A new report from the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University’s School of Social Work details the ways that Michigan’s criminal justice system fails to keep records and data regarding inmates and conditions in detention facilities. According to the study, the number of children who are in the juvenile justice system in Michigan is unknown. And it says Michigan has no way to accurately measure recidivism in Michigan. Those are just two examples.
“To tackle a problem, you have to be able to identify the problem … When different state-level actors do not share data with each other about these structural inequities, I think we have a larger problem.” —Sheryl Kubiak, Wayne State University
Authors of the article write that “the culmination of this research and analysis confirmed just how much information is missing, and how much is unknown to the public and practitioners about Michigan’s justice systems.”
Listen: WSU Social Work Dean Sheryl Kubiak talks about the real-life consequences of lax criminal justice data.
Sheryl Kubiak is the dean of the Wayne State University School of Social Work and the report’s lead author. She says the lack of comprehensive data is a significant barrier for efforts to improve the criminal justice system.
“To tackle a problem, you have to be able to identify the problem,” says Kubiak. “When different state-level actors do not share data with each other about these structural inequities, I think we have a larger problem.”
Public officials, advocates and researchers who are calling attention to these issues have been using the refrain, “Missing data is missing people,” a phrase Kubiak attributes to Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who has been heading up efforts to address some of these issues on the state level.
“The further you penetrate into the criminal legal system, the more difficult it is to get out,” says Kubiak. “There’s a lot of consequences of not knowing who is going in and who is coming out.”