NEW YORK – NY – May 11, 2015 – As a nationwide, bi-partisan push is underway to reform the broken criminal justice system, The Pershing Square Foundation announced today a $3.1 million grant in support of Measures for Justice (MFJ), the first non-profit organization to use ‘big data’ to track and compare the performance of county criminal justice systems across the country.
Distinct to MFJ’s work is that it collects and analyzes local data on the entire criminal justice system from beginning to end—the police, victims, defendants, public defenders, prosecutors, judges, and convicted offenders. MFJ recognizes that data become meaningful when culled from not one but multiple areas of the justice system. The result is a set of measures designed to gauge performance in categories such as public safety, fiscal responsibility, and fairness and accuracy – all on the county level.
“Recent incidents nationwide—in Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland, New York—have demonstrated what can happen when no one is looking at the big picture. The country needs a method that will help lawmakers dispose of practices that don’t work and champion what does,” said Amy Bach, President and Executive Director, Measures for Justice. “As of now, data are not readily available to identify the kinds of legal errors and systemic problems that are taking place nationwide. With this transformational grant from The Pershing Square Foundation, we will be able to build a system that everyone can have access to and will help them answer the question: how are we doing?”
MFJ’s work will be available to anyone interested in justice reform. The organization plans to publish its data and analyses on a web interface. The data, which are secured directly from counties and states, will be visualized, searchable, and interactive, providing users with a unique opportunity to see just how well any local criminal justice system in the country is operating.
“In establishing accountability through public performance measurements at the local level, we believe Measures for Justice could truly have a profound impact on accelerating reform throughout the criminal justice system,” said Paul Bernstein, CEO of The Pershing Square Foundation. “This grant will provide Measures for Justice with the resources it needs to expand their work, providing real data for those advocating change at the local, state and national levels.”
This past year, MFJ successfully launched a pilot program in Wisconsin that measured all seventy-two counties. The analyses paint a picture of how Wisconsin’s justice system performs, examining topics ranging from racial discrimination to pre-trial release rates and convictions resulting in incarceration across different offenses.
The Pershing Square Foundation grant will support MFJ’s efforts to create a set of valid and replicable measures by expanding to five other geographically diverse states. But this funding is just the start; it kicks off a matching grant and larger fundraising effort by MFJ to help roll out the system nationwide at a time when justice reform seems more urgent than ever.
About Measures for Justice
Measures for Justice (MFJ) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to develop and implement a first-of-its kind series of performance measures to assess and compare data on the lower criminal justice system. The data, in total, will depict what is transpiring in the criminal justice system, which will necessarily draw attention to problem areas, generate best practices, and bedrock reform initiatives. Founded in 2011, MFJ is supported by the Pershing Square Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Echoing Green, and the Ford Foundation. For more information, please visit www.measuresforjustice.org.
About The Pershing Square Foundation
The Pershing Square Foundation is a private family foundation, based in New York, founded in December 2006 by Karen and Bill Ackman. The Foundation has committed more than $300 million in grants and social investments to support exceptional leaders and innovative organizations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable impact. Bill is the CEO and portfolio manager of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P. For more information visit: www.pershingsquare.wpengine.com.