After the Webinar: Using Data and Performance Measurement to Improve CJ Outcomes. Q&A with Dr. Gipsy Escobar

Webinar presenter Dr. Gipsy Escobar answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Using Data and Performance Measurement to Improve Criminal Justice Outcomes. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: In terms of the reports that you’re running, the data that you’re extracting during kind of the last few minutes demo, how can other people access that information? How can people run those same reports? 

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: All you have to do is go to, that’s the website, and then click here on Data. And then you’ll have access to everything that’s available. So, like, if you click on this state to say, Let’s go to a new one because they launched today, and I’m excited about it, I go to Connecticut. And you’ll get the list. Actually, we have two cohorts of data in Connecticut. You have findings of interest, where we’re highlighting some interesting information there. But then, you can go here to performance measures, and then you get the full list of measures that are available. When you click on one of them, you’ll see the view that I was showing you earlier. So, this is all publicly available data. I should also say that anything, any view of the data, no matter how you slice or dice it, you can share that view on social media, or by e-mail, or just by a short link. But you can also download the data. If you’re only interested in Connecticut,  you’ll be able to download the Connecticut dataset all at the county level. This is not the case level. We kind of have restrictions for that. Or, if you want to download other datasets, you know, you can go in here and download any of them. So, you’d have ways to play around with it on the website. But you can also download it and do all kinds of combinations, you know, as you please.


Audience Question: Do your efforts include data for juvenile offenders? 

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: Yeah, that’s a great question, and the answer is no, at the moment. We’re only doing state criminal justice data. We have not touched the juvenile side of things. Because we know that comes with a different set of challenges. I’ve heard rumors that juvenile data are actually better than criminal justice data in the United States. However, you know, there’s obviously more privacy issues with juveniles that we would need to be concerned about. So, no. Unfortunately, we have not included juvenile yet, but it might be on the horizon, not in the near horizon though, because we need to get a complete picture first with the criminal justice data.



Audience Question: How do you decide which performance measures to develop, and does that determine what information you’re going to extract from a case management system? 

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: So, the performance measures that we’ve developed, we developed them with a group of experts, you know, mostly researchers, but then we’ve also vetted them with multiple groups of stakeholders and we continue to do so because it’s just such an iterative process. So, you know, we have gone through revisions where we would drop some measures or revisions where we add new measures, or simply tweak them. It absolutely does influence what we seek to get from each agency. So, we have a list of data elements that we seek from each agency type, you know, to guide our data request process. And it’s absolutely informed by the measures that we want to be able to calculate.



Audience Question: So, what state agency do you typically work with that makes the commitment to be added? Are you working with the Attorney General’s Office, the Administrative Office of the Courts, or is there a pattern? Is there a more common agency? 

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: Yeah, that’s also a great question. So, for the most part for the data that we currently have in the data portal, we have worked primarily with the Administrative Office of the Courts. Like I said, when I was showing the maps for the challenges, there are about 20 states or so where that state-level office, you know, is the repository for all the local criminal justice data from all court clerks in the state. So, we often just go through a process where each AOC will have their own protocol. But we’ll go through the process and protocols to do a data request and work with them to get the data, and oftentimes to help us interpret parts of the data, that we may not fully understand. So that’s kind of like being that, if you will, the low hanging fruit, you know. It’s not that low hanging. But we’re starting also to work now to, collect data from prosecutors, which,  there is no centralization there and public access laws apply more ambiguously to prosecutor data. I mentioned earlier that partnership with the Karpel Foundation, which is associated to the largest case management system vendor for prosecutors, to start bringing in more prosecutor data into the mix, and we’re in the process of integrating policing. That’s a big mammoth. Obviously, the county level does not work out well for policing, but we put together a policing council to help us develop the policing metrics. Once that process is concluded, we’re going to figure out how are we going to pilot it and then scale it up. And that’s, that’s definitely on the horizon.



Audience Question: To foster policy development based on data. To what degree will you work with state versus local jurisdictions? And what about tribal jurisdictions?

