Sixteen Experts Comment on What Can Be Done to Eliminate Errors in the Criminal Justice System
Date:  09-12-2014

Errors in criminal justice system rarely isolated event, new report claims
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) released a downloadable book “Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews” that includes commentaries from 16 respected criminal justice experts.

“Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews” helps answer the important question “What should the criminal justice system do when it commits an error?” The NIJ claims that the usual answer is inadequate and incorrect. The NIJ writes:

A common response is to seek out “bad apples,” apportion blame, and conclude that the error has been dealt with once that individual is punished or a policy is changed.

But errors in a complex system are rarely the result of a single act or event. In medicine, aviation and other high-risk enterprises, serious errors are regarded as system errors or “organizational accidents.” Organizational accidents are potential “sentinel events,” incidents that could signal more complex flaws that threaten the integrity of the system as a whole. These other complex systems have developed sentinel event reviews — nonblaming, all-stakeholder, forward-leaning mechanisms — to go beyond disciplining rule-breakers in an effort to minimize the risk of similar errors in the future and improve overall system reliability.

In addition to a message from Eric Holder, and an opening essay from James Doyle titled , “Learning From Error in the Criminal Justice System: Sentinel Event Reviews,” Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews” also includes the following commentaries from esteemed criminal justice practitioners:

John Chisholm, “Moving Beyond a Culture of Defensiveness and Isolation”

Michael Jacobson, “To Learn Something, Do Something”

Maddy deLone, “No Sticks: Safe Spaces and a Desire to Get Ever Better”

Bernard Melekian, “The Dilemma of the Moral Imperative” Dan Simon, “Front-end and Back-end Solutions”

Mark Houldin, “Stepping Back to Move Forward: Recognizing Fallibility and Interdependency”

Jack R. Greene, “Egg Heads Matter: Academic/Agency Partnerships and Organizational Learning”

Greg Matheson, “An Opportunity We Cannot Afford to Lose”

Jennifer Thompson, “The Blame Game”

Russell F. Canan, “Innocence Commissions: The Case for Criminal Justice Partnerships”

Jim Bueermann, “High Expectations, Good Intentions and Normalized Policy Deviation: A Sentinel Event”

George Gascón, “Using Sentinel Events to Promote System Accountability”

Frank P. Tona, “Cold Case Homicides: Ideal Candidates for Sentinel Event Review”

John R. Firman, “Building a Learning-From-Error Culture in Policing”

Sean Smoot, “Punishment-Based vs. Education-Based Discipline: A Surmountable Challenge?”

Jon Shane, “Reducing Failure: A View of Policing Through an Organizational Accident Lens”

Read “Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews” here