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Reconnaissance Study: Developing a Business Case for the Integration of Criminal Justice Information

Executive Summary

Purpose and Overview

Observations on CJ Integration Initiatives

Lessons About Success

Implications for the Business Case

Observations on CJ Integration Initiatives

Prospects for Progress: Achieving a High Level of Integration is Feasible

There is substantial reason for optimism about the prospects for improving CJII. This study found that very high levels of overall integration have been achieved in some states and localities. Selected examples are described in some detail below. These examples can serve as lighthouses for integration efforts elsewhere by illustrating problems to be solved, successful strategies, and benefits to be obtained. In addition to successful examples of generalized integration, an even larger sample of integration-related initiatives are underway that have achieved many of their objectives. These initiatives are building the foundation for more complete integration, such as formal coordination bodies, data networks, and collaborative relationships. There is growing attention to the integration agenda in government at the local, state, and Federal levels, as well as in the news and professional media. This greater attention has been accompanied by increased allocation of financial and other resources to promote integration objectives. At the same time that attention and resources have increased, the cost of information technology has continued to decline, bringing higher capability within the budgets available for new initiatives.

Wide Range of Integration Objectives and Achievements

There is much to be learned about building a successful case for CJII by examining how a wide range of integration objectives has already been achieved. This section describes examples of local and statewide initiatives that have achieved such success. Quite a wide variety of initiatives were identified in the several states and localities included in the study (see Appendix for a complete list of places included in interviews). A number of these at both the local and state levels could be called comprehensive in scope. That is, the objectives of the initiative included integration across the several kinds of agencies that generate and use criminal justice information (law enforcement, courts, etc.) and, where appropriate, across levels of government. For example, an initiative to develop statewide standards for data definitions and data exchange across levels and functions would be considered comprehensive. A larger number of initiatives were narrower in scope, addressing integration objectives for one function or agency, or restricted to one level of government. These are referred to as selective. Development of a data sharing application for the courts system or a statewide data communication network for public safety use would be considered a selective initiative. Since these different types of objectives usually involved somewhat different strategies and issues they are discussed separately. The initiatives of both types identified from the interviews are summarized in Table 1 (below).

Table 1 Examples of Integration Initiatives

Level of Focus
Scope of initiative
  • Legislation for statewide Coordinating Bodies/agencies: California (proposed), NC, PA, WA
  • Colorado CICJIS system
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • New Jersey: Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) Integration of State Police, Bureau of Justice Services, Division of Corrections, and the Courts System
  • New Jersey: A statewide oversight group meets on a monthly basis. Reps from the CJ community including (but not limited to) OIT, AG, DCR, DOC, OMB, State Police, Victims Board and Governor’s Office. This group decides what initiatives will be funded with Federal and state money. In addition, any initiative must have a project manager that reports the progress of the project to this oversight board.
  • Pennsylvania JNET
  • Harris County’s JIMS (integrated CJI system)
  • LA County CCHRS
  • McClean County, IL
  • Indiana’s “Hoosier SAFE-T” initiative to implement a mobile data network
  • JBSIS Court system in CA
  • Maryland: Corrections Information System (CIS) Integration of separate databases from different divisions (corrections, probation, pre-trial)
  • Maryland: There are small CJ technology workgroups but no large oversight group.
  • New York: concentration on major cities, central repositories
  • Local LiveScan adoption (LA County)

Along with widely varying objectives, the states and localities have a mix of histories for integration initiatives ranging over a 20+ year span. Integration initiatives that led to the current Harris County (Texas) system, for example, started as far back as 1977. California’s mobile telecommunication efforts and data center activities have a similar longevity, as do a number of systems in other states. These systems with long histories continue to pursue new developments and at the same time new integration initiatives emerge continually at the state and local levels. Just this year, for example, the Indiana legislature created an Integrated Public Safety Commission, the Governor of Pennsylvania issued an Executive Order establishing a Steering Committee for a statewide criminal justice network, and North Carolina is putting the finishing touches on a statewide mobile data network for law enforcement.

