Integrated Justice Case Study

Maricopa County, Arizona

by / May 2, 2002
Integrated Justice Case Study: Maricopa County, Arizona

Maricopa County CIO Lin Thatcher helped develop the county's Integrated Justice Information System (IJIS), and is an articulate spokesman for it. "You have two choices," he said. "You can build a huge computer system that everybody uses, or a loosely coupled architecture that allows some independence of systems in individual agencies." Maricopa chose the latter option, and developed an "Integration Engine" following the county's "federated" governance model. The governance model - used by the county at large and applied to the IJIS - is one key to the county's success. The other two are funding and what Thatcher terms a "convergent architecture."

Governance Model
Thatcher defines "governance" as: "The framework we put in place that allows people to work together toward a common goal, and the practices that go with that. The notion of the governance model," he explained, "is we try to get people to the point of governing themselves. We have a three-tier federated governance model. When we received the GPP rating as the top in the nation, one of the things they liked was the governance model, and it plays into how the whole criminal justice area is functioning at this point. The top strata of the three-tier model is called the enterprise level. The center strata is called the electronic community, and the bottom is the departmental level. This is the genesis of how we do business."

Enterprise Level Governance
"Anything that is truly enterprise-wide from a technology perspective," said Thatcher, "for example the network - comes under the purview of the CIO in terms of setting standards, policies best practices, and in most cases, direct operational management."

Electronic Community Level Governance
The electronic community level of governance, said Thatcher, is formed when more than one - but less than all - departments come together. "These departments form electronic communities," said Thatcher, "because they share one of three things:
  • Computer systems
  • Horizontal processes - in criminal justice they call it caseflow
  • Data and information between the agencies.
"So we establish and then sanction as a matter of policy and governance," explained Thatcher, "the electronic community. We have approximately six functioning electronic communities, and the biggest by far is criminal justice."

Departmental Level Governance
"If a department is the only one that uses a particular information system," said Thatcher, "then we give them broad latitude and freedom in the system that they choose because it has no impact outside of their area."

The Criminal Justice Electronic Community
The county's IJIS - comprised of five agency areas - fit into the "electronic community" level of governance. The five areas were:
  • Superior Court
  • Clerk of the Court
  • County Attorney
  • County Sheriff
  • Public Defense organizations
"So we took the five agency areas," said Thatcher, "and we banded them together at two different levels. The first level was the business level. We brought in the key business leaders. Ideally, a senior official in each organization; the presiding judge of the Superior Court, the County Attorney, etc. And we pulled them together, set them up as a policy group with their own charter, their own set of goals, and what would become their own business plan.

The second level was the senior technologist of each of those five areas, who represents the electronic voice of where we're going. So there is a technological group within this electronic community that represents the common vision and goals and direction in which all of the technologists in that area are
    • going.

      Core System
      The county also set up a formal structure to complement the governance model. "We knew as a matter of general IT principle, that governance had to come first, across any area, criminal justice or not," said Thatcher. The county also recognized that there must be a "core system" at the center of the IJIS. "Within the county," said Thatcher, "we created a neutral agency, called the Integrated Criminal Justice Information System Department. And that has its own director. So what [were previously] five independent domains, now has a sixth central domain."

      "A few years ago," said Thatcher, "as part of a tax referendum that had to do with criminal justice, we piggybacked $25 million technology dollars to build an integrated criminal justice system. Those monies were approved, and we assigned that money to [the Integrated Criminal Justice Information System Department].

      Convergent Architecture
      Thatcher said that to properly integrated all the areas, a common and standard architecture was needed, something he calls a convergent architecture. "If you go before business leaders, and say we need 'an architecture,'" said Thatcher, "they'll think 'oh that's one of those tecchie things.' But if I say: 'I need a technology model that will bring you all to a common point somewhere in the future,' they get that."

      "One model is you bring in one huge computer system that everybody uses," he said, "or we go with a loosely coupled architecture, which allows some independence of systems in the individual agencies." The latter course was better, as agency areas were politically independent in some cases, following the traditional branches of government. "But we move them toward having data interchange standards, and a few other shared things. So we bring up things like message exchange servers, we're standardizing data formats, common data workflow, etc., in the middle of all of them.

      So once we got the term convergent architecture under way, a few hundred thousand of that money went to using an outside firm, that had some senior outside technologists come in and look at best practices across the nation and we built out the architecture that the entire criminal justice agency family - all these domains - would follow. When I say follow, that doesn't mean they do an instant migration or conversion, but it means that when they hit the next migration or conversion window that they would move in a direction to a single point on the compass. So architecture being the third key leg, of pulling people together.

      The building blocks for the county's IJIS were put in place in the following order:
      • Established countywide governance model with the three tiers.
      • Within the middle tier, established community called Integrated Criminal Justice System.
      • Established a senior board and the technology specialists under that.
      • Then went after funding.
      • Created sixth neutral agency, called the Criminal Justice Agency with its own director and some staff.
      • Currently, the county is building the neutral systems for moving data back and forth between the otherwise independent domains.
      The "Integration Glue"
      • Governance model
      • Money
      • Convergent architecture.
      The first phase runs thorough the end of the calendar year, said Thatcher. "The second phase is sketched out, predicated on some additional funding by the county, or some grant money we're going after, and we actually see ourselves as a super candidate for federal grants. We have all the pieces in place. If you are a federal grant provider, here's somebody that has all their criminal justice agencies playing together, and they have a governance model, and they have a convergent architecture, and they've already seeded it themselves with $25 million and substantiated some progress and implementation along
            • the way. Phase two gets into serious business process reengineering and workflow that goes through these agencies, that moves beyond the realm of pure data exchange. And as far as data exchange, they are looking at different models, but we're moving toward the XML (extensible markup language) model for component interchange, etc. Phase three [gets] extending what we have out into other jurisdictions beyond the county, into the police agencies, for example, and tighter integration with some of the state agencies."

              Effects of Sept. 11
              "Part of setting up the neutral sixth agency," said Thatcher, "would be the hiring of a network security officer, and development of rigorous policy surrounding the whole area of enhanced security for the criminal justice area which means we have general policies and approaches that we would follow in the county at large, but when we get into criminal justice, it gets a lot more rigorous. So we have the general background notion of what happened from 9-11, and the general flow of strategies from the Homeland Security Office." But, said Thatcher, for some time the county has complied with FBI requirements for NCIC 2000.

              "What happened is that a lot of this $25 million is going to ruggedizing our network from a security perspective for the criminal justice area, and actually isolating the criminal justice agencies from the county network at large using some network technology, and extra levels of isolation." Thatcher also said that SEARCH was used to help point the county to IJIS best practices, and in fact SEARCH has now cited Maricopa county as an example of how to do it right.
              Wayne Hanson Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government