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Creating a Framework for Criminal Justice Information Sharing

The criminal justice community has invested significantly in developing information sharing standards, but it has not developed a comprehensive view of the information sharing process. NIJ-supported research shows how the justice system could benefit from
Date Published
March 6, 2018

The United States criminal justice system is complex. It’s made up of many independent government agencies that rely on one another to achieve a common goal: to deliver efficient and effective justice to all.

By employing the principles of enterprise architecture, justice stakeholders could have the agility to respond to new business needs, introduce new technologies, and more readily comply with legal and regulatory changes.

To achieve this goal and to appropriately coordinate activities, agencies must be able to efficiently share information.

Although agencies already share a great deal of information, a new study supported by the National Institute of Justice illustrates how a comprehensive framework for information sharing could benefit the justice system.

In this study, researchers explore the “as-is” state of information sharing, identify existing gaps, and then develop a framework for stakeholders to follow in improving their information sharing practices.

Researchers point out how a common data architecture could support the justice system in further improving the information sharing process and help in making the wisest use of investments. The data architecture is a strategy that identifies the core information assets of an enterprise and generally consists of three views that describe the ownership of information and flow of information among stakeholders.

Currently, the standards for information sharing and capabilities of agencies fit remarkably well together, but gaps remain in the process. For example, the law enforcement community is well represented in information sharing, but other areas, such as forensics and statistical data analytics, are not as well represented.

Additionally, guidance and data elements for exchanging unstructured data, such as video, images, and voice recordings, are insufficient. Finally, researchers found that a lack of metrics and measured results make it difficult to make evidence-based investment decisions on the impact of sharing information.

In an effort to close these gaps, researchers developed a framework for understanding the current state of justice information sharing. This framework proposal, the National Justice Data Architecture (NJDA), can provide stakeholders with a systematic method to identify and create cross-agency information sharing plans.

The NJDA is valuable in that multiple audiences can use it to better understand and take advantage of the data architecture of the justice domain, thereby resulting in a more efficient and effective justice system. It should be a body of guidance that decision-makers, at all levels, can consult when facing decisions about the stewardship and sharing of justice information.

This framework includes three perspectives or “views,” which address the needs of specific stakeholders based upon their role and primary responsibilities and assist in decision-making.

Exhibit: Three Views of the Framework Address Specific Stakeholder Needs
Planning View Operational View Design View

Senior executives, division managers, and strategic planners to identify goals and policy initiatives and to allocate resources at the strategic level.

Architects and business managers responsible for designing integrated justice systems and information flows at the business level.

Technology architects and developers to make decisions about service-oriented technologies and technical designs at the implementation level.

Enterprise architectures, such as the NJDA, are quite flexible. It is never too late to step back and consider formalizing the relationships and linkages between agencies through the creation of an architecture. By employing the principles of enterprise architecture, justice stakeholders could have the agility to respond to new business needs, introduce new technologies, and more readily comply with legal and regulatory changes.

About This Article

The research described in this article was supported by NIJ grant number 2011-IJ-CX-K051 awarded to SEARCH Group, Incorporated.

This article is based on the grant report “Analysis of the Criminal Justice System’s Data Architecture”(pdf, 87 pages).

Date Published: March 6, 2018