Monday, August 03, 2020

Test driving the 'Texas Criminal Court Data Dashboard': Extra functionality adds value

The Texas Criminal Court Data Dashboard - a project of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, January Advisors, Microsoft, and Norflet Progress Fund - has expanded its dataset. It now includes court data from Harris, Dallas, Bexar and Travis Counties, and statewide data from the Office of Court Administration going back 10 years.

This lets one do a lot of work. Just as an example, I ran data on less-than-a-gram drug cases for calendar year 2018 for the four counties in question, and for starters, there were major variations in the levels of racial disparity. Black folks were only slightly overrepresented in drug cases in Bexar and Dallas Counties in 2018:
  • Bexar: 10.7% of cases against black people vs. 7.5% of residents.
  • Dallas: 27.7% of cases against black people vs. 23.4% of residents.
By contrast, black folks were over-represented to a far greater degree in drug cases in Harris and especially Travis County:
  • Harris: 37.65% of cases against black people vs. 19.7% of residents.
  • Travis: 28.5% of cases against black people vs. 7.9% of residents
Dismissal rates also varied widely by county in these cases:
  • Harris: 36.7%
  • Dallas: 5%
  • Bexar: 38.8%
  • Travis: 46.4%
The inclusion of dismissal rates by case type adds significant value to these county-level datasets. Grits has discussed before how difficult it has been in the past to access that information.

Average bail amounts also varied widely in less-than-a-gram drug cases in 2018:
  • Harris: $2,500
  • Dallas: $9,597
  • Bexar: $10,000
  • Travis: $7,500
The average defendant age in all four cities was in the mid-thirties.

Examining broader trends from their Office of Court Administration dashboard, while marijuana cases have declined precipitously in recent years, that's not true for felony drug possession in these four counties except for Harris County, which began to see significant-but-not-radical declines in 2018.

Grits' review: The OCA data probably doesn't add much value we couldn't already get from the agency's query system and annual statistical report, which allows for a wider variety of analyses. But the individual county dashboards allow for racial breakdowns by case type and analyses of bail patterns and dismissal rates which have not been possible before without insider data access.

There is no one-stop shopping location for Texas criminal-justice data. But here's a short list of the major sources:


Faith_No_More said...

An excellent tool!

Mark Hogberg said...

Grits, how were you able to run less than a gram cases on this app, been looking for that data forever and can't get it. I had hoped that this platform would allow me the ability to do that but can't seem to figure it out, please share.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Mark, put "offense category" on "Controlled Substances, Other," then under charges pick "POSS CS PG1 <1G". Make sure the date range is for a period for which they have data.

Noah Feldman said...

Is there a way to get data for the original charge and also the charge plead to? I swore I was getting that data a couple of months ago but then it disappeared.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Noah, offhand I don't know how to get that data in aggregate. You can look up individual cases and get it, but that's pretty onerous if you're looking for more than a few people.

jeff said...

Noah, we used to have that functionality in the Harris dashboard, but there were some issues with the data. I'll see if those issues have been resolved, and if they are, i'll add it back in.