Award: OpenJustice

January 1, 2017

Innovations in American Government Awards

  • AWARD WON: 2017 Semifinalist
  • AWARDEE: OpenJustice
  • DESIGNEE: State of California
  • JURISDICTION: California

OpenJustice is a transparency initiative that embraces data-driven criminal justice reform. Using core assets of the California Department of Justice (DOJ)—law enforcement data—and in partnership with academia, nonprofits, and the tech sector, OpenJustice applies cutting-edge data science, data visualization, and open data to improve accountability and public policy. OpenJustice was developed to be a start-up in government to address two issues: strengthen the trust between law enforcement and the communities they were sworn to protect, and provide crucial data that can help California understand how we are doing, where we are having successes, and where we can improve. The goal was to provide an open data portal where users — policymakers, researchers, advocates, and law enforcement — could download raw public safety data, as well as data stories and visualization tools that would highlight important insights in an easily understood and interactive way. With no allocated budget, it was a classic bootstrapped effort. A few senior policy advisors, web team, the Criminal Justice Statistics Center (CJSC), and experts from the Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) formed an informal working group to focus on the initiative, and partnered with academics from University of California, Berkeley. After months of research and design, v1.0 of OpenJustice was launched, including three key datasets: deaths in custody, arrest rates, and law enforcement officers killed or assaulted. The project was one of constant iteration with the DOJ and external stakeholders. Because local law enforcement support was critical to the success, DOJ staff worked diligently to inform them of their efforts and solicit input. The biggest feedback received was that releasing the data was an important step forward, but that they should also make sure to paint a complete picture so the data would be understood in the appropriate context, prompting the team to layer on information like population demographics and total calls for service.