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The criminal justice system touches the lives of millions of Americans and costs taxes payers hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Yet, answering fundamental questions about law enforcement, criminal courts, and correctional supervision and their impact on society has historically been hampered by a serious lack of data quality, comparability, and accessibility.

We at CJARS address this problem by producing an integrated criminal justice data platform and making it as widely accessible as possible. Through a rigorous and complex harmonization procedure, we meticulously transform billions of lines of scattered raw data into a unique, nationwide database that attempts to follow justice-involved individuals throughout the criminal justice system.


CJARS is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization located at the University of Michigan, with partners from the U.S. Census Bureau. Founded in 2016, CJARS was created with the goal of piloting a program to collect and harmonize administrative criminal justice records. The aim was to create a public data good with the altruistic intention of empowering innovation, creativity, and expertise among others equally dedicated to groundbreaking research and informed decision-making in the criminal justice system.

Today, CJARS has grown into a pioneering leader in data infrastructure, creating the premier criminal justice data resource covering hundreds of millions of events occurring in thousands of jurisdictions across the United States. In the course of development, we have developed novel strategies and techniques to solve long-standing data integration and harmonization problems that have previously prevented progress in this area.

Among our breakthroughs was the development of our Text-based Offense Classification (TOC) tool, developed in collaboration with Measures for Justice. This offense-integration solution leverages machine-learning assisted techniques and is now publicly available for use by other stakeholders hindered by the painstaking task of hand-coding offense descriptions.

Our Work

Through our work, we are creating opportunities to conduct high-quality, impactful research on the U.S. justice system, with special focus on making data accessible to a diverse and interdisciplinary user base.

While rooted in academia, our dedication to data accessibility extends to tools and products specifically geared towards policy-makers, journalists, non-profit organizations, students, and the public at large. Our Justice Outcomes Explorer epitomizes this effort—a public, free-to-use web portal offering interactive access to aggregated criminal justice and socioeconomic statistics, some linked together for the very first time.

As CJARS continues to grow in the years to come, we will continue to innovate, creating the highest quality data on the justice system and advancing our understanding of the determinants of crime and the impacts of public policy.


Executive Summary

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Learn more from our informational video!