Data-Driven Justice?

Research evidence is not simply discovered; it is purchased by the government agencies and philanthropies that pay for evaluation research.


Before you demand a “data-driven” justice system, make sure you know who is actually behind the wheel. 

Evidence does not emerge from a pristine and impartial search for truth. It is subject to the political economy of research. Some basic research studies and statistical analyses may be conducted by academics operating on their own, but evaluation research can be expensive and usually requires outside funding. The evaluation evidence we have today comes from prior investments made by policymakers, government agencies, and foundations. Such investments are not free of bias. They reflect the goals, beliefs, and values of funding bodies as shaped by their cultural, class-based, and demographic biases. When we review the findings of evaluation research, we only see answers to the questions funding sources were willing to ask. What sort of questions do you think they avoid, and how does the lack of such information affect justice policy and community well-being?