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: So, I think there are different things that you can work on at each level. So, when it comes to, say, you know, plea bargaining or, you know, charging decisions for things that are within the power of the prosecutor, the best path, in my opinion, is to work with the local agency. If it is something more along the lines of a change in statutory laws, whether it is to make data transparent and available already to, say, you know, change bail policies, or whatever that is, that is better dealt with at the state level. The question about tribal agencies, that’s a big, big question. And to be honest is not one that we really dig very deeply in, because we’re focusing on gathering data from the state courts, and tribal jurisdictions have their own courts. So that’s kind of another big piece of the gap that the tool, at this point, we are not showing, quite frankly.



Audience Question: How do you get various jurisdictions to agree on a particular standard? What does it look like once you start implementing it in a jurisdiction? 

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: That is a great question, if you figure it out let me know. So, in terms of standards, I think, at least in terms of the data standards, the work of a big membership organization like the National Center for State Courts and the Conference of State Court Administrators, would be really important in terms of, not just of developing the standards, but disseminating them. And encouraging their membership to start adhering to those standards and provide them education and, you know, maybe technical assistance on implementation. But to get a large number of jurisdictions to agree on standards, you’d really have to go through a process of working with everybody, like in, you know, really listening. That’s something that I’ve really learned in the last years, I’ve been here, eight years, which is to really sit down, take the time, listen, be willing to compromise, not necessarily on methodological rigor, but be willing to compromise on things that you don’t know. Like talking to practitioners has been incredibly important to clarify what things we need to tweak so that the measurement is accurate. So, yeah, I mean, I don’t know if that’s a satisfactory answer, but it is a complex process. And I think the, you know, the big associations do have a role in helping develop and disseminate standards.



Audience Question: Do any of your data sets include information about people living with serious mental illness and how they flow to the systems of health care, social services, family care, and criminal justice.

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: Yeah. Unfortunately, there’s a HIPAA roadblock there that exists for a very good reason. But it makes it very hard for each agency, even if the agency may have information on mental health diagnosis or just the, you know, whether it’s a person who has been diagnosed, even without needing to really provide a specific diagnosis, they are very careful in terms of liability to HIPAA. So, we have not received any data on mental health, unfortunately. But, I mean, I think there are legal constraints there that even the agencies if they wanted to share it, know that there are liability issues. But I hope that with the current national dialog about mental health and the criminal justice system. We can start figuring out some ways to capture that and sharing that information without, you know, putting the privacy of a particular individual at risk. But I’m hoping that, because there is awareness today that you know, the localities and states may start figuring out ways of making that information available.



Audience Question: Do you have any performance measures related to tracking gun crime? 

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: So, not specifically, but, and maybe it is still not super satisfactory, but if I’m going to go back to Florida. If we look, say, at cases dismissed, just as an example, you are able to look at the information by offense type as well. So, if I choose a couple of countries here, you’ll be able to look at that specific outcome, by offense type. We have not taken weapon offenses out of the violent offense group yet, but I think that’s something that’s coming given, you know, national attention on gun crimes right now. So, you know, it is on the horizon that our filters will become a lot more comprehensive and that they will allow you to track, you know, the measurement across weapons offenses, and the such. And, at some point, we did try to get more of a  public health perspective, we tried to get information on firearm injury admissions and drug admissions from hospitals. Hospitals collect data through something called ICD codes, which is kind of like their billing codes, and the new billing codes could provide lots of information on the weapon, firearm injury, and fatalities that could correlate and fill the gaps in information in that area. But, it’s difficult to get if you’re not doing public health research, or epidemiological research.



Audience Question: What statistical testing are you using to determine statistically significant outcomes on the data portal?

Dr. Gipsy Escobar: Right. So, we’re only doing the statistical significance testing on the disparities and we’re using confidence intervals. If you reach me by e-mail with this, I can give you all the technical details. We use confidence intervals, basically.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Using Data and Performance Measurement to Improve Criminal Justice Outcomes. 


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