NYU Law’s new Criminal Justice Innovation Lab announced as part of White House initiative

On June 30, the White House announced the launch of its Data-Driven Justice Initiative, an effort that has garnered the bipartisan participation of 67 city, county, and state governments committed to improving criminal justice through strategic use of data. As part of that initiative, Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence Anne Milgram ’96 is introducing the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab, a project within NYU Law’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law that will employ data, analytics, and technology to develop tools promoting a safer, fairer, and more efficient criminal justice system.

Anne Milgram '96

An initial focus of the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab will be the development of a mental health assessment tool that will help cities, counties, and states to identify people suffering from mental illness before those individuals enter the criminal justice system—in which they often face markedly worse outcomes than those who are not mentally ill. The tool is meant to equip law enforcement officials to improve those outcomes, ease the burden on criminal justice resources, and prevent future crimes committed by those with mental health issues.

“My experience on the state and local level is that we have to gather data to understand what’s happening in the system,” said Milgram, who served as New Jersey’s attorney general. “We fail our communities by not being as safe, as fair, and as cost-effective as we can be. A lot of that comes from not thinking about how to use data and technology to make better decisions.”

Apart from diverting out of the criminal justice system those low-level offenders, the Data-Driven Justice Initiative has challenged participants to alter current approaches to pretrial incarceration, with the goals of reducing prisoner populations, creating stability for offenders and their families, and better meeting communities’ needs, reducing costs in the process.

At a White House event earlier this month, criminal justice stakeholders from across the country heard remarks by Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president; Neil Eggleston, White House counsel; and Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the United States, before breaking into workshops to discuss data-based criminal justice solutions. Milgram helped facilitate a workshop on pretrial diversion.

Back at NYU Law, she is focused on how the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab can make a real impact. “The American criminal justice system needs to be fundamentally reinvented,” said Milgram. “Our goal is to develop the tools and technologies to make that happen.”

Posted July 1, 2016