How to Make Justice Count: Introducing Consensus-Driven Metrics for Criminal Justice Data

Imagine that your keys were separated instead of all together on a keychain. Each key might be hidden in a different room in your home. That would make an everyday activity like going to the grocery store an ordeal. You’d have to go to one room to find the car key. You’d have to go to another to find your house key. There’s a reason we put all our keys on one keychain—so that we have everything we need at our fingertips, whenever we need it.

Justice Counts seeks to do the same for criminal justice data. It brings together metrics from multiple criminal justice sectors—law enforcement, prosecution, defense, courts, jails, corrections, and more—meaning that policymakers, agency leaders, advocates, and the public will finally have access to essential information about the criminal justice system in one place. By doing so, Justice Counts aims to help policymakers make more informed decisions to advance the wellbeing of their constituents.

Accurate, accessible, and actionable data is essential to building stronger and safer communities. That’s why Justice Counts is empowering data-driven decision-making today and planning for better criminal justice data tomorrow. The initiative recently marked a critical step forward in that effort: introducing the first set of Justice Counts metrics.

Driven by consensus, the metrics were developed by more than 100 people, agencies, and organizations who poured hundreds of hours into balancing a complex range of issues to develop and refine the metrics. Now that the metrics have been developed, criminal justice agencies are encouraged to start using them. Criminal justice practitioners from across the U.S. are invited to join Justice Counts in creating a stronger information infrastructure for the justice system by learning how to mobilize these metrics in each state.

The Justice Counts initiative currently offers the following ways to get involved:

Getting to know the new consensus-driven metrics, organized by criminal justice sector;
Taking the self-assessment to determine your agency’s readiness to participate;
Signing up for an upcoming work session to provide input on sector-specific technical guidance for the metrics;
Learning more about becoming a Justice Counts Founding State with support from the CSG Justice Center, including early access to tools and resources; and
Reaching out to the Justice Counts team to request a legislative briefing, presentation for state leaders, or a presentation to an association or membership group.

Justice Counts is a consensus-building initiative of BJA led by the CSG Justice Center and a coalition of 21 partner organizations to help criminal justice policymakers across the country make better decisions with data that are accurate, accessible, and actionable.

BJA and the CSG Justice Center have developed a suite of tools, resources, and assistance to support agencies and states participating in Justice Counts. Visit the Justice Counts website to get started today.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2019-ZB-BX-K005 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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HUD Launches Agency-Wide Effort to Reduce Housing Barriers for People with Criminal Records

The vital role of housing in successful reentry was reinforced during Second Chance Month this past April, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took a significant step toward ensuring that millions of people returning from prison and jail have greater access to housing opportunities. In an April 12 memo, Secretary Marcia Fudge instructed every HUD program office to review and propose changes to all relevant regulations and guidance documents within six months in a comprehensive effort to reduce barriers to participation for people with criminal records.

“At HUD, we recognize that individuals with criminal histories too often face daunting and unnecessary barriers to obtaining and maintaining housing, including public housing, HUD-assisted housing, and HUD-insured housing, which are often the only types of housing they can afford,” said Secretary Fudge in her memo. “Too often, criminal histories are used to screen out or evict individuals who pose no actual threat to the health and safety of their neighbors. And this makes our communities less safe because providing returning citizens with housing helps them reintegrate and makes them less likely to reoffend.”

This memo builds on prior steps HUD has taken to reduce criminal record-related barriers to housing. For example, in 2016 the Office of General Council issued guidance to housing providers on the potential discriminatory impacts of overly broad screening criteria for previous incarceration. That guidance, while important, still left most decisions regarding the use of criminal records in eligibility determinations to the discretion of local housing providers. As a result, many providers continued to adopt policies that excluded people based on minor offenses or offenses that occurred many years in the past.

