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UAlbany's Center for Technology in Government Advances Information Sharing Among Justice Agencies

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 11, 2006) -- The Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany today announced the release of a new resource, Sharing Justice Information: A Capability Assessment Toolkit. The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (OJP) funded the project in 2004 to create a toolkit that promotes information-sharing capabilities within and across justice agencies. The multiyear project reflects a broad consensus that integrating justice information has the potential to save lives, time, and dollars.

"Achieving the benefits of integrated justice information can be a very challenging task," said Anthony Cresswell, deputy director of CTG. "As many of us working with government know, planning an integration initiative requires a solid understanding of capabilities, not just technical, but also the organizational and political capabilities."

The Toolkit helps those responsible for planning and implementing information sharing and integration initiatives to answer two key questions: what is our current capability for sharing and integrating information among the organizations involved? and how can these organizations build higher levels of sharing and integration capability? The Toolkit defines sixteen basic capability dimensions and provides a detailed survey for those involved in the initiative to assess organizational, technical, and policy-related aspects of capability. The results of the assessment can help determine how to fill gaps in capability both within and across organizations.

"Information sharing initiatives are extremely complex, so agencies must constantly assess their organizational and technical capabilities," said Regina B. Schofield, assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). "The toolkit can save time and money while providing a necessary and user-friendly guide for justice information sharing among agencies. In some cases, an agency could complete a mini-assessment of certain system components in as little as an afternoon."

The Toolkit was developed through extensive collaboration with justice system practitioners and leadership organizations. These included the National Governor's Association, National Association of State Chief Information Officers, and the Justice Information Sharing Professionals. In addition, the usability of the Toolkit was tested in field trials in a state-wide initiative, a large city, and at the county-level. It was also examined by justice professionals from several smaller jurisdictions for usability and validity in those settings.

"Many times, organizations jump into implementing a technology solution without doing the up front assessment to really understand and quantify the underlying business needs. It is like shooting in the dark," said Brian Richards, IJIS program manager and CLETS project manager for the County of Sacramento, California, one of the field trials. "With the assessment, we were able to review a comprehensive metric that reflects the 'overall health' of our integrated justice initiative. It provided a retrospective and strategic focus to the work to be performed."

One of the key design goals for the Toolkit was to make it useful in a wide range of justice settings. Therefore the Toolkit includes materials and instructions for use in various settings, ranging from small sharing initiatives that might involve only a single agency, up to multistate initiatives involving many separate state and local agencies. The Toolkit is available in two formats. The print version is a workbook format that can be easily duplicated and distributed to smaller numbers of participants, and results combined by hand. An online interactive version, hosted on the OJP website, provides for collection and summarizing of data into meaningful results, as well as collaborative tools to facilitate use by larger numbers of participants in distributed environments.

Access the Toolkit in print or online.

The Center for Technology in Government is an applied research center devoted to improving government and public services through policy, management, and technology innovation. The Center, located at the University at Albany, works with government to develop well-informed information strategies that foster innovation and enhances the quality and coordination of public services. For more information visit the Center's Web site.


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