Legal Justice Information Systems Integration in Law Enforcement
This report aims to present insights into the decision making process for justice information systems integration. Technological advances continue to become available which create opportunities for each locality and state to develop a governance process that will serve as a viable solution for its own jurisdiction while at the same time meshing with immediate and distant neighbors.
Justice Information Systems Integration
In today’s highly technologically advanced digital era, legal and governmental integration has become a reality. “During the Investigation process, at the Incident event, if law enforcement determines that a crime was committed, and if law enforcement collects latent fingerprints, the Law Enforcement sends the Latent Fingerprint Card to the State Repository for the Biometric Identification event in the Investigation process.” (Holmes, Webster, & Sullivan, 2004) Just like fingerprinting has been regularly shared by all law enforcement agencies in the United States and in many cases the entire world, system integration offers unique opportunities to make the entire system more efficient. For example, many law enforcement agencies today, including the FBI, CIA and NSA, all house individual DNA samples of both guilty and innocent people in their internal integrated electronic relational databases.
In the not so distant future, it will be possible for these individual entities to combine their DNA Fingerprinting resources to streamline the overall process. “Combining the results of several genetic systems as is done in DNA fingerprinting by the direct use of the product rule is based on an assumption of random mating, because it assumes that any profile of alleles at more than one locus occurs at random, that alleles at different loci even if initially found together in a subpopulation, will randomize over time.” (Schacter 155)
The norm in future criminal investigations will entail that if and when a crime is perpetrated and DNA evidence can be recovered, the police and other law enforcement agencies will have at their disposal a completely integrated DNA Fingerprinting database system where literally all previously obtained DNA fingerprints will be already in the database. Consider the implications of a thorough justice information systems integration process — there will be fewer inadvertent matches that lead to false convictions. Justice Information Systems Integration has an excellent future because of these implications.
This report is about Information Systems Integration in regard to the legal and justice systems of the nation. In our digital era, information has become a thread that provides an opportunity to tie the many aspects of our criminal justice process into a more efficient and effective system. “This project, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, is designed to facilitate the development of integrated justice information systems planning and implementation throughout the nation. Integration of justice information systems refers to the justice community’s ability to access and share critical information at key decision points throughout the justice process. It is through identification of these key decision points and development of information exchange models that SEARCH will further nationwide integration efforts.” (the Justice Information Exchange Model, 2005)
This system would combine the advances in technology with an overall reevaluation of the existing day-to-day manual processes so as to create an integrated criminal justice information system where there can be a seamless sharing of information at a plethora of critical decision points. These advances would occur at all levels of the progression from the highest court in the land to the local sheriff’s department. “The information shared includes all criminal justice related data, including photographs, fingerprints, DNA identification records, case records, court calendars, electronic messages and documents. Integration allows a single agency — such as a prosecutor’s office or a police department — to share information within itself and allows multiple agencies to share information with each other.” (Morton, 2005)
Before we had our complex information technology, computers were always single or ‘dumb’ terminals that could only accept information from a mainframe. But today, even small businesses sport basic networks with many individual nodes more powerful than the mainframes of only a few decades ago.
Networks have become a combination of integrated machines with very complicated software. and, as a result of their implementation, networks entail seamless communications. “Today’s network incorporates all sorts of wonderful but unsettling services. Voice data travels over the enterprise network. Files are shared. Corporate networks now include travelers and customers, often in the name of e-business and e-commerce.” (Avolio, 2000)
In the past, just like our antiquated justice system, machines could not speak with one another. Through standardization, the computing industry discovered a solution and from there networking and the likes of the internet became a reality. In less than sixty years, the computer industry literally transformed itself from the likes of the gargantuan UNIVAC housed over several rooms to PC’s that dwarf the UNIVAC’s capabilities. Through these innovations, the justice system has the means to rebuild itself as well.