The result of this mix of objectives and histories across states and localities is a complex weave of projects, issues, achievements, and problems, a patchwork quilt of integration initiatives. An effective business case and argument for advancing integration initiatives must be tailored to its specific circumstances, to its particular corner of the quilt. To be widely useful in this kind of environment, support for business case development and promoting integration objectives must be versatile and adaptable. That kind of capability requires a good working understanding of the range of major organizational and political problems and issues faced in integration initiatives, and of successful strategies to overcome them. That working understanding, as illustrated by two well-known initiatives, is the focus of the discussion that follows.

Integration Success at the Local Level: Harris County, Texas 4

Getting Started: The JIMS as an organization dates from 1977, when the County Court of Commissioners (legislature) created the JIMS department and Executive Board. That was the culmination of several years of planning and preparation, stimulated by a class action suit on jail overcrowding. The resulting review of jail problems revealed weaknesses in the information systems as well, prompting the County to seek major improvements of the three existing information systems, which did not communicate with each other. The courts and law enforcement agencies in the county, working with the data processing operations organization, undertook an in-depth analysis of information use by the entire criminal justice enterprise, which produced recommendations for a new data processing center to take over the operations of the three existing systems. Coincidentally, the county government had just installed a new main frame computer system. Other county agencies were slow to move to this new system, so it had substantial excess capacity available for criminal justice users. Thus results of careful planning converged with political pressure to act and the availability of new resources to provide opportunity for major change. The Commissioners responded and the formal development process emerged.

The fact that the system emerged as a highly integrated one can be attributed more to planning decisions than to good luck. That is, the political and organizational circumstances provided an opportunity and impetus for movement, but did not dictate the direction to be taken. The early planners and analysts chose the comprehensive approach. During the initial planning, two years were devoted to what one participant called “walking the track,” a finely detailed examination and documentation of all the information uses and transactions involved throughout the criminal justice business process. This necessarily involved all the organizational units and personnel in the planning and analysis process, building support and ownership. When the time came to do something about criminal justice information, they chose to do something comprehensive, aiming for broad integration objectives from the beginning.

Governance and Organizational Strategies: At the policy and executive level, JIMS approach to governance was a mix of centralized and decentralized, or collaborative. It was comprehensive in that the Executive Board included the heads of all county agencies and courts involved in the justice enterprise. It is centralized in that policy decision making and control authority is located primarily in one body, the Executive Board, at the top of the agency hierarchy. Budget for JIMS operations was consolidated under the Executive Board. The new organization was given the authority over data standards, definitions, and elements, as well as responsibility for software and security. Decision making and operations, however, require interagency collaboration. The policy function of the Executive Board at the top requires the collaboration and agreement among 13 elected officials heading 12 different agencies.

Mobilizing Resources: Funding and resource mobilization for JIMS have evolved from ad hoc arrangements used to create the organization to a regular component of government operations. The initial budget was built with a mix of funds from existing data centers and operations. Over the JIMS life time the organization has moved from an ad hoc unit with resources gathered from several sources to a separate organization with its own line item, staffing, and governance. There has been a gradual increase in the size and funding of the operation, along with regular investment in enhanced technology and new capabilities.

The evolution of the funding arrangements and the overall development of JIMS appear to be more like a process of institution building than project development. It seems clear that the overall goal was to establish a permanent operation with ongoing needs for support, growth, and development, rather than a project with a limited development period and resource needs. Of course much of the ongoing work of JIMS is planned and implemented in a project methodology.5 But those activities take place in an institutional framework of established assumptions about continuing operations, growth, and development requiring continuing support and investment.

Technical Development Strategies: Several elements of the JIMS development strategy seemed to be important in its success. One was that design and development decisions were based on a comprehensive and well-grounded understanding of information flows, business rules, and user needs. Another was designing an appropriate mix of centralized standards and controls with decentralized or distributed repositories and systems. The result was a mix of centralized and controlled components with flexible and adapted components for the collaborating agencies. A third element was taking an incremental approach to system development within a longer-range planning framework to develop components in smaller, more manageable steps as part of a long-range strategy.

