Justice Efficiencies and
Access to the Justice System
5. Management information: effective case management requires management information.
The justice system is, in some respects, an information system. It gathers, analyzes and evaluates information about someone or something in light of legal information. Considering the volume of information the system handles it is ironic that so little information about the system is widely available. A great deal is known about each case and very little about cases in aggregate. Knowledge, in the form of statistics or management information, is a crucial component in understanding exactly what is going on and where to develop and focus initiatives.
There is a large body of national data at the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics that is supplemented by local data in many jurisdictions. Certainly the quality and usefulness of data can always be improved. Meaningful comparisons over time and location require standard definitions and protocols. Something as basic as what is “one case” can mean different things to different participants within jurisdictions and nationally and can produce very different data as a result.
Case processing time data is important for many case management decisions, especially in relation to policy development and establishment of local resource targets. Yet it paints different pictures depending on whether the time when a warrant is outstanding is counted or not in the data.
But even given these concerns, the information currently available is extensive and valuable. It appears a major impediment is lack of demand for the information or lack of capacity to utilize it. This should change. The Justice Information Council, composed of the provincial deputy ministers responsible for justice in Canada, should attach a higher priority to the collection and dissemination of information about the justice system generally and case flow in particular, and jurisdictions should ensure they fully exploit the potential of CCJS.
Better information is needed to ensure we understand both the problem and the alleged solution. The Centre of Criminology of the University of Toronto study notes a dearth of research on the nature and sources of the case processing problems and suggests that some assumptions about procedures to improve the efficiency of the courts are incorrect. The report indicates that preliminary inquires might actually enhance case processing time.
We may be closer to useful data than appears. Utilizing data, made available through information technology, can assist each sector to actively manage their own process issues; and jointly develop strategies to address issues that involve one or more of them so they can collectively ensure the justice system makes effective use of its time and resources.
Integrated management information systems such as Justice Enterprise Information System (JEIN) in Nova Scotia and Justice Information System (JUSTIN) in BC connect parts of the justice system and provide certain types of process information, which can be used for management purposes. These systems may also provide ready access to information about movement of prisoners, case status, correctional histories and other information necessary to the efficient management and analysis of court systems.
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