By Darling Gonzalez
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has pushed for progress in crime data transparency, despite having an outdated system and data deficiencies created by these systems, according to transparency advocate Mikaela Rabinowitz
Rabinowitz wrote in a recent article, “Why the S.F. District Attorney’s Office faces Crime Data Obstacles,” about her personal frustrations with the technological and administrative challenges that she faces working in the SF District Attorney’s Office.
Rabinowitz begins by noting the two primary challenges for the DA’s office.
One challenge is that different portions of the criminal data process are split among different agencies, leading to lack of accessibility. The second problem is that the systems that keep these data sets are alarmingly outdated.
Rabinowitz explains how a lot of data that the public expects to receive does not originate in the DA’s office.
Information, Rabinowitz said, regarding defendants who are in jail pretrial would not originate in the DA’s office because this data is held in the sheriff’s database.
Other data such as case resolutions or sentences, as noted by Rabinowitz, originate in Superior Court and are kept in that management system.
The problems that surround this divergence of data among different criminal justice agencies also involve the antiquity of the processes themselves, she insists.
“San Francisco’s Superior Court has used the same case management system since 1974 and the DA Office’s case management system is nearly 25 years old,” Rabinowitz states.
Because these systems were designed to support day-to-day operations, Rabinowitz adds, this type of data structure does not help evidence-driven policy analysis, therefore leaving the DA’s office with many limitations.
“For the last six to eight months, my data team has been grappling with how to interpret and reconcile 15,000 cases filed over the last decade missing case resolution data,” Rabinowitz complained.
However, Rabinowitz also made clear that DA Boudin has led the DA’s office in providing transparency to the public, noting that in DA Boudin’s two years in office he has continued to work for higher data transparency by publishing new data dashboards to promote public access to criminal data.
Rabinowitz detailed, “The first new dashboard links data from our office to that of the police department, providing a more thorough picture of crime, and the second provides more detail on the types of crimes that are presented to our office and the actions we have taken in response.”
The attack on DA Boudin’s leadership is unwarranted, Rabinowitz opines, because she maintains Boudin has consistently fought for systemic improvements to criminal justice data.
Although there has been a consistent attack on the DA’s office, Rabinowitz makes it clear that the DA is working toward improvement despite the technological hurdles and complicated legal landscape they consistently face.
Rabinowitz explains, “After all, data transparency is not just about throwing information out there—it is about providing data that accurately reflects what happens in the criminal justice system.”