To be effective, a business case for criminal justice information integration (CJII) must be specific about its objectives, practical in its approaches, and realistic in assessing its prospects for success. This study examined several integration initiatives in order to ground business case development in current realities. The study revealed a complex but optimistic picture for improving integration. There is much enthusiasm for the general objectives for integration: smooth and effective information sharing and use, increased public safety, enhanced justice in society, and more efficient government operations. The problems come when actual integration initiatives generate conflict over specific impacts on budgets, organizational relationships, and established procedures. These are problems not of technology nor of conflicting visions, but of organizational and political interests and relationships. All should be reflected in a business case for CJII.
The results of this study are based primarily on 26 interviews conducted with persons who were knowledgeable about specific state and local initiatives. The interviews ranged in length from 45 minutes to 2 hours, and were semi-structured, open-ended in style. The study also draws on published materials about the integration initiatives, obtained either from the participants directly, or by searching print and electronic sources.
The study showed that achieving a high level of integration is feasible and has been achieved in some states and localities. These examples of success can serve as lighthouses for integration efforts elsewhere by illustrating problems to be solved, successful strategies, and benefits to be obtained. A number involve building the foundation blocks for more complete integration, such as formal coordination bodies, data networks, and collaborative relationships. There is growing attention to and funding for the integration agenda at the local, state, and Federal levels. As attention and resources have increased, the cost of information technology has continued to decline, bringing higher capability within the budgets available for new initiatives.
Quite a wide variety of initiatives were identified, including several that were comprehensive in scope, and others that were selective and focused on specific objectives. Along with widely varying objectives, the states and localities have a mix of histories for integration initiatives ranging over a 20+ year span. The Harris County Justice Information Management System (JIMS) has grown from a modest beginning in the late 1970s to what is now a large integrated system. By contrast, Colorado pursued a much faster statewide effort. They began with an exploratory commission in the late 1980s, leading to the Colorado Integrated Criminal Justice Information System (CICJIS) Task Force in 1995, followed by a full integration plan approved in September 1996 and a live statewide system in May 1998. The result of these various development paths is a patchwork quilt of integration initiatives. Thus an effective business case for advancing integration initiatives must be tailored to its particular corner of the quilt.
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