DYS Data Dashboard
The use of data in making juvenile justice management decisions is becoming more recognized as a valid and critical tool to achieve desired outcomes. National organizations such as the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA) and the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) are leading the way in educating juvenile correctional leaders in the value of data informed decision making.
Alabama DYS experience with these organizations helped the Department to recognize that even though a wealth of data was being collected within the agency, there was an opportunity to strengthen the analysis of the information. Since the Department’s data collection crossed a number of areas within the Department, a Data Committee was established to evaluate what information was being collected and how that data could help the agency in management decision-making. Representatives from the Executive Office, legal, programming, and support services participated on the Data Committee.
The Department of Youth Services maintains two primary databases to collect information on youth served. The Student Information Management System (SIMS) is a repository of information on youth who are committed to the care and custody of the Department. The Grant Information Management System (GIMS) collects information on youth who participate in DYS funded community diversion grant programs.
Fiscal year 2015 fell within the funding application cycle for the diversion grants. Bi-annually, the Department accepts applications for the funding of community based diversion grants. These grants offer local jurisdictions the opportunity to create program within their communities to serve delinquent youth who otherwise would be committed to DYS.
The Data Committee identified the diversion grant program as an ideal opportunity to enhance available data for decision-making. Previously, these grant applications were viewed and evaluated by agency staff using a grading system which considered the populations to be served and the program description provided in the application narrative. For the FY 2016 funding cycle, a data dashboard was developed to measure parameters that the Data Committee had established to identify grant programs that were achieving desired outcomes.
The Diversion Grant Data Dashboard was developed by the DYS Information Technology group using information contained in the GIMS database, juvenile court case data provided by the Administrative Office of Courts and NCJJ, and at risk population data from the University of Alabama and NCJJ.
Highlights of the dashboard were its ability to graphically illustrate data by county and the diversion grant programs available to that county. Line graphs, bar graphics, and pie charts indicated the number of juvenile delinquency cases over multiple years and the rate of cases per 1,000 at-risk youth. A ratio of admissions to DYS compared to the court case ratio was illustrated by multiple years for both an individual county and the state as a whole.
In addition, individual grant programs could be illustrated showing the number of referred youth and the sources of referrals, number served and county of orgin, youth offenses, and age of diverted youth.
The Department of Youth Services senior management staff were able to use the Dashboard to make funding decisions for the upcoming diversion grant funding cycle. Based upon the information, it was determined that some programs should be funded at the level requested, others were funded at a level reflecting their prior outcomes, and some were identified to not receive continued funding.
Overall, DYS management felt that the Data Committee had been quite successful in its mission to help the Department become more capable of utilizing data and analytics to make better-informed decisions. The work of the Data Committee is anticipated to expand in FY 2016.