Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $283,870)
The Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (PAO) requests funding for a collaborative project that will identify and address the presence of racial disparity within the Thurston County criminal justice system through improved data use, in order to augment public safety and reduce crime in Thurston County, Washington.
Racial disparities undermine the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, which erodes community trust in legal authorities, hindering the prosecutors’ ability to protect the public from crime. Preliminary data suggests that racial disproportionality may exist within the Thurston County criminal justice system, however, the depth and nuance of disparity is unknown due to county-wide budget constraints that limit the office’s capacity to hire staff to validate, aggregate and visualize case management data. In the absence of comprehensive data analytics, the PAO is limited in its ability to measure performance goals, address racial disparity and engage community members in fact-based dialogue.
This proposal addresses racial disparity, limited internal data capabilities and erosion of community trust, through a proposed collaboration with Measure for Justice (MFJ), a non-profit organization with a decade of experience arming prosecutors with their own data to create sustainable solutions to systemic problems in criminal justice. By allowing MFJ researchers unprecedented access to case management data to create a public-facing data dashboard, the PAO will employ an innovative approach to ensuring equitable, just outcomes for all justice-system involved persons in Thurston County, maximizing public safety, and creating a more transparent system of accountability to the public.
The PAO will achieve project goals through five main objectives:
Collaborate with MFJ to conduct an independent, objective evaluation of prosecutorial decision making by gathering and analyzing data related to racial disparities, among other issues that threaten just outcomes, across multiple stages of case processing
Launch a digital data dashboard, or “Commons”
Engage justice system partners and community stakeholders as members of a Community Advisory Board (CAB) to co-manage the Commons
Use the Commons to identify decision points where concerning trends exist related to racial disparity, set goals, monitor progress and compile recommendations for reform strategies
Based on CAB recommendations, enlist the PAO Equity and Justice workgroup to develop a data-driven approach to addressing racial disparity through policy development and implementation
The beneficiaries of this project will include the residents of Thurston County and beyond, as the Commons will be accessible to all people with Internet access.