Monday, February 06, 2012

Few counties seek funding so far to update case disposition data

So far, Travis and Webb are the only two Texas counties to apply to the Governor's Criminal Justice Division for extra funds to pay for updating their case disposition data, reports the Odessa American. The CJD issued a memo last month saying grant funds will be cut to counties that don't update their 2006-2010 disposition data to include at leat 90% of arrests. The story describes a bit of behind-the-scenes pushback from counties:
Donald Lee, the executive director of the Texas Conference of Urban Counties, said the statistics are misleading and even prevent most counties from reaching the goal.

“You can never get to 100 percent in the most recent years because 100 percent is all arrests reporting disposition,” he said. “If you don’t dispose of a case (in court), even for good reason, you didn’t report the disposition.”

Many of the most serious crimes in Ector County, such as capital murders and sexual assaults, can take up to three years or longer before they go to trial, and Lee said such cases would count against a county.

Because of this, the TCUC, Texas Association of Counties, County Judges Association, Texas Association of Regional Counsels of Government, Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Department of Public Safety and CJD have come together to discuss what could make the process better and help counties reach attainable reporting goals.

“We are really encouraged in the governor’s office approach to improving it,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t say it has been a fight. The governor’s office has been very receptive to the issues counties have been addressing.”
Grits doesn't agree that these data are misleading, nor is it accurate IMO that a significant number of FY 2010 cases remain unresolved. The handful of capital murder and rape cases that drag on for years won't remotely account for 10% of arrests. And there shouldn't ever be an instance where counties simply "don’t dispose of a case (in court)." Whether the case is prosecuted or dismissed, SOMETHING happens with it.

The American also alleges data-entry problems on the state end that could interfere with counties meeting the governor's goals.
Ector County Judge Susan Redford said technical issues with the state’s reporting system have kept Ector County limited to the 84 percent it has reported from 2006 to 2010.

“The (Criminal Justice Information System) is overwhelmed and not accepting a lot of the reports at this time due to technical difficulties,” she said.
This whole issue has been a bit of a sleeper and I'm surprised the press hasn't paid  more attention to it. Grits supports the governor's new requirements, believing that the failure to include case dispositions in state data creates significant problems and unintended consequences for individuals, particularly those with dismissed cases, pled-down charges, etc.. Counties won't reach 100%, especially for the last year or so of the range, but they're not being asked to, and 90% is an eminently reasonable compromise. (Make me philosopher-king and I'd have put it at 95%.) In most cases, there's no good reason for failing to record dispositions from two or more years ago except, basically, a lack of want to. If massive Harris County can meet the new standard, and they do, all the other counties whose data is insufficient really don't have much of an excuse.

1 comment:

Arce said...

Since people are to be considered innocent until they are proved to be guilty (by trial or plea), there is a solution to the reporting problem. Do not report or allow the reporting of arrests until there is a disposition, then report only those that result in a conviction.

I am dealing with the case of a young man 10 years younger than his brother and 6 inches taller, who was picked up intoxicated (in the back seat of a car that was stopped!) who had his imprisoned brother's ID in his pocket. He was booked in as his brother and booked out as himself, thereby acquiring the entire criminal record of his career criminal brother. We cannot get this fixed after two years of trying.

The kid's only personal offense was the public intoxication, which was dismissed.