Current Status and Development Plans: Overall, JIMS is a large operation. The current JIMS has a staff of 40 and an annual budget of over $2 million of County funds. The systems contain over 130 million criminal justice records and over 67 million civil justice records. The user community consists of over 15,000 individuals from 144 county agencies, 111 other local agencies and governments, 11 state agencies, 15 Federal agencies, and over 800 subscribers. From the original focus on criminal justice, the system has grown to include civil justice information as well. The current system already includes jury management and payroll processing as well as an extensive civil justice component, and a GIS system that can be adapted to differing agency needs. Plans for system enhancement extend well beyond basic law enforcement and court procedures to include open warrants, address records, pawnshop data, gangs and gang members, and vehicle registrations.

Integration Success at the State Level: Colorado 6

Getting Started: Integrating criminal justice information in Colorado began with a 1980s statutory commission to explore integration and provide legislative guidance. 7 Before expiring in 1994, the commission arranged for all agencies involved to testify before the legislature as to why integration still did not exist. The resulting “educated frustration” among the legislators led them to pass a new initiative in 1995 creating the CICJIS Task Force. 8 The Task Force was charged to jointly develop a strategic plan for the implementation and maintenance of an integrated criminal justice information system. The General Assembly adopted the strategy outlined in that plan and funded the effort. The Task Force presented the initial plan to the statewide Information Management Committee (IMC) in June 1996 and the final plan was approved in September 1996. In March 1998, three test pilot sites began evaluating the full system and the CICJIS went live statewide in May 1998. The annual CICJIS budget line is $1 million and another $400,000 of revenue from contracts.

Governance and Organizational Strategies: CICJIS was designed and operates under a centralized governance structure. The IMC has overall approval authority over CICJIS planning. An Executive Policy Board has business authority over the overall system. Operations of the CICJIS are the responsibility of a CIO who reports to the Executive Policy Board (EPB). There is a separate Drug Control System Improvement Program Board (DCSIP) that also reports to the EPB. The DCSIP Board oversees Federal grant money administered by Department of Criminal Justice and deals with long-term strategic issues regarding systems.

The CICJIS governance structure appears to be very top-down in nature. Executive level employees from each agency are the primary members of the CICJIS governing bodies. With this high-level, mandated participation came considerable expectations from the legislature for action. As a sign of these expectations, the statute creating the CICJIS contained project goals within the footnotes of the legislation. The participants had placed high expectations upon themselves since they were primarily responsible for the creation of the legislation in the first place. Local participation was sought and representatives from local jurisdictions were present at all levels.

Technical Development Strategies: The development approach was based on analysis of business requirements and an extensive business process mapping exercise of each component of the criminal justice enterprise.9 The results indicated a strategy of integrating existing legacy systems while maintaining their own independence as much as possible within their organizations. Information was to pass from one agency to another with as little disruption as possible to the environments of each agency. This did not assume that future reengineering or migration toward more common systems would not be necessary, only that getting the interdependency established with success was the primary first step. This approach has provided the ability to extract and join data across the entire CICJIS system for the purposes of decision support at all levels. This will allow for a complete criminal history that has up to this point been impossible to achieve.

Measuring Success: The CICJIS project included benchmarks from the inception of the project. Performance criteria were placed in the enabling legislation. This early focus on tangible outcomes was carried throughout the project.10 A series of benchmark reports were scheduled throughout the project and six months after statewide implementation. The reports will cover the success of the four technological tasks to be accomplished: (1) the Index; (2) the transfer of data; (3) standard queries; and (4) drill downs into case specific information. At the time of this writing, these reports were unavailable.

Current Status and Development Plan: CICJIS is currently up and running. Several initiatives are underway to explore the functionality and utility of the system. The Board continues to meet and discuss the issues raised in the early implementation phase and seek solutions to the problems.