An Overview of Analytics for the Design and Operation of Criminal Justice Systems

An Overview of Analytics for the Design and Operation of Criminal Justice Systems

Ki-Hwan G. Bae (University of Louisville, USA) and Gerald W. Evans (University of Louisville, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7591-7.ch010
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This chapter will provide, first, some basic information about criminal justice systems in the United States, including definitions, costs, and the need to view such systems from a systems perspective. Following this introduction, a review of the research involving the intersection of (1) analytical methodologies including simulation and (2) the design and operation of criminal justice systems will be given. The review will cover the areas of (1) prediction of crime, criminal detection, and arrest; (2) adjudication; (3) incarceration and rehabilitation; and (4) multi-aspects of criminal justice systems. The chapter will close out with sections on suggestions for future research and conclusions.
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Estimates of the annual costs associated with crime in 2012 in the United States varied according to three amounts: $690 billion, $1.57 trillion, and $3.41 trillion in 2016 dollars (GAO Report, 2017). One of the reasons for the wide variation in these estimates has to do with the difficulty in determining the intangible costs of crime; one example of such intangible cost is that relating to the detrimental effects on the family, in particular the children, of someone sent to prison. Regardless, the annual costs associated with crime are significant.

The crimes and criminals dealt with by justice systems can be categorized in several different ways. The categorizations are important since data collected correspond to these categories, and policies are analyzed and determined through the consideration of these categories. For example, criminals can be categorized according to (1) personal characteristics such as age (e.g., juvenile or adult), race, nationality, difficulties with mental illness or not, matters of drug use or not, (2) first-time offender or recidivist, and (3) association with a criminal organization or not. Crimes themselves have an even more involved categorization scheme, including (1) type by jurisdiction: local, state, or federal; (2) type by crime: burglary, robbery, sexual assault, assault, murder, etc. and (3) type by seriousness: felony, misdemeanor, or infraction. Depending on the situation, some crimes such as robbery, could be either a felony or a misdemeanor. In addition, felonies and misdemeanors are further categorized according to, for example, Class A, Class B, etc. Typically, misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year while felonies are punishable by more than a year in jail/prison.

Criminal justice systems are represented by the organizations that apprehend and judge suspects, punish and rehabilitate criminals, allow for restitution to victims, and protect the public. One of its definition is a “system of law enforcement that is directly involved in apprehending, prosecuting, defending, sentencing, and punishing those who are suspected or convicted of criminal offenses.” (See Oxford Dictionaries, 2017). Another definition provided by the National Center for Victims of Crime is “the set of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on those who violate laws” (See The National Center for Victims of Crimes, 2018). Given that most crimes are committed by repeat offenders, both of these definitions are lacking since they do not mention rehabilitation.

In fiscal year 2012, local, state, and federal governments in the United States spent more than $280 billion on their criminal justice systems, adjusted to 2016 dollars (GAO Report, 2017), of which approximately 25% was spent on corrections (prisons, jails, probation, and parole). In addition, the United States has by far the largest percentage of its population incarcerated, at about .66%, as compared to many other countries such as Russia with about .43%, the United Kingdom with about .14%, and Canada with about .11% (Statista, 2018).

As noted by Blumstein (2011), the incarceration rate in the United States was fairly stable for about 50 years until the late 1970’s. Then a dramatic increase of about 6% per year began for about 30 years, leading to the current situation. Also, a major factor for this increase is the rise in the incarceration of drug offenders, by a factor of 10. Given the large costs associated with crime and complex criminal justice systems, one can expect that there is much room for improvement in both cost and efficiency of these systems.

A typical process associated with a criminal justice system is shown in Figure 1. This figure is used to just illustrate the various activities and associated resources, not to indicate a flowchart by which criminals proceed through the system. For instance, the accused who are found innocent at trial will flow out of the system at the adjudication stage of the process.

Figure 1.

Various activities and resources associated with a criminal justice system


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