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  • Cohort 2022

    The Legal Aid Society

    Transparency and Accountability in the Prosecution Process (TAPP)  

    New York, NY

    Providers of public defense services rely on court administrators and police departments to provide initial information on public defense clients. This information can often be incomplete or inaccurate; for example, it can contain binary gender identity classifications and single-category race and ethnicity identifiers that clients have not self-reported. Because the data available in New York City are limited, the Legal Aid Society must collect information on a case-by-case basis. Attorneys hand-write all basic case information on file jackets during criminal arraignment proceedings, requiring data-entry clerks to manually enter data into the case management system after the proceedings. This inefficient data collection limits the organization’s ability to advocate for clients who are not United States citizens, secure special housing for LGBTQ+ clients, and identify instances of racial discrimination.

    With Catalyst Grant funding, the Legal Aid Society will purchase optical character recognition (OCR) software and scanning equipment, develop a file jacket layout that is compatible with the new software, configure the software to integrate with the existing case management system, and train all attorneys and data-entry clerks on the new process. As there are 20 offices across the city’s five boroughs, each borough plans to pilot the process before it is fully implemented. The OCR software will allow data on clients and cases to be collected faster and more accurately. It will create an unprecedented opportunity to analyze policing and prosecution trends based on reliable data and will be a step toward increased transparency and accountability in the prosecution process.

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