Addressing Emerging Trends to Support the Future of Criminal Justice

Findings of the Criminal Justice Technology Forecasting Group

by John S. Hollywood, Dulani Woods, Andrew Lauland, Brian A. Jackson, Richard Silberglitt


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Mind Map from Criminal Justice Technology Forecasting Group Meeting 3

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Research Questions

  1. What did the group find were effects that major technology and social trends could have on criminal justice in the next three to five years? What are some potential responses?
  2. What are the results of the CJTFG's meetings and initiatives?
  3. What are some potential ways forward?

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has established the Criminal Justice Technology Forecasting Group (CJTFG), an expert advisory panel that includes both practitioners and researchers to deliberate on the effects that major technology and social trends could have on criminal justice in the next three to five years and identify potential responses. This report captures the results from the CJTFG's meetings and initiatives. It presents the emerging trends and highlights of the group's discussion about them. It then presents the results of analyses to assess connections between the trends, leading to recognizing the crosscutting themes that those connections represent. In addition, the report presents analyses to generate a set of recommended ways to address the trends that the full group reviewed and approved.

The CJTFG covered a wide range in topics in its deliberations, identifying close to two dozen trends contributing to six overarching themes along with their potential impacts. The group, with the assistance of the RAND Corporation, BJA, and the Institute for Intergovernmental Research, has identified more than a dozen ways ahead in response and sponsored initiatives in direct support of four of these ways ahead.

Key Findings

A Lack of Business Cases, Implementation Processes, and Security, Privacy, and Civil Rights Knowledge Hamper IT Opportunities

  • Few know how to use and acquire many of the new technologies efficiently and effectively. Few know about the security, privacy, and civil rights protections needed to employ them safely.

Business Cases and Processes for Technologies Are Lacking

  • Business processes for operationalizing new technologies are lacking.

Big Data and Analytics Are Emerging

  • The emergence of analytics, big data, and situational awareness displays, devices, and data streams offers substantial opportunities, barriers, and risks for the criminal justice community.

Security, Privacy, and Civil Rights See Challenges from New Technologies

  • Cybersecurity protections and investigations are increasingly needed.
  • Emerging surveillance technologies require new legal foundations.
  • Increasing commercial pressures on unbreakable encryption might be hampering criminal investigations.

The Field Needs to Get to Criminal Justice Community–Wide Integration

  • Information must be integrated and shared, and digital evidence must be managed on a massive scale, if the field is to systematically benefit from new technologies.

Safety and Community Relations Need Research and Development to Improve

  • Agencies are facing pressures to adopt community-based models of law enforcement while pressure also mounts to crack down on violence and terrorism. Accountability, body-worn cameras, and improved less-lethal weapons are needed.

New Technologies Bring New Challenges

  • Implementing new technology, such as touch and rapid DNA and remote weapon detection, could have serious and unintended consequences but also major and unanticipated benefits.


  • Develop common business cases and process templates for operationalizing new technologies.
  • Conduct research to improve how criminal justice technology information is made available to both practitioners and researchers.
  • Integrate security, privacy, and civil rights protections into the common business processes for adapting new technologies.
  • Educate the public on how criminal justice technologies work or (do not work) in the real world.
  • Collect data on the going-dark problem of investigators being unable to access devices with strong encryption.
  • Research how to change organizational cultures to support information-sharing and safeguarding.
  • Develop regional and shared-services models for information-sharing capabilities.
  • Identify practices and technologies that can both reduce crime and improve community relations.
  • Explore exchanges with international partners on how to use cameras for investigative and accountability purposes.
  • Develop new immobilization and restraint devices to provide alternatives to lethal uses of force.
  • Assess the potential of remote weapon-detection capabilities.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and conducted by the Justice Policy Program within RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

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