NYU Tandon School of Engineering Aids the White House in Push for Data-Driven Justice Reform

The School’s GovLab Is Helping Stakeholders Address Recidivism, Bail, Juveniles, and More

With more than 2 million people incarcerated in the nation's prisons — a marked increase over previous decades — there is bipartisan support for improving public safety while reducing incarceration and making the criminal justice system fairer.

A key tool in the movement for criminal justice reform is the ability to use data to understand where problems lie and to develop and test new solutions. The Governance Lab (GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering is working closely with the White House to encourage responsible data collection, sharing, and usage among criminal justice, mental health and other administrative agencies, thus maximizing the opportunity for evidence-based policymaking and reform while safeguarding civil liberties.

In support of the White House Data Driven Justice Initiative, the GovLab is running Data Driven Criminal Justice Innovation Projects, the first in a series of training and coaching programs designed to help criminal justice practitioners working on data-related criminal justice innovation projects take their work closer to implementation and scale them larger, in order to improve people’s lives.

In June, the GovLab launched a first-of-its-kind 10-week program working with 20 teams from 16 cities to give them the help they need to take a data-driven reform project from idea to implementation. Participants are primarily mid-career professionals who hold management and leadership roles in federal, state and local government agencies as well as nonprofits and who are in a position to make change happen in their communities.

With funding by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the GovLab is helping participants with projects aimed at:

  • Mitigating the impact of bail
  • Reducing recidivism
  • Developing better programs for those with mental health and substance use disorders
  • Identifying super-utilizers, or the frequently incarcerated
  • Engaging in more effective planning and coordination among criminal justice and other social service agencies

“The people we have the honor to work with are the true heroes – the boots-on-the-ground reformers working day to day to reduce jail populations, ensure that the mentally ill receive treatment instead of jail time, and help decision-makers get a better picture of who is in the system and why,” said Beth Simone Noveck, the Jerry M. Hultin Professor at NYU Tandon and Director of the GovLab.

The Data-Driven Criminal Justice Projects Coaching Program provides participants skills-based coaching and expert mentoring. “Peer to peer learning is one of the most exciting aspects of the coaching programs,” says GovLab Legal Fellow Ana Tovar. “By using technology to bring people together facing common challenges, they learn as much from helping one another as they do from the dozens of international experts we get to advise them.”

The coaching program is part of the GovLab’s broader training efforts known as the GovLab Academy aimed at helping public and civic innovators to become more effective, and part of NYU Tandon’s overarching mission to place technology in service to society.

‎“Digital data are being generated at an unprecedented rate,” Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan said. “And at Tandon we are finding ways to harness data to make our cities more livable, our families healthier, and our planet greener. The White House has recognized that data can also be used in the drive to make our justice system more equitable and efficient, and we are honored that the GovLab has been called upon for its expertise.”

Note: Images available at http://dam.poly.edu/?c=1768&k=2bc1593259

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, when the NYU School of Civil Engineering and Architecture as well as the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly) were founded. Their successor institutions merged in January 2014 to create a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to programs at its main campus in downtown Brooklyn, it is closely connected to engineering programs in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, and it operates business incubators in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.

The GovLab is an action-research center with a mission to improve people’s lives by changing the way we govern. We aim to accomplish this by leveraging advances in technology to enable more open, collaborative, effective, and legitimate ways to make better decisions and solve public problems. For more information, visit thegovlab.org.