Apr. 7, 2021
Yolo County DA’s online case data guides his office, informs public
The website, called “Commons,” hosts a slate of criminal justice data covering the past five years, including diversion rates, gender and race demographics of misdemeanor and felony case referrals and the average time certain cases take to move through the system.
In an effort to expose potential disparities in the criminal justice system and provide more transparency about prosecutorial decisions in his office, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig is piloting a first of its kind online portal that offers comprehensive public access to criminal case data.
The website, called “Commons,” launched Tuesday morning and hosts a slate of criminal justice data covering the past five years, including diversion rates, gender and race demographics of misdemeanor and felony case referrals and the average time certain cases take to move through the system.
“I’ve been a prosecutor for 24 years, and I’ve come to firmly believe that in order to have any real, meaningful, actionable conversation about criminal justice or criminal justice reform, you have to have thorough and accurate data,” Reisig said Tuesday. “And what’s frustrated me over my career has been how difficult it has been to get that data from all levels of government, particularly in the criminal justice system. It just lacks transparency.”
Hosted by the New York nonprofit Measures for Justice and created in conjunction with the county’s Multicultural Community Council, the site not only allows the public to explore information that typically has remained out of the public eye, but it also allows the DA to set goals for the office and track progress.
Reisig’s first goal is to increase his felony diversion rate to 10% by July. He met that mark in January when his office diverted 13 of the 96 felony cases referred by law enforcement agencies.
“What we have found is that even with felony cases, the right felony cases, we are seeing lower recidivism rates, much higher victim satisfaction rates and just a general better success than a traditional prosecution,” Reisig explained. “Generally, you don’t find a lot of DAs that are diverting felonies. We do.”
The premise of the site, Reisig said, is to build community trust through transparency. But he said it’s already proving to be a useful analytical tool for the office in identifying disparities that may have otherwise gone overlooked.
“Once Commons was launched, we immediately started using the data and one of the things that we noticed was there was a disparity in the race of the people being arrested that were referred to my office by local police agencies, and in some cases, that disparity seemed quite significant,” Reisig said.
The site allows anyone who notices similar irregularities to submit concerns to lawmakers, the media or share them on social media.
“If we’re going to build a transparency portal for America, it’s got to show the good, the bad and the ugly,” Reisig added.