Tandon Researchers Develop Database to Reduce Crime and Incarceration


Ryan Quan

Some students at NYU Tandon have commented on the quality of their physics classes being much lower than those offered in CAS.

Mack DeGeurin, Contributing Writer

NYU’s very own Tandon School of Engineering has helped generate a criminal justice database meant to connect members of that field with other specialists and to unearth patterns in related data sets, all to aid in the quest for justice.

The website, developed by the Governance Lab, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Justice Management Institute, launched on Jan. 30. It aims to better connect people who work in criminal justice and policymakers through data analysis and rapid information sharing. It resembles a social network and functions similar to LinkedIn but is designed for professionals working in criminal justice.

Tandon research scientist Batu Sayici is the Governance Lab’s Director of User Experience. Sayici said that the website caters to the data analysis trend circulating among practitioners.

“The idea is to make it easier to find people who have certain experience or skills that can help each other,” Sayici said. “Criminal justice practitioners are trying to become more data driven — they are working with data to increase the effectiveness of programs.”

Access to the database is currently limited to members of the National Network of Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils and state and local practitioners. The Governance Lab expects to expand the system to include criminal justice-related non-profit organizations, academic research and eventually public sector companies.

Sayici said that the network will hopefully accelerate the dialogue between practitioners beyond yearly conferences, allowing them to exchange ideas and efficiently propose their findings.

Sayici said the database can halt misguided decisions like putting individuals with mental illnesses in jail when incarceration may not be the best option.

“To be able to identify these people you first need to be able to have access to their information,” Sayici said. “You need to be able to see if a specific individual has a mental health background and that requires an exchange of data and information between health institutions and criminal justice and law enforcement institutions.”

Sayici said that the database’s potential reach expands from arrests to crime prevention to mental health treatment.

Global Network Professor Beth Noveck is the director and co-founder of the Governance Lab. Noveck said in a statement that the proper collection and implementation of data in the modern digital world has proved invaluable. She believes it transforms the way people live their lives.

“Data can help policymakers understand past performance of public policies and services – both their efficiency and their disparate impact,” Noveck said in the statement.

Aimee Wickman, a program associate for the Justice Management Institute — an organization that helps power the Data Justice Network — said that a sophisticated use of data also allows for more effective decision-making.

“Data can tell you how policy changes have impacted the criminal justice system and if what you set out to correct is actually working,” Wickman said. “Data helps to diagnose problems, answer questions, lend support when championing for reform and provide the critical feedback on performance and policy.”

Wickman also said that analyzing data in criminal justice can detect details that were not previously evident in the original case files.

“There are many benefits to using data in criminal justice — perhaps most important is to tell us what is going on and provide a stronger argument than an anecdote,” Wickman said. “Data reveals a lot about our criminal justice systems that we may not otherwise see. That information is critical to accurately identify issues and make informed decisions.”

Email Mack DeGeurin at [email protected]