For years, Colorado had the image of being easy on criminals and disorganized in handling criminal cases. But when the number of adult arrests in the state climbed to 200,000 in 1995, with an additional 60,000 juvenile arrests, the state decided it was time to take action.
In mid-1995, a frustrated legislative commission went to find a solution to the state's criminal justice woes. It had several objectives in mind. First, members wanted to get a picture of the criminal justice system as a whole -- from arrest, to sentencing and on through the corrections system. This would allow them to see the overall impact of their decisions.
Second, the commission wanted to appease the five state agencies involved in public safety, whose workers had become increasingly vocal about the lack of information available to them. "They basically had to reinvent the wheel each time an offender moved into their system," said Dave Usery, chief information officer for the Colorado Integrated Criminal Justice Information System Task Force. "They would have to rediscover and re-enter data and a lot of wisdom about the offender was being lost along the way."
The state's answer was the Colorado Integrated Criminal Justice Information System (CICJIS) which, when completed, will become one of the first statewide integrated justice information systems of its kind.
The impetus for CICJIS came when the Colorado Legislature passed a bill requiring the five agencies involved in public safety -- the Department of Corrections, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Human Services (which houses the Division of Youth Corrections), the Judicial Branch and the Colorado District Attorneys Council -- to come up with a plan for sharing information. At that time, the CICJIS Task Force was formed to help departments in this process. Led by Usery, the task force came up with a plan and submitted it to the Legislature, where it was approved. Shortly after, in 1996, the Legislature passed another bill to fund the effort.
Under the plan, Colorado set out to achieve several goals. One was to reduce the duplication of work and effort while improving the quality and completeness of information. Another was to allow the five agencies to share information quickly.
Dave Usery, CIO
"We need quick information," said Usery, "because the way the judiciary system is set up -- especially with prosecutors and judges -- they have a very short time limit to make a decision as to whether they'll let a person out on bond.
"If you don't have complete criminal history and you don't know what kind of a person you're dealing with, you could make a mistake. The same thing goes for a police officer. If they pull someone over and they don't know there's a warrant out for this person, if they don't know they're dangerous, they could let them go when they shouldn't. So basically, the system should give individuals the opportunity to make better decisions for public safety."
But Colorado faced several challenges in their quest. First, they had already invested a good deal of money in information systems for these five agencies individually. For example, the Department of Public Safety has a law enforcement data repository and an electronic connection to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Similarly, the Colorado District Attorneys Council has a data repository. The other departments invested time and money in various computer systems, and state officials decided they could not afford to scrap them. The solution had to be a system that could utilize what they already had in place.
What they found was a middleware product, EnterpriseConnect Middleware from Sybase, which could seamlessly link all five agencies' systems. This strategy will allow workers in each agency to continue using the technology they know and are used to, yet