Secretary Fudge’s new directive lays the foundation for not only reducing those barriers, but also encourages housing providers to prioritize people with criminal records, even in light of a continuing affordable housing shortage nationwide. It also has the potential to directly impact federal policies and practices, given HUD’s intention of considering fundamental changes to the way its own programs operate. These include core programs, such as public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers, which comprise a substantial portion of America’s affordable housing inventory. And it complements other recent HUD guidance encouraging communities to serve people leaving the justice system with Emergency Housing Vouchers made available under the American Rescue Plan Act and to make HUD programs more equitable by addressing the overrepresentation of people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) experiencing both homelessness and justice involvement.

Justice system leaders can support HUD’s efforts by developing strong working relationships with affordable housing partners, emphasizing the shared population served by both systems. A good place to begin is by working with the local Continuum of Care (CoC) to increase the use of HUD-funded homeless assistance resources among people who have previously been incarcerated. In addition, justice system leaders can build partnerships with private landlords through strategies, such as targeted recruitment and financial guarantees, to increase the number of units available to help meet the housing needs of this population. These partnerships can greatly increase the chances that someone with a criminal record successfully uses a HUD voucher in a tight rental market and has access to safe, affordable housing—which, not only reduces chances of future incarceration, but also provides a platform for community stability and connections with employment, health care, and more.

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Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform Approves Recommendations to Improve Outcomes for Youth and Families

On July 18, 2022, the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform (Task Force) met to approve a comprehensive set of consensus-based recommendations to transform Michigan’s juvenile justice system. These recommendations are based on an unprecedented assessment of Michigan’s juvenile justice system and are grounded in what research shows works to improve community safety, reduce disparities, and improve youth outcomes.

The approved recommendations establish a statewide blueprint for aligning policies and practices across the juvenile justice continuum with research and best practice and include the following:

Establish a minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction and expand diversion opportunities for youth who are not a public safety risk.
Create a statewide juvenile public defense system and best practice standards.
Increase funding for effective community-based programs, including alternatives to incarceration, and tie funding to evidence-based practices.
Adopt data-driven tools to guide diversion, court, and detention decisions.
Strengthen standards and quality assurance for local probation practices and statewide residential programs.
Expand data collection to measure system performance, outcomes, and equity.
Establish a statewide advisory board of youth and families impacted by the system to help guide ongoing system improvements.

The bipartisan Task Force was initially formed in June 2021 to study the juvenile justice system and develop data-driven recommendations for statewide reform. This assessment involved case-level data analysis, focus groups with hundreds of diverse stakeholders across the state, and listening sessions with youth and families directly impacted by the system. Based on this assessment, multiple working groups met for months to identify and make recommendations to the Task Force for how best to improve the system.

“Michigan continues to lead on justice issues, and these recommendations reaffirm our dedication to support our young Michiganders and improve community safety,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “These recommendations will reduce how many youth come into contact with the juvenile justice system and also serve young people that do enter the system more effectively and developmentally appropriately. We won’t let one mistake in a young person’s life shatter their future.”

“I’m proud of the work of the Task Force and what we have achieved for our young people today,” said Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement. “We are providing local courts with more tools to guide diversion and disposition decisions, more resources to keep young people in their homes and communities and effectively meet their needs, and more training and technical assistance through the State Court Administrator’s Office to help local courts to implement new policies and programs effectively.”

The Task Force, chaired by Lt. Governor Gilchrist and composed of leaders from across branches of government, state and local agencies, and those working in and impacted by the system, was facilitated by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center.

“We are thrilled with today’s decision by the Task Force to approve a set of recommendations across the juvenile justice continuum,” said Nina Salomon, deputy division director, Corrections and Reentry at the CSG Justice Center. “It is encouraging to see the Task Force united in their commitment to advance positive outcomes for youth, commit to improving system equity, while also addressing and improving public safety measures. Today is a win for everyone.”

As a next step, the Task Force will work to translate and adopt the approved recommendations into legislation, administrative, and other policy changes.

To learn more about the recommendations, please visit

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