Inequity within the justice system is a major issue facing states and communities across the U.S. As leaders work to find ways to bring more integrity and fairness to the system, utilizing data can shed light on much-needed areas of focus, help inform on demographics and trends and support predictive analysis for system improvements now and in the future. 

The problem

The state of Wisconsin has recognized immense inequality among its youth, specifically within the youth justice system. A young person may be penalized differently within the system from one county to another for the same offense. Reasons for this inequity will vary based on geographical regions, youth demographics, cultural considerations, and urban versus rural population centers.

In the past four years, the state of Wisconsin has documented just over 55,728 youth justice referrals, with four out of five youths having had contact with the Wisconsin Child Protective Services before their first referral. The state saw its lack of a centralized data system and the inability of caseworkers to track youth offense information within the juvenile justice court system as a major roadblock to understanding and correcting disparities within the system.

The solution

CGI has worked with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families - Division of Safety and Permanence for the past 25 years, designing, developing, and implementing Child Welfare Case Management Solutions. When the need arose to develop a data tracking system for youth justice referrals, CGI sprang into action to gain a better understanding of the needs of the stakeholders and begin to work towards a solution.

The result was a robust enhancement to their system, allowing for data collection to input, track, and analyze real-time data related to youth justice referrals.

children playing together
counties monitored
youth justice referrals in the span of four years
Robust data provides a 10,000-foot view that helps shape vision and drive direction. Human-centered design and business process reengineering provide a guide on how to make that vision and direction a reality.

Mitchell George Child Welfare Product Manager, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

kids walking on a log

The benefits

Enhancements to Wisconsin’s Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (eWiSACWIS) allowed for the documentation of youth justice referrals. Since implementing this new functionality, the social workers have documented thousands of referrals. Moreover, an effort by the state to deliver more direct services for youth has resulted in more referrals being closed and counseled before any formal petitions in the court system. The implementation of the enhanced data solution helped stakeholders to better understand:  

  • Specific points and mechanisms by which the system disproportionately impacts young people of color  
  • Which interventions were effective  
  • Where progress is being made  
  • Whether young people are transitioning to successful adulthood  

Wisconsin forward

Wisconsin’s state motto since 1851 has been “Forward,” which is exactly what CGI and Wisconsin have done together – moving forward with youth justice data collection improvements. Over the past several years, the state has introduced new functionality for the workforce, making youth justice case management more uniform across the county-administered state child welfare programs. These new functionalities include a Statewide Youth Justice Court Report allowing for standardizing data presented to the courts. CGI used human-centered design principles and conducted a business processing reengineering project with stakeholders across the state of Wisconsin. These outreach activities are crucial for engaging our families, court partners, facilities, and youth justice professionals.

Wisconsin state house
People working together

Planning for the future

Additionally, the automation of a Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) has been added to the system, allowing our secure detention facilities to administer the assessment quickly and help make decisions regarding detaining the youth. Improvements have been made to the victim restitution process and the ability to track incentives and sanctions. The localized data allows stakeholders to monitor if youth are being treated fairly across all 72 counties across the state. When you collect data, you can begin to assess, measure, and plan for real change in the youth justice system.