On Nov. 9, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill calling on New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal to set up a program to collect and record data on defendants age 18 or older, including their race, ethnicity, gender and age, and analyze what happens to their cases. The data collection and analysis are intended to provide a closer look at potential problems in the system and better equip lawmakers to tackle those issues.
A recent Law360 article breaks down the new initiative, including possible long-lasting reforms in criminal justice procedures that could come as a result.
The following is an excerpt.
“This is potentially groundbreaking legislation, and it calls for data collection and reporting that currently exists nowhere in the United States,” Duke University law professor Brandon Garrett told Law360.
Garrett, who leads the university’s Wilson Center for Science and Justice, pointed out that states rarely “collect any data on victims, and yet in study after study, we have found that in serious cases, the race of the victim in particular matters a great deal to sentencing.”
Data on plea talks also is “typically not recorded by anyone, including prosecutors,” Garrett said. Collecting “such systematic data would be enormously impactful” and “open the black box on charging in criminal cases,” he said.
“One hope could be that not only will the public better understand outcomes in the system, but judges, public defenders and prosecutors will themselves better understand their work,” he said.