Frequently Asked Questions
- What is OpenJustice?
OpenJustice is an initiative that leverages statistical data maintained by the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) and other publicly available datasets. The initiative consists of three components:
- A Justice Dashboard that spotlights key criminal justice indicators with in-depth analysis, integration of other publicly available datasets, and user-friendly interactive visualization tools;
- An Open Data Portal that publishes data from CA DOJ's statewide repository of criminal justice datasets in an open-source and downloadable form; and
- An ongoing effort to improve criminal justice reporting in California.
- Why is the California Department of Justice publishing this data and what are people supposed to do with it?
CA DOJ is committed to using data and evidence to improve public safety and public service. Our office intends to use the data on the Justice Dashboard to help the public understand and engage with the criminal justice system in California. The media and academics will have reliable data to boost literature and research on evidence-based policy reforms. Policy makers will have new tools to inform their policy decisions, such as identifying the most important areas on which to focus. Similarly, by releasing open data, our office hopes the public, including civic coders, will be empowered to create new tools that improve government services and the lives of Californians.
- What is "open data"?
Code for America defines open data as "data (such as documents, databases, records, or transcripts, including those managed by outside vendors) released by a government or organization that is:
- Freely available to be used, shared, and reused by anyone for any purpose, commercial or otherwise.
- Available in digital, machine-readable formats (such as .csv) so that it can be used in combination with other data and applications.
- Available in its entirety - and able to be downloaded "in bulk" and not just manually retrieved record-by-record."
- What is the difference between the Justice Dashboard and the Open Data Portal?
The Dashboard is a tool that spotlights a set of key criminal justice indicators in easily understood visual formats with accompanying analysis. It is intended for the public, as well as audiences such as policy makers and journalists. It provides a high-level overview and also allows users to drill down on more detailed elements, empowering users to explore data for information such as trends and comparisons over time, across jurisdictions, and across demographics. In the coming months, more metrics will be added to the Dashboard.
The Open Data Portal contains criminal justice datasets that can be downloaded in their raw form. This includes all raw data from the Dashboard and will soon include additional non-sensitive datasets that the CA DOJ collects. Our office will publish new datasets to the portal in waves. It is intended for academics, researchers, civic coders, and those looking to do detailed analysis.
- How are datasets selected for the Justice Dashboard and the Open Data Portal?
The first metrics for the Justice Dashboard were chosen to contribute to the important ongoing discussion around the justice system. Each metric uniquely contributes to measuring the relationship between communities and law enforcement. Additional metrics are being identified and prioritized based on input from academics/researchers, community/advocacy groups, law enforcement, civic coders, journalists, and the public. Selected metrics will aim to cover all aspects of the criminal justice system from policing through prosecution and incarceration to rehabilitation and prevention. If you have an idea, submit a suggestion at the submission box at the bottom of the page.
The Open Data Portal aims to publish all non-protected high-value criminal justice datasets. CA DOJ is currently conducting an inventory of all of our datasets as we seek to identify which are high-value to the public and do not contain sensitive information or protected information (as we will not publish protected information). The team is also establishing whether datasets meet standards of publication. As we complete our inventory, we will continue to publish datasets in waves.
- Where does the data come from and what is the CA DOJ's authority to collect and publish it?
The CA DOJ collects, analyzes, and reports statistical data and information, as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with section 13010) of Title 3 of Part 4 of the Penal Code and Government Code section 12525.
Law enforcement agencies and criminal justice partners across the state report information to CA DOJ. For some datasets, the CA DOJ serves as the liaison between our state's law enforcement and federal reporting programs, such as the Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR).
- How accurate and complete is the data?
Our office aims to provide the public with reliable, useful data. However, since the data we are publishing are reported directly from local agencies, we cannot guarantee 100% accuracy or completeness. Most agencies work hard to submit accurate data but reporting is not uniform throughout the state. Where appropriate, our office highlights limitations of the data.
The Criminal Justice Statistics Center (CJSC) collects and reports information but is not an investigative body. CJSC confirms and validates data by communicating with reporting agencies to ensure accuracy and completeness, but does not conduct investigations.
Prior to publishing our first datasets as part of the OpenJustice initiative, CA DOJ worked with U.C. Berkeley to compare some CA DOJ data to other available sources. This analysis identified discrepancies, some of which result from differences in classification and others from non-reporting. Publication and increased focus on data are important first steps in ensuring more accurate and complete criminal justice data in California.
- Will more public data become available in the future?
Yes. Just like a start-up, OpenJustice is starting small and scaling up. The next version of the Justice Dashboard will include metrics across the criminal justice system. We are also planning to publish our next wave of datasets on the Open Data Portal in the coming months.
- How is CA DOJ balancing its commitment to privacy with a commitment to transparency?
OpenJustice seeks to use numbers, data, and evidence to be "Smart on Crime". As outlined in more detail in our Guiding Principles, our office will limit the publication of personally identifiable information to that which is both legally authorized and relevant and take into account privacy implications of releasing any de-identified data, including the risk of the "mosaic effect" of data aggregation.
The public can share any graphs/charts on the Justice Dashboard and download any of the published data on the Open Data Portal.
- How should I cite to OpenJustice?
Although not required, if you would like to cite any of our content, data, or materials, you can use the following citation example:
- Data provided by the California Department of Justice, OpenJustice, openjustice.doj.ca.gov, accessed January 1, 2016
- California Department of Justice, OpenJustice, "Arrest Rates from 1980 to 2013," http://openjustice.doj.ca.gov/arrests/overview.html (accessed January 1, 2016)
- How can I submit ideas for additional datasets to publish?
Join the conversation and submit a suggestion at the submission box at the bottom of the page or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I'm with a law enforcement agency and I have questions regarding my data. Who should I contact?
Please contact your department's usual CA DOJ contact for reporting data. If you do not have their information, you can send an email to email@example.com that includes your agency's name and a detailed explanation of your question.
- My question isn't answered here. What do I do?
Send us your question to firstname.lastname@example.org. While we may not be able to answer every question individually, those questions that are submitted frequently will be added to the FAQs.