US state to collect detailed criminal case data

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More prosecutorial transparency is expected in Connecticut as the state is likely to become the first in the US to collect detailed criminal case data.

Legislation for the state-wide data-collection program has received rare unanimous support in both the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives early this month, the Associated Press said. The development comes as similar transparency efforts in other states are underway.

The program will include the race, sex, ethnicity, age, and zip code of defendants, the American Bar Association Journal reported. The bill also requires the state to collect data on arrests, diversionary programs, case dispositions, plea agreements, cases going to trial, court fines and fees, and restitution orders, the publication said.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to sign the proposed law, which is known as Senate Bill 880. In a fact sheet the governor released for the 2019 legislative session, he said that the proposed law increases fairness and transparency as people enter and exit the state’s criminal justice system.

Lamont said that the proposal addresses critical gaps in the state’s ability to make informed decisions that would lower repeat offending, avoid costs, and increase public safety. The proposal also requires that a standard set of data be identified to reduce the burden on reporting agencies.

The governor proposed additional funding of US$250,000 for the Office of the Chief Public Defender to hire two attorneys, one social worker, and one paralegal for a pilot of the program. He also US$8.9m in new capital funding for the criminal justice system’s information system.