Coordinated data for better criminal justice UX in the UK

In my quest to find more data sources to promote access to justice, I sent out a few tweets with ideas. Twitter user Dominique Joseph sent along a link from an interesting initiative in the UK that is all about organizing, standardizing, and coordinating data sources to improve the criminal justice system for better user experience.
UK - data and criminal justice - criminal-justice-services-landscape-map

In a blog post from December 2105, Kit Collingwood of the UK government explains how they’ve been mapping all the data that’s held among disparate, separate agencies, and that makes the entire system inefficient with manual data entry and painful requests. There is so much laborious work to request, export, and import data from system to system — and it doesn’t need to be that way.

And the UK is exploring ways forward. They’re playing around with APIs and data plans to figure out how to have the separate systems of data talk to each other — so that people don’t have to keep going through multiple steps and painful export/import procedures to get the data, but rather that the data flows between systems easily.
UK - data and criminal justice - criminal-justice-data-exchange-landscape-map

They are at the beginning of the process of defining what this newly coordinated system would look like — and how to use it to make the justice system more efficient, transparent, and navigable. Here’s where they are at (as of December …):

Opening up access

Over the coming months, we’ll be looking to build simple tools and programs (known as Application Programming Interfaces or APIs) that will open up the data held in the separate systems.

We’ll also be teaming up with the Government Digital Service, who are doing related work on data and registers. Pooling knowledge will help us identify the best opportunities and which datasets we can streamline.

Police custody desk

Data is currently held in separate and self-contained systems

Setting guiding principles

We’re investing time to set the principles for this work, to make sure that data sharing is built-in, not just an expensive or optional extra.

It’s a complex area that we’ll be exploring in future blog posts but some initial proposals are already taking shape:

  • agencies which collect data must ensure other business areas can access the information
  • there should be clearer ownership of data so people know who to ask for access
  • we should improve access to data by sharing it from one definitive place, rather than passing it back and forth between multiple systems

The time is right for change

Opening up access to data and making it more available is not a new idea, but we now have the technology and digital skills to make this possible.

We’ve listened to users and want them to have a radically better and easier experience – and one that delivers better results.