How will the modern day justice system become more efficient and possibly more successful in the twenty-first century and beyond? The answer is simple, the entire system will need to take advantage of the technological advances and focus its time, efforts and resources in a direction that will meet the objectives of the entire community. “Criminal justice integration is a prime example of using it to solve problems and improve service to citizens. A survey of the Governors of all 50 states was conducted in the spring of 1999 to determine Governors top priorities for it applications, and nearly every responding governor listed criminal justice integration as a major near-term priority.” (Meyers, 2004)
This system would alter the makeup of any single agency such as a prosecutor’s office or a police department. These historically isolated entities would have the same information at their fingertips as any large governmentally supported agency once integration nears completion. “Project staff has developed a web-based modeling tool and a methodology to capture detailed information regarding the processes, events, agencies, information and exchange conditions associated with justice information integration, which was initially tested in five states: Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, and has been introduced into over 20 jurisdictions.” (the Justice Information Exchange Model, 2005)
Justice information systems integration entails a very broad spectrum of interagency, interdisciplinary, and intergovernmental justice information sharing improvements. These initiatives would incorporate many changes that would differ between the variety of department to department communications, state to state interactions and the individual state to many different federal entities links. Integration implies a complete and efficient system where data can be routinely shared throughout the many levels and the many participants of the criminal justice system including the public at large and the media.
As the world continues to get smaller through advances in technology, social and environmental reevaluations will be required of the existing justice process. Non-technical changes will be as important as an installation of a new server because the business process of the justice system is just as antiquated as the communications and information aspects. These manual changes entail things like having trial lawyers no longer using hand written logs for court date scheduling and instead utilizing a court-based email and scheduling process that would greatly simplify the trial and court scheduling process.
Many individual organizations within the justice system already have distinct competitive advantages over their competition. The issue of course is that external entities are seen as competition. For example, the FBI has been upgrading its hardware and database technology for many years while local law enforcement agencies have barely enough money to man the streets. Where the difficulty will arise for an organization like the FBI therefore, will be in breaking down the wall that they have historically used to isolate themselves form information sharing. If a system wide integration of the justice system is to work, organizations such as the FBI will have to see themselves as a part of a system as opposed to an isolated industry leader – like a young child, they will literally have to learn how to share.
The various aspects of the justice system have historically been isolated processes that rarely worked well with one another. Sentencing, for example, was just one such aspect of the justice system that varied from state to state and locality to locality. One example of the disparity of sentencing can be demonstrated by the most extreme sentence, the death penalty. “Even though popular support for the death penalty is currently substantial, its use remains controversial, with support varying by region. Twelve states do not authorize the use of capital punishment, either because of a statutory or a judicial prohibition. Other states have announced moratoria on its use or are considering legislation to abolish it. Jurisdictions without the death penalty are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.” (Capital Punishment in U.S. Hit 30-Year Low in 2003)
Sentencing guidelines have historically been based on a type of criminal offender scorecard which was based on the levels or categories of crime. For instance, in the eyes of the courts, an offense’s level could be equated to the guideline for the seriousness of a crime. The next aspect of the scorecard was the offender’s personal or associative criminal history. Prior offenses dictated a level of conviction frequencies and social offenses. Therefore the personal criminal history of an individual ends up playing a major role in the sentencing guidelines. A person’s propensity to repeat offences entails longer sentences. The person that had a history of repeat offenses offered a greater threat and therefore was often thought to be more dangerous to society. but, how does the justice system maintain a culprit’s history without an ability to utilize integrated processes?
This is a prime example of where justice information systems integration could have far reaching implications. In regard to sentencing, first time offenders in one community may not have been labeled as serial offenders because of the lack of integration and communication between disparate communities. Far too often individuals were not severely punished when they committed crimes in one local that did not communicate with a local where the same offender had committed the same or a similar crime. Other examples can be seen when one agency searches for a potential criminal culprit even though that individual was already in custody in another jurisdiction unbeknownst to the first. Through an integrated jurisprudence system, these types of offenders are less likely to get away from multiple jurisdiction crimes. Thus, inter-community communication and systems integration will lead to more accurate sentencing and arrest patterns and therefore may reduce crime.
