The U.S. criminal justice system is huge: there are more than 3,000 counties and many more local municipalities, each with their own local law enforcement agencies, courts and prisoners. But despite the federal government’s efforts to collect data on many aspects of modern life, the criminal justice system is an area where that has not happened.
Each agency typically keeps their own records and their data stays local. That means it can be difficult — or often impossible — to answer basic questions such as how many people are shot by police each year, how many people plead guilty or how many people return to prison after being released.
But nonprofit Measures for Justice wants to change that. The group launched a new data portal this week that aims to help people understand what life is like in the nation’s criminal justice system by gathering data from every county across the country.