GT: What are the fundamental barriers to actually implementing such an integrated system?

Meese: The first obstacle is people. The second obstacle is institutions. And the third obstacle is resources. In reality what we often call the criminal justice system is not really a system at all, but a collection of separate and often disparate elements, all more or less related and all more or less dedicated to the same objectives and missions. The obstacles that need to be overcome in terms of the people is to obtain the kind of commitment to change, that is too often sacrificed by bureaucratic inertia. In other words, we have always done it this way. We have to have people in our criminal justice process willing to say, "I'm willing to take a chance, to take a risk and see whether change might improve my ability to do my job." We need the willingness and the co-operation to give up personal prerogatives and try something new.

I believe that a criminal justice system based on networks, utilizing modern technology, is going to benefit everyone. It benefits the law abiding citizen because it improves public safety. It makes their communities and homes safer. The cause of justice is served because we will have more accurate identification of people who have actually committed crimes and also we have the ability to cut loose at an earlier stage those against whom the evidence is not there. We have the improved management of evidence itself. And we certainly would have more prompt, efficient and effective trials.

The cause of the taxpayer would be served because it means better utilization of resources and lower costs, getting more value for the money. And the participants in the system -- the police, the courts and the correctional officials -- would benefit because they could do a better job with less frustration and less unnecessary effort.

Technology has the ability to break down the barriers and to be a catalyst for improvement and change. We have to figure out on a more grand basis what works and what doesn't. And we need to develop a network that is capable of serving the needs of the real people while reducing and preventing suffering. I believe that technology is both the catalyst and the means that we have to use in the century ahead to make the people of our nation more safe and more free.

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Blake Harris  |  Editor