NEWS BRIEF Valerie Jarrett announced the White House’s next step in its ongoing effort to bring data science to the realm of criminal justice on Thursday. The newly minted Data-Driven Justice Initiative is a coalition of 67 city, county, and state governments that have pledged to incorporate data-driven approaches into their law-enforcement programs. Participants include states such as Pennsylvania and Maryland and cities such as Albany, Denver, and Oakland.
The initiative focuses on lessening burdens on local jails. Data can help divert those suffering from mental illness away from jail and emergency rooms by helping local law enforcement and health-care providers share information. It can also reduce prison times and recidivism for non-violent offenders by predicting an individual’s risk of reoffending, and offer insights on bail by calculating a person’s risk of flight.
Jail is costly. According to the White House, 11 million people churn through local jail systems each year, costing municipalities a staggering $22 billion. There are personal costs as well. Time spent in jail waiting for a court appearance can translate into paychecks lost, rent payments missed, or time with family gone. Many of the people in America’s jails would be better served elsewhere, such as addiction-treatment programs or mental-health facilities.