City Plans To Unveil Public Database For Breaking Down Rearrest Information; Legal Aid's Chief Attorney Says Rearrests Highlight The Need For More Services
MONDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2013

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the City plans to unveil a public database which will break down rearrest information for every person charged with a crime in 2009. "Rearrests for clients with prior criminal convictions highlights the need for more services and connecting clients to housing and employment services," Steven Banks, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, told the Wall Street Journal. Decisions about law enforcement have largely been made in secret and the data makes it clear what the trends are and where the criminal justice system has been," Mr. Banks said. However, Mr. Banks and others warned that users need to be mindful about how they use the numbers, making sure not to apply them to broad swaths of people.




Wall Street Journal
NY Crime
New Data on Repeat Offenders
By Pervaiz Shallwani Dec. 22, 2013

The city plans to unveil a public database Monday breaking down the recidivism information for every person charged with a crime in 2009, giving authorities a resource to better tailor programs and policies for repeat offenders. The goal of the online database, called the Data Analytic Recidivism Tool, or DART, is to provide everyone—from neighborhood groups to academics to police—with data that can be cross-referenced by age, race, charge and other categories such as residence, officials said.

"It gives you a real sense of where the risks are and what are the real rates of recidivism," said John Feinblatt, a senior adviser and the criminal justice coordinator to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Afoul of the Law—Again

A third of defendants in 2009 found themselves back in trouble.

  • 233,821: Residents age 16 and older charged with a crime
  • 33.4%: Rearrested within a year
  • 13.2%: Rearrested for a felony
  • 4.7%: Rearrested for a violent felony
  • 38.6%: Rearrested are from the Bronx, the highest of any borough

(Source: NYC Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator)

"There will be times where it confirms what people already think and sometimes it will stand going assumptions on their head," said Mr. Feinblatt, who spearheaded the project and spent his early career as a public defender at the Legal Aid Society.

Efforts to prevent offenders from returning to the criminal justice system have made strides in recent decades—but what has been lacking for professionals who combat and study recidivism are hard numbers that provide analysis and not assumptions, Mr. Feinblatt said.

"If you are asking for probation for your client, you can produce outcomes for your guy and create averages and compare it to others in that category," said Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, who was among a group of people asked by the city for preliminary feedback on the database. "If you're a prosecutor, you can use the same data, but obviously with a different spin."

The data can be viewed by the general public starting Monday at www.nyc.gov/recidivism. It breaks down information on 233,821 individuals in 2009 charged with crimes—excluding their names—who were age 16 or older. The site will be updated with data from other years in the coming months, Mr. Feinblatt said.

The database is maintained by the city's Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator with information compiled by the nonprofit New York City Criminal Justice Agency. The group spent a year tracking defendants' rearrests for misdemeanors, felonies and violent felonies, city officials said.

with crimes—excluding their names—who were age 16 or older. The site will be updated with data from other years in the coming months, Mr. Feinblatt said.

The database is maintained by the city's Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator with information compiled by the nonprofit New York City Criminal Justice Agency. The group spent a year tracking defendants' rearrests for misdemeanors, felonies and violent felonies, city officials said.

The Bronx had the highest rate of recidivism among the borough, at 38.6%, and the highest number of felony recidivism at 14.8%. But Brooklyn topped the list of repeat offenders committing a violent felony, at 5.5%.

The data can be broken down in a more detailed fashion. For example, there were 1,787 female shoplifters ages 20 to 34 who received desk appearance tickets in 2009. Their recidivism rate was 10.5%.

And the 50,129 people arrested with prior convictions who were deemed high risk, which a city spokesman defined as people not recommended for release as classified by the Criminal Justice Agency, had a recidivism rate of 51.7%. Academics, community groups and defense attorneys cautiously said they were eager to sift through the numbers to see how the information could be used to create stronger programs and policies.

"Rearrests for clients with prior criminal convictions highlights the need for more services and connecting clients to housing and employment services," said Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society, who was also asked for preliminary feedback.

Decisions about law enforcement have largely been made in secret and the data makes it clear what the trends are and where the criminal justice system has been," Mr. Banks said.

However, Mr. Banks and others warned that users need to be mindful about how they use the numbers, making sure not to apply them to broad swaths of people.

"It's always problematic to predict someone's likeliness of anything," said Ann Jacobs, director of Prisoner Re-entry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who didn't view the database early. "Parallel to this is investing in the community to make sure they know how to use this in a discerning way."