Measures for Justice
“Jewish values embrace the right of the individual to justice, truth, and peace. These are essential, but invisible, qualities of a good life. My work is to make the invisible visible. To ensure that the way we treat each other is never secret, but transparent. So that people can stand up for the individual and preempt travesties well before they have a chance to take hold.”
Today the U.S. leads the industrialized world in incarceration. With only five percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of the world’s prison population, a tremendous amount of resources has been invested into the system without the fundamental data necessary to determine whether spending is actually reducing crime, improving fairness, or lessening recidivism. And yet state and federal spending on corrections has grown 400% over the past 20 years—becoming one of the fastest growing line items in state budgets.
Those impacted are disproportionately nonwhite. One in 6 black men has spent time in prison as opposed to 1 in 39 white men. The upshot is a system that doesn’t work equally well for everyone.
Believing that “you cannot change what you can’t see,” Measures for Justice’s solution is to begin, simply, with the facts—to supply legislators, practitioners, change makers, everyone with the data they need to channel resources appropriately, to focus reform efforts wisely, and to replicate best practices. The work stands to affect millions of Americans and will be the foundation for a model that can be exported to countries worldwide.
Amy Bach is the Founder, Executive Director and President of Measures for Justice, an organization that measures criminal justice performance by collecting, cleaning, and coding county-level criminal justice data.
She founded the organization as a follow-up to her acclaimed book, Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court, which won the 2010 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. The book demonstrated how well-intentioned prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys can become so inured to patterns of problems, they no longer see them.