Poor quality data and even poorer state-wide reporting standards have opened up gaps in California’s records that have allowed violent felons to have access to guns while unduly penalizing others for misdemeanors.
“The absence of good data is a threat to public safety, but it’s also a threat to good governance,” says District Attorney George Gascon.
Jazmine Ulloa reports on efforts to introduce new data collection programs and risk assessment tools to California’s criminal justice system in this article from the LA Times:
…wide gaps in statewide criminal justice data that mistakenly allow some offenders to own firearms and unduly criminalize others. The gaps also hinder state lawmakers as they work to roll back tough drug and sentencing laws that have disproportionately targeted people of color. The disparities, highlighted in a new report released Tuesday by Stanford Law School and a nonprofit criminal justice research group, Measures for Justice, have prompted lawmakers to consider establishing new reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies across California.
A proposal by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) would create new statewide reporting standards for local and state law enforcement agencies and courts and clarify existing public records laws to allow greater access to the information.
The Stanford analysis found that up to 60% of arrest records compiled by the state’s Department of Justice are missing disposition information, including violent criminal histories that might inadvertently allow some offenders to acquire firearms. Meanwhile, no statewide standards exist for how counties should track criminal cases, arrests or inmate records, even as criminal justice reforms in recent years have shifted greater control to local sheriffs and probation departments over the incarceration of adult and juvenile offenders.
“California’s local criminal justice data infrastructure is inconsistent at best and, in some jurisdictions, almost non-existent,” the report states. “Challenges with data collection are exacerbated by the absence of statewide data definitions and other standards, which means that even where data are collected, they are often inconsistent and difficult to compare.”