Justice and law enforcement agencies realize the benefits of integrating disparate information systems in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of services. Forward-looking governments no longer feel that other members of the justice family have entirely different data needs; they view the justice system as a partnership among agencies.
Most integrated jurisdictions in the United States address the criminal aspects of justice (e.g., booking and jail management systems; felony, traffic and misdemeanor courts) and therefore often use the name Criminal Justice Information System, or CJIS. According to some estimates, there are scores of CJIS systems in existence. However, a few visionaries have integrated both the criminal and the civil (e.g., summons service tracking; family, probate and mental health courts) and refer to their system as an Integrated Justice Information System, or IJIS. Unlike CJIS systems, there are only a handful of existing or planned IJIS in the country.
In an effort to better understand the "best practices" of current and planned integrated systems, a case study of jurisdictions with existing or planned integrated justice information systems was developed. One of the findings of the study was that each jurisdiction with an IJIS claims to be the only one to have truly integrated the civil side of justice with the criminal. However, a few have succeeded: Harris County, Texas, has successfully integrated both criminal and civil systems; Palm Beach County, Fla., and Ventura County, Calif., are currently in the implementation stages of such systems and are scheduled to be fully integrated in the next few years. (The table on page 31 lists the 15 cities, counties and states surveyed.)
KEY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Every jurisdiction cited the need to improve efficiency as the driving force behind integration. Summarized below are the key goals and objectives identified by the agencies:
* Decrease or eliminate redundant data entry.
* Save on system-wide labor costs by reusing data. Integrated systems eliminate the need for data entry operators in multiple agencies to process the same information.
* Allow justice agency personnel to focus on public safety by minimizing data collection efforts. Integrated systems eliminate the need to call to get an arrestee's status, search for a hard copy file or wait with a perpetrator during booking. The Baltimore Arrest Booking System saves an estimated one hour per booking and can obtain positive fingerprint identification in less than one hour.
* Speed availability of information by entering data once at the source. Not only are labor costs reduced, but data becomes available more quickly.
* Decrease the likelihood of costly mistakes due to typographical errors. Prior to integration, one jurisdiction released jailed defendants awaiting trial because of an incorrect status entry in their records. This example, though not widespread, was also not unique. Integrated systems minimize such problems.
* Increase data uniformity and reliability. Data compatibilities were mentioned as a benefit of integration. A defendant's brown eyes used to be coded "BR", "BN" or "BRN" by three different justice agencies in the same jurisdiction. The planning phases of the integrated system eliminated these inconsistencies.
* Decrease paper generation and flow.
* Electronic files allow more than one person or agency to view a file at a time. Prior to integration, if a judge had a paper case file, no one else could access that information.
* Decrease likelihood of errors due to loss of files, judicial orders and other paperwork. Before integration, there were numerous cases of misplaced documents upsetting the workings of the justice system, whether they were "lost" prisoners or missing pleadings.
* Save money and time by electronically transferring paperwork. Dade County courts reduced calendaring time from three days to four hours and one unit's associated staffing from 40 to 28 people.
* Increase accountability of justice agencies and defendants. More reliable data allows decision-makers