U-M program aims to transform criminal justice research nationwide

September 19, 2019

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan will continue its work to create a nationally integrated repository of criminal justice data that will be used to support research and evidence-based policy-making. Researchers are working to collect individual-level data across all parts of the criminal justice system and link it with social and economic data to examine research questions that were previously unanswerable.

Headshot of Michael Mueller-Smith

Michael Mueller-Smith

The project is being supported by a $1.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will further the development of the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System (CJARS) at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR). “Harnessing the voluminous amount of data collected by government agencies to produce research in the public interest is one of the great challenges that social science faces today,” said Jeffrey Morenoff, director of ISR’s Population Studies Center (PSC).

CJARS collects longitudinal electronic records from police, sheriffs, courts, and correctional agencies and then anonymizes and harmonizes these records to track a criminal episode across multiple stages of the justice system.

In partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, criminal justice records can be linked with extensive social and economic information and form the basis for a new permanent federal CJARS repository accessible to qualified researchers.

“By linking together a vast array of data on the criminal justice system that is currently siloed within state agencies, the CJARS platform has the potential to truly revolutionize criminal justice research,” Morenoff said.

CJARS director Michael Mueller-Smith, assistant professor of economics and PSC faculty associate, says the U.S. lacks a nationally integrated criminal justice data repository.

“In continuing development of the CJARS data platform, we will significantly advance the integration of criminal, legal, demographic and economic data that will fundamentally transform research and reporting on criminal policy in the United States,” he said.


More information:

Criminal Justice Administrative Records System

Contact: Catherine Allen-West, Institute for Social Research

(734) 647-9069 [email protected]



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