The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Integrated Justice Program (IJP) is an initiative of the Secretary of Public Safety and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). IJP is a response to the growing need to obtain greater efficiencies in the criminal justice system through improved interagency cooperation and information sharing.
Criminal justice activities include a long chain of events and activities, beginning with investigation of a crime or complaint, through arrest and charging of a suspect, prosecution of the defendant, sentencing upon conviction, and incarceration, probation, or other monitored forms of corrections. At each stage of the process, different combinations of state and local agencies are involved. Each agency collects and stores valuable information regarding the case and the individuals involved. Naturally, much of the information gathered by any one agency is of interest to all the other agencies involved in a case.
Over the years, computer-based information systems have been developed to manage more and more of this information in digital form. However, these systems have generally been designed to support one particular function within one particular agency. They generally do a good job of supporting the functions and users they were designed to support (although some improvements may be needed). But the systems do not, and often cannot, always share the information they contain with users and systems at other agencies that would benefit from access to the data.
The end result is that many criminal justice workers are forced to perform their missions and make decisions without benefit of all the information potentially useful to them. In addition, agencies often independently capture the same information, causing redundancies, and opportunities for errors and inconsistencies.
Improved integration would result in better-informed decision-making and improved officer safety, as well as increased agency productivity through reduced paper handling, and reduced manual data entry. A more detailed discussion of the benefits of integration is contained in the Business Case for Virginia Integrated Justice.
The following vision statement guides the Integrated Justice Program:
The primary objective of integration is to improve criminal justice processing and decision-making through the elimination of duplicate data entry, access to information that is not otherwise available, and the timely sharing of critical data.
The program is managed by DCJS with guidance and assistance from several interagency committees and workgroups. The IJP mission is to achieve integration objectives through a variety of means as appropriate, including but not limited to: program management, policy analysis, standards development, data quality improvement, and system engineering. The program has adopted a phased approach through a series of projects geared toward improving integration.
The most important IJP effort currently underway is the Charge Standardization Project (CSP), which has been divided into several implementation phases. Phase 1 is a cooperative initiative of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the Supreme Court of Virginia (SCV), the Virginia State Police (VSP), the State Compensation Board (SCB), and the Commonwealth Attorneys Services Council (CASC), assisted by numerous state and local criminal justice agencies.
CSP is addressing several major objectives for improving integration. These objectives include the implementation of a unique charge identifier known as an Offense Tracking Number (OTN), implementation of a uniform statute table (UST), establishment of common data standards, and reduction of redundant data entry.
The Supreme Court’s Magistrate System was identified as the best place to begin addressing these issues. Local magistrate offices are typically where most misdemeanor and felony charges are initiated. Basic information about charges and suspects are initially captured by magistrates in the form of warrants and summonses, which then become the basis for all subsequent case processing by the many other agencies in the state criminal justice community. Accordingly, the magistrate system and some of the major systems that it feeds are being reengineered to meet these objectives. A more complete discussion of the benefits to be derived from the CSP project is contained in the Charge Standardization Project Plan.
Other IJP projects underway include documenting the functional data flows of criminal justice data in Virginia and evaluating alternatives for implementing a networking infrastructure to support these data flows. This evaluation will include a determination of the role the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN) should play in a statewide criminal justice networking infrastructure.