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Integrated Justice Information System – electronic information sharing

By Leopoldo Vasquez III, Board Secretary

portrait of Leopoldo Vasquez III
Leopoldo Vasquez III, Board Secretary
Recognizing the value of sharing information electronically among local, state and federal agencies, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has been involved in the development of an integrated justice information system that will allow for the electronic exchange of offender information.

Two projects have played a significant role in the development of this system, the NIEM (National Information Exchange Model), which was developed and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, and the Texas Path to NIEM, a state initiative.

The NIEM was developed to distribute and support information exchange standards and processes, and to enable organizations to share critical information in emergency situations. The standards adopted by NIEM, known as the Global Justice XML Data Model, were developed by the Department of Justice and are specifically designed for the exchange of information within justice and public safety communities. The Global Justice XML Data Model lets local systems maintain their data structures while developing a common framework that connects, adapts and exchanges criminal justice transactions at the federal, state and local levels.

The Texas Path to NIEM was an interagency effort between the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Office of Court Administration (OCA) and TDCJ. Working in cooperation with the Texas Integrated Justice Information Systems Committee, the Texas Path to NIEM defined strategies and goals, and devised a roadmap to promote statewide information sharing and achieve NIEM compliance in a way that meets the needs of all stakeholders. The committee consists of representatives from many of the county and local criminal justice agencies, as well as the Department of Information Resources, the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division, the Texas Association of Counties, the Conference of Urban Counties and the Texas Supreme Court Judicial Committee on Information Technology.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding with DPS and the OCA, TDCJ contributed $25,000 to the Texas Path to NIEM project for the development of information exchanges that would benefit the agency. As a result, a total of 28 modules were developed, to include the electronic exchange of the TDCJ Pen Packet. The pen packet is an offender information packet that contains multiple documents that must be collected and submitted by local criminal justice agencies before an offender can be incarcerated in TDCJ. It includes the offense report, indictment, standardized felony judgment, jail conduct, detainers and the pen packet checklist. These documents, which are currently provided in paper form, can now be converted for electronic exchange. Modules for TDCJ information exchanges have also been developed for sex offender registrations, Notice to Trial officials, inmate ready lists, pre-post sentence investigations, and victim impact statements.

As of mid-August, the structure for the TDCJ Integrated Justice Information System was in place with initial testing underway. Tarrant County began pilot testing the information exchange structure in late September using the indictment form. Full implementation of the system could take five or more years as the courts and local criminal justice agencies that share data with TDCJ develop their own integrated justice information systems.

In support of this information sharing, the Texas Supreme Court Judicial Committee on Information Technology passed a ruling that as courts upgrade or create new information systems on or after September 1, 2009, justice information data exchanges between courts and justice agencies shall be compliant with the information exchanges developed by the Texas Path to NIEM.

The electronic sharing of criminal justice information between participating agencies, the courts, and local government will allow the timely processing of offender documentation, reduce the size of the offender’s paper file and eliminate the need to reenter information at each level. The system will also align the goals of Texas with the federal government to exchange justice information and will aid communication in emergency situations. By adopting NIEM standards, Texas will join a community of more than 30 states whose justice, public safety and homeland security agencies are developing, or have implemented, information sharing projects utilizing NIEM.

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