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Maryland Prosecutor to Release Sentencing Dashboard

The Frederick County State's Attorney's Office is working to publicly share data about sentences and plea offers in the cases it prosecutes. The data will include information like case outcomes, race and ethnicity data and more.

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(TSN) — The Frederick County State's Attorney's Office is working to publicly share data about sentences and plea offers in the cases it prosecutes.

Frederick County and other Maryland jurisdictions will eventually have public "data dashboards" with information such as how case outcomes break down by race and ethnicity or number of new cases with defendants with prior criminal records.

Frederick County State's Attorney Charlie Smith said the project is aimed at transparency and publicizing fairness.

Frederick County is also working on a separate but related project with academics from various universities on sentencing transparency, as well as a statewide effort, Smith said.

The Prosecutorial Performance Indicators, a nonprofit organization that helps to create data dashboards across the country, is helping to build data dashboards for various jurisdictions in Maryland that are working on similar efforts.

Those include Montgomery, Prince George's and Charles counties and Baltimore City. Wicomico County is considering its own dashboard, said Melba V. Pearson, who is co-manager of PPI and the director of prosecution projects at Florida International University's Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy.

Some data will be broken down by race and ethnicity, Smith said.

Smith said he believes the data transparency projects will reveal that Frederick County State's Attorney's Office prosecutors are not biased in how they handle cases.

"There is a national narrative out there that there is mass disproportionality occurring in the criminal justice system," Smith said. "I believe that we're going to disprove that narrative."


The Maryland Judiciary Case Search, a publicly accessible database that provides records on court cases statewide, has limitations for helping state's attorney's offices create sentencing transparency reports, said Joyce King, chief counsel at the Frederick County State's Attorney's Office.

Only a few data points are collected through Case Search, King said.

The new data dashboards will instead primarily rely on each jurisdiction's internal case management systems for tracking cases, Pearson said.

PPI has a "menu" of 55 indicators, or data points, on a host of issues available for dashboards.

Indicators include, for example, the average number of cases handled by prosecutors and extensive data on how cases are treated, such as how often cases are dismissed, broken down by race and ethnicity.

Each dashboard costs about $200,000 to $250,000 to create, but the dashboards are provided to jurisdictions at no cost, Pearson said.

Pearson was not able to give specific numbers on the cost in Frederick County.

The Frederick County dashboard will look at PPI indicators that help measure office efficiency, such as time to trial and caseload for each trial team, Smith wrote in an email.

It will also pull from PPI's "Fairness & Justice" category and seek to determine if there are racial or ethnic disparities in how the office prosecutes cases.

The office will look at race and ethnic breakdown for metrics such as if defendants were referred to a diversion program, including Mental Health Court, or if they were in detention prior to trial, Smith said.

PPI's funders include the Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative and the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the organization's annual report.

The goal is to make Frederick's dashboard available within the first half of 2024, Pearson said.


An effort led by a team of researchers is supporting the PPI project.

Brian D. Johnson, a professor and the associate chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park, is working on that project with two other academics, plus research assistants.

They will produce written reports on Frederick County's State's Attorney's Office data.

They're looking at things like if the top charge in a case is changed, typically dropped to a lesser charge, as part of plea negotiations and how that breaks down by race, gender, or ethnic background, Johnson said.

If researchers feel the data is reliable and accurate, they will release the written report from the academics publicly, Smith said.

The research team is also working on data for two other Maryland jurisdictions — Baltimore City and Montgomery County. Data they clean will be shared with PPI, Johnson said.

Johnson's team's effort is funded by Arnold Ventures, through a grant that is more than $500,000, he said.

After a dashboard is launched, PPI works with each jurisdiction to determine the best way to keep it updated.

"We're hopeful that this is something that could become a statewide project and that will be sustainable for many years to come," Pearson said.


The Frederick County State's Attorney's Office in 2019 decided to take a closer look at its case data to evaluate staff workloads, King said, but project was far too costly.

After George Floyd's death in May 2020, however, there was more funding available for looking at social justice issues in the criminal justice system, including sentencing transparency, Smith said.

The state's attorney's office got in touch with PPI and the academic team, King said.

King is also representing the Maryland State's Attorneys' Association on a statewide task force created by, which will make recommendations on sentencing transparency standards in Maryland.

The task force will likely have its first meeting in the fall, she said.

Smith said he hopes there will be statewide funding for more consistent data collection on court cases across Maryland jurisdictions.

The more data is available, the more meaningful the discussions, Smith said.

"There are racial disparities in society," King said. "What we focus on is, is our office contributing or not?"

©2023 The Frederick News-Post, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.