Lack of data and transparency has long been an issue with all agencies involved in the criminal justice system in Louisiana, including law enforcement agencies, the courts, the correctional system. Crime in Louisiana remains unacceptably high and a top concern for citizens. To effectively address this issue and achieve positive outcomes requires local and state leaders to advance thoughtful, evidence-based solutions. These solutions can’t be evaluated without proper data.

Recently, the East Baton Rouge District Attorney released a new data portal, called Commons, that aims to bring transparency to the activity in that office. Working with a non-profit organization, Measures for Justice, and a group of stakeholders in the parish, the DA’s office compiled a portal of real-time activity within the office.

EBR DA Hillar Moore emphasized the significance of this initiative, stating “The launch of Commons marks a pivotal moment in our effort to build trust and transparency in our community. By opening up access to our criminal justice data, we are taking a significant step towards ensuring a fair and equitable system for all residents of East Baton Rouge Parish.”

What sets this portal apart from others in Louisiana is its unique features. Unlike typical “transparency” websites that only display annual data, Commons offers more detailed and frequent updates. In addition to basic demographic, crime, and arrest statistics, it provides information on the number of charged cases, trial rates, plea bargains, distinction between violent and non-violent offenses, misdemeanors versus felonies, days until case closure, and much more. Although it may require some effort to delve beyond the surface level, this data can be tremendously valuable for law enforcement, lawmakers, and stakeholders when considering new policies or legislation to address crime in Baton Rouge and Louisiana.

For the criminal justice system to succeed, meaningful data must be collected and shared to make appropriate evaluations of the systems that are currently in place to know what is effective and what needs improvement. Pelican applauds the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office for making the bold first step in advancing transparency. We hope that District Attorney’s throughout the state will take note and follow suit in promoting transparency within their jurisdictions.