As part of New York City’s detention reform efforts, the Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) helped to design and currently manages a New York City-specific juvenile justice research database (JJRDB) that tracks youth from the early stages of system involvement through the court’s final decision and enables officials to assess the performance, effectiveness, and validity of the city’s risk assessment instrument (RAI) and alternatives to detention (ATD) programs.

Data categories and sources include:

• RAI Intake – The Risk Assessment Intake information includes scores for each individual item on the detention risk assessment instrument, total risk scores (low, mid, and high), and current charge information.

• Arraignment – Arraignment information, which is a summary of the judge’s decision at the arraignment hearing to release, detain, or send a youth to an ATD.

• Arrest – The record of the arrest as reported by the New York Police Department to the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA) includes current charge type, severity, and description, as well as the date  and time of arrest. The database includes this information for both the instant arrest (the arrest that led to the current case) and re-arrests in several specific follow-up periods, including during the pendency of the current case, and one year from arrest and disposition.

• Detention – Records of detention stays, including length of stay and facility type.

• Court – The record of the case as it moves through the courts, including key court processing dates and final disposition decisions (probation, placement, adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, and conditional discharge).

• Alternatives to Detention – The records of participation in an Alternative to Detention (ATD) program, to which some juveniles are assigned.

The amount of cross-agency information in the JJRDB is unprecedented and has enabled the city to track, monitor, and evaluate reform efforts. Initial findings from analysis of information drawn from the database indicate that the reform effort is succeeding in a number of areas, including reducing recidivism rates by about 30 percent in the period between arrest and sentencing and decreasing the use of detention for low-risk youth by almost two-thirds since 2008.

CYJ developed the database with technical support from Bennett Midland, LLC and funding from the city, state, and private foundations.

Why integrate multiple data sources?

The JJRDB, which contains data from multiple agencies, equips the city to assess timely, accurate information about juvenile crime, juvenile justice system processing, and other critical information on juvenile delinquents necessary for evaluation of its reform efforts. Its integration of multiple data sources has made the JJRDB a valuable resource for other projects and policy reform efforts as well. For example, CYJ and New York City have drawn data from the JJRDB to inform a project to develop strategies for reducing disproportionate minority contact with the justice system.