CIO group urges crime info sharing

Concept for Operations for Integrated Justice Information Sharing

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The National Association of State Chief Information Officers is trying to generate more interest in integrated justice systems, a concept that has been around for years but failed to produce many concrete results.

The general idea is to link the systems used by agencies involved in criminal justice, such as the police, the courts and the prisons. That way, states will be able to track the progress of cases from the time an arrest is made.

But although the technology exists for integrating the various criminal justice systems, states have found it a daunting task. So NASCIO has produced a document called a Concept for Operations for Integrated Justice Information Sharing.

The document, released last month, uses hypothetical scenarios to illustrate the steps and technology necessary to create a successful information-sharing system.

"We tried to take a look at justice integration efforts all across the country," said Gerry Wethington, Missouri CIO and NASCIO president. Instead of helping individual agencies with specific problems, the document takes a broader perspective and "defines justice integration and provides a scenario that best describes that," he said.

NASCIO defines an integrated justice system as one that collects data as close to the source as possible only once and then uses the data in a variety of ways. Successful systems operate in a timely manner and allow users to set parameters based on their information needs.

For example, an agency could require that an integrated system be able to identify which correctional facility is housing a particular prisoner within 10 seconds, with information updated daily. Those parameters could be tightened or loosened as users' needs change.

The document is intended to give state and local officials a sense of how to integrate their information systems and what investments they need to make. When systems have been successfully integrated, all users will know what information they must make available and how to retrieve the information they need.

"No matter what your role in the justice system is, you can look at this [document] and see where you fall in the scenario and see the information that you want to have," said Ken Bouche, deputy director of the Illinois State Police.

The document looks at criminal justice from the perspective of law enforcement agencies, but future reports will tackle the same issues from the perspective of other agencies, Wethington said.

The technology necessary to share information exists, according to Bouche, but law enforcement agencies are still years away from making use of it.

For example, technology is available that can send a fingerprint image to a subsection of an automated fingerprint identification system. However, "right now the only way to check is to do an ink-and-roll [card] and mail it in or do an electronic fingerprint at the station," Bouche said.

In an ideal world, a traffic cop could scan and transmit the fingerprint image of a driver stopped by the side of the road and be able to identify him or her within seconds to determine whether if there are any outstanding criminal warrants.

NASCIO created the document with funding from the Justice Department and in cooperation with the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

"The [document] is a starting point," Bouche said. "It comes down to making sure that people have all the information they should have to make the appropriate decisions in their part of the justice system. By making better decisions, we keep people a lot safer."


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