The Juvenile Justice Model Data Project

November 6, 2017


The National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), the research arm of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, is leading the Juvenile Justice Model Data Project (MDP) that is funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The project aims to improve the quality and consistency of juvenile justice data both nationally and across states and jurisdictions through uniform and systematic improvement of data collection, use, and analysis. NCJJ, and their partners representing all sectors of juvenile justice are developing guidance on data collection, analysis, and use along with model measures that jurisdictions can use to monitor trends and assess the efficiency and efficacy of their juvenile justice systems

To develop the measures and guidance, NCJJ is consulting with a panel of experts and practitioners in the field and reviewing data-related policies, reporting practices, and existing recommendations. The project team developed a framework of ten fundamental questions to assess juvenile justice systems and a structured assessment for practitioners to assess their system’s data capacity. The model measures and assessment are currently being piloted in two sites – Davidson County, TN and the State of Idaho.

Why Is This Work Important?

Juvenile justice practitioners are increasingly encouraged to make data-informed decisions, but many juvenile justice-related agencies operate with limited expertise and guidance on how to collect and use data well. In fact, two of the most common questions NCJJ hears are, “What data should we collect?” and, “What should we do with all of the data we collect?” The forthcoming model measures will give jurisdictions a starting place for understanding key indicators of juvenile justice system performance and effectiveness. Because data doesn’t exist in a vacuum, the recommendations will also include guidance on how to use data to inform decisions and improve practices. Increasing the capacity of jurisdictions and states to become more data-informed will result in improved outcomes for kids involved in the juvenile justice system while also affording higher quality and more complete data at the national level.

Looking Forward

Project staff are developing a variety of tools to help the field incorporate the model measures into practice. NCJJ has published two profession-specific briefs promoting the benefits of using data to inform decisions: 5 Ways Juvenile Court Judges Can Use Data and 5 Ways State Juvenile Corrections Administrators Can Use Data and will be publishing a structured data capacity assessment for practitioners. Look for a webpage in the spring of 2018 that includes online access to these tools along with a database that describes model measures and recommended data elements, coding categories, and definitions. You can learn more about the Juvenile Justice Model Data Project here: http://www.ncjj.org/Projects/model_data_project_copy1.aspx

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