can’t see.”
The United States is comprised of 3,000 individual counties, each with its own criminal justice system. Yet, there are no metrics or data tracking the performance of these systems within any county, leaving everyone — from citizens to attorneys themselves — blind to how their county’s system is actually working. There is no data-driven way to find gaps, set guidelines, or get to the root of known problems.
That is, there was no way to accomplish these tasks, until Measures for Justice. Founded in 2011, MFJ is an unprecedented organization designed to collect and organize the criminal justice system data from all 3,000 U.S. counties, and make standardized metrics available to any and all users who may wish to access the information.
Measures for Justice was founded by Amy Bach, who is currently serving as Executive Director and President. Amy Bach knows firsthand what it’s like to be a player in the justice system as an attorney. Likewise, she knows firsthand that there has never been a way to quantitatively assess one’s performance as an attorney, and know how well they are serving the citizens of their county. She wrote the acclaimed book Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court. The book won the 2010 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and was succeeded by an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times titled Justice by the Numbers.
“People who work in the system have the best intentions in their hearts…but because they have no way to see how they’re performing, they might turn a blind eye to an enormous set of problems.”
In Amy’s interview for the 2017 Civic Hacker Summit, she discussed the issue of an individual knowing that there’s a problem within the system, but not being able to pinpoint why. This is one of the many scenarios MFJ can address. By extracting the data from a county with the help of state and county leaders, criminal justice stakeholders are able to have the data they need to begin to identify the root of problems found within the system or an individual’s performance.
MFJ’s “measures” cover criminal adult cases from arrest to post-conviction. Everyone from prosecutors to judges can see how their county performed across every criminal adult case they dealt with, enabling them to see gaps, missteps, and trends that they otherwise would’ve been blind to.
Measures for Justice seeks no political or financial gain from their work. Nonpartisan and nonprofit, MFJ is truly in support of one thing – transparent facts. The three goals of MFJ are simple: Public Safety, Fairness, and Financial Responsibility. By extracting and compiling the data which is already meticulously kept, MFJ is able to track progress toward these goals, one county at a time.
“No data, no change.”
While Measures for Justice believes in helping each county discover their own data, MFJ does not have a hand in what changes should be made based on the data. Each county’s laws and individual case context is always honored, and the county reserves the right to plan changes and growth.
The true beauty of MFJ lies in its ability to help everyone, from the curious citizen to attorneys and beyond. Professionals in the criminal justice system love it, because for the first time they’re able to view data of this nature. Citizens love it because the information either gives them confidence in their county’s judicial system, or shows what potential changes they should advocate for. It is a free tool for everyone.
Because Measures for Justice works on a county-by-county level, they are always in need of advocates across the country. If you’d like your county to be involved, email Measures for Justice and start the process.
Learn more about this innovative organization and find out how you can support Measures for Justice in your own county by watching Amy’s full interview in the Civic Hacker Summit Archives!
Measuring the Entire U.S. Criminal Justice System
Amy Bach founded Measures for Justice in 2011 as a follow-up to her acclaimed book Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court. The book won the 2010 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and was succeeded by an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times titled Justice by the Numbers. You can watch Amy’s full interview when you become a patron-member of the Civic Hacker Network!