Frequently Asked Questions

What is CJARS?

The Criminal Justice Adminstrative Records System is a pilot project at the University of Michigan in cooperation with partners at the U.S. Census Bureau. We aim to create the first national research repository of criminal justice information at the offender level.

What data is CJARS collecting?

With state and local partners across the United States, we are collecting individual-level administrative records that cover every criminal incident from start to finish. That includes police records of arrest and release, booking and jail records, court proceedings and dispositions, sentencing and sanctions, as well as records from incarceration, probation, and parole. These data will be harmonized and merged across states and localities to form a linked nationwide repository. Our partners at the U.S. Census Bureau contribute individual social, economic, and demographic information into this repository and remove all personally identifiable information. With the working aggregated data, CJARS can provide useful measures and reports back to participating agencies.

How will participating in CJARS benefit criminal justice agencies?

State and local agencies that participate will receive regular, confidential reports that draw on the strengths of CJARS: our broad scope, non-justice data, and analytic expertise. We can provide detailed metrics on criminal justice outcomes like recidivism, but also social and economic measures such as employment and wage history, use of government programs, and veteran status. Additionally, participating agencies will be able to see how they compare with other, anonymized, jurisdictions.

How is CJARS different from other interstate record-sharing systems?

Many other interstate systems exist, such as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or the Interstate Identification Index, but are designed to help justice agencies share information about specific individuals. CJARS instead helps justice agencies gain a broader view of groups and caseloads, leveraging the social and economic data available through our partners at the U.S. Census Bureau. Our participating agencies will be receiving reports that will detail features of their own aggregate caseloads that go beyond criminal justice data. Our priority with these reports is to help jurisdictions better understand their own processes and to improve criminal justice administration.

How does CJARS maintain data security?

Data collected in the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System are secured at the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan. CJARS has a dedicated, fully-encrypted server designed to FISMA specifications. It is positioned behind three firewalls, one dedicated exclusively to CJARS, with two-factor authorization required for access. The CJARS server is physically housed in a secure computing environment, with 24/7 environmental monitoring. IT staff at ISR have a proven record of securing sensitive data for large-scale projects, including Army STARRS, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, and the National Survey of Family Growth. Nothing is more important to us than our commitment to maintaining the security and confidentiality of our data.