One area where the justice system integration will need to be epically careful is the area of security. Network security in networked environments has three main objectives. “Three basic security concepts important to information on the Internet are confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Concepts relating to the people who use that information are authentication, authorization, and nonrepudiation.” (Dekker, 2004) an illegal entry into the justice system entails much more than a network for a different user. When illegal network accesses stalled the computer systems at Yahoo one summer could have far less reaching implications than a terrorist wiping out the all fingerprint files in as single swoop. Whatever the case, network security for an integrated justice system will have many entry points for criminal as well as legal elements. Consider that any high school kid with an F. average could have the basic knowledge to make an unauthorized access into a secure network environment. A integrated communication link in the justice system could therefore allow for access to the many people who know exactly what they are doing because they have grown up with this technology. Couple that with the fact that terrorists can represent whole nations and they have many tools at their disposal to bring our judicial system down. “Incidents can be broadly classified into several kinds: the probe, scan, account compromise, root compromise, packet sniffer, denial of service, exploitation of trust, malicious code, and Internet infrastructure attacks.” (Dekker, 2004)
The key is that if the integrated judicial systems are open-ended for ease of use, they may be insecure at best. No one who uses an ‘open ended network’ or that has access to an outside domain can be considered immune to security breeches. “Security and usability are often inversely proportional. There is no such thing as “complete security” in a usable system. Consequently, it’s important to concentrate on reducing risk, but not waste resources trying to eliminate it completely.” (Avolio, 2000) This integrated system will have a daunting task of protecting itself and the entire population. “Those affected include banks and financial companies, insurance companies, brokerage houses, consultants, government contractors, government agencies, hospitals and medical laboratories, network service providers, utility companies, the textile business, universities, and wholesale and retail trades.” (Dekker, 2004)
This report was about Information Systems Integration in regard to the legal and justice systems of the nation. We are currently a part of the twenty first century digital era where information has become a major part of the criminal justice process. In order to make the justice process more accurate, efficient and effective, integration will be required though the many diverse departments, localities, states and national systems. This system will need to combine the advances in technology with an overall reevaluation of the existing day-to-day manual processes. Integration of the justice information system will imply future seamless sharing of information at all points of the justice decision making process and advances will raise the level of expertise and efficiency from the highest court in the land to the local sheriff’s departments of the nation. “In recognition of this need to share information, many state and local jurisdictions, including the State of Iowa, are actively developing and implementing plans for comprehensive integrated justice information systems. Integrated systems improve the quality of information and thereby: improves public safety, eliminates data entry errors and redundant data entry, provides complete, current and timely data, improves the ability to evaluate policy decisions and changes, maximizes available resources, improves data retrieval response time, provides for better, more informed decision making, and improves the operational effectiveness of existing systems.” (Meyers, 2004)
Avolio, Frederick M. (2000, March 20). Best Practices in Network Security — as the Networking Landscape Changes, So Must the Policies That Govern Its Use. Don’t Be Afraid of Imperfection When it Comes to Developing Those for Your Group. Network Computing.
Capital Punishment in U.S. Hit 30-Year Low in 2003. Ed. All American Patriots. (March 1, 2005). Retrieved on April 21, 2005, from All American Patriots at http://www.allamericanpatriots.com/m-news+article+storyid-6869-PHPSESSID-c7528df1df14be6397da4e89e25a7374.html.
Dekker, Marcel. (n.d.). Security of the Internet. Retrieved on April 21, 2005, at http://www.cert.org/encyc_article/tocencyc.html#Overview
Holmes, Amir., Webster, Lawrence P., & Sullivan, Teri (2004). JIEM Reference Model. SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. Retrieved on April 21, 2005, at http://www.search.org/integration/JRM1.0.1.pdf
Meyers, D. (2004). Justice Information Systems Integration Summary. State of Iowa Implementation.
Morton, Heather. (n.d.). Integrated Criminal Justice Information Systems. Retrieved on April 21, 2005, from National Conference of State Legislatures Web Site: http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/intjust/report01.htm
The Justice Information Exchange Model. (2004). SEARCH Model. Retrieved on April 21, 2005, at http://www.search.org/integration/info_exchange.asp
Schacter, Bernice. Issues and Dilemmas of Biotechnology: A Reference Guide. Westwood: Greenwood P, 1999.
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