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Rochester nonprofit leader wins national honor for work to make criminal justice system transparent

Sep 5, 2018

Amy Bach, executive director, Measures for Justice
Credit John Schlia

The executive director of a Rochester-based organization has won a national award for her work to bring transparency to the criminal justice system.

Amy Bach was awarded the Charles Bronfman Prize.  It's given annually to a humanitarian under the age of 50 whose work, informed by Jewish values, has significantly improved the world.

Bach is a former attorney and journalist. In 2011, she founded Measures for Justice, a nonprofit that collects criminal justice data at the county level.

She says they are a non-partisan data provider.

"The idea is that we give you the content, you generate the change. We don't tell you 'this is really bad in your county,' or 'this was really great in your county.' That's really important, because it's made data usable, in a sense, because it's trusted and it's neutral."

Bach says one prosecutor in Wisconsin used the data to uncover and begin to remedy a disparity in his county where poor people were being treated differently than people of means.

The Measures of Justice data base also inspired lawmakers in the state of Florida to pass a measure requiring  the collection of criminal justice records from all 67 counties and storing the information in one central location. "I still can't believe this happened," Bach said.  She said she hears other states may do the same.

"The idea is there will be this big criminal justice data library where you could begin to do the hard work to figure out how do you make the system more fair, how to you make it safer, and how to you save money,” she explained. “Once you have that, that's why I really think you'll see the improvements."

Measures for Justice currently provides data from six states. New York is not one of them. Bach said they've tried for three years to get access to it, but so far only have information from the five boroughs of New York City.