Race and Criminal Justice in Champaign County: Visualization Tools

This site and the tools presented here were designed by urban and regional planning students in the Civic Technology course led by Dr. Bev Wilson at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are fundamentally changing the way we plan, understand, and experience cities. This course provided students with an introduction to data science fundamentals and emphasized civic technology as bridge between the technologies themselves, what urban planners do, and what communities need. Civic technology can help to help make government more transparent, facilitate more efficient use of existing systems and resources, further social equity, and enhance quality of life.

Working in collaboration with the Champaign County Racial Justice Task Force and local law enforcement agencies, students collected data on policing, arrests, corrections, and legal process for the past five years and have developed a series of web-based tools to support the visualization of this information.

It is our intent and hope that these initial efforts will lead to informed discussion and greater transparency regarding racial disparity in the criminal justice system here in Champaign County and we are actively identifying ways to build on and refine this work.

Directions

Click the 'Web Apps' button at the top of this page to access the visualization tools. You may also click the 'Background' button to learn more.

Application Maintainers

Email Me: Bev Wilson

Overview and Background


During the Fall 2016 semester, a group of fifteen students at the U of I worked with the Champaign County Racial Justice Task Force to (1) collect and centralize data and (2) build web-based tools to allow the visualization of criminal justice data for the county.

The policing working group collected data on incidents, arrests, and reported crimes from each of the four police agencies that participate in the centralized police data management system including: City of Champaign, City of Urbana, Village of Rantoul, U of I Police, and the Champaign County Sheriff. These data were provided by these local police agencies through a formal FOIA request for records beginning January 1, 2010 until September of 2016 (i.e., the date of the requests). The policing working group has created an application that allows users to visualize arrest data maintained in the Area-wide Record Management System (A.R.M.S.) and provided by a subset of these police departments including the City of Champaign, City of Urbana, and University of Illinois. Arrests include police incidents in which an individual is charged with a violation of the law. This means the arrest data includes data for individuals who were issued citations and traffic tickets, along with individuals who were charged with more serious crimes.

Students in the correctional facilities working group collected demographic information as well as legal data (e.g., charges, court dates, release date, etc.) on inmates who were held in one of the county facilities beginning January 1, 2010 until September of 2016 (i.e., the date of the requests). The correctional facilities working group has created an application that allows users to monitor the local jail population in real-time, visualize disparities in what happens to individuals after booking, understand who among these arrestees is unable to make bond, and follow trends in juvenile detention over the past three years.

The third working group focused on the court system and worked with the Champaign County Racial Justice Task Force to file a FOIA request with the Circuit Clerk of Champaign County. This request sought records provided in the clerk's online public access system, but to date there has been no response. The courts working group has instead developed a series of scripts to 'scrape' the desired information from the Circuit Clerk of Champaign County website as a temporary work-around in hopes that the requested data will be provided at a future date. The courts working group has created an application that allows users to visualize disparities in charges and sentencing using the database they have created using these 'scraping' techniques.

These web-based tools were built in R and are currently hosted on the shinyapps.io platform, but the goal is to migrate the tools to the Resourcing Open Geospatial Education and Research (ROGER) system maintained by the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) as a long-term hosting solution.

A plan for the ongoing maintenance and refinements to these tools will be developed over the coming months by Dr. Bev Wilson, interested students, and the Champaign County Racial Justice Task Force. The R code developed by students in the course is available on Github.


The final presentations made during class on December 6, 2016 are available on YouTube

Visualization Tools

Use the buttons below to access the visualization tools by focus area.


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Policing


Access the underlying code for this tool on Github

Go to the Tool!

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Correctional Facilities


Access the underlying code for this tool on Github

Go to the Tool!

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Courts


Access the underlying code for this tool on Github

Go to the Tool!

Image: Public Domain/CC0 1.0

Image: Lionel Allorge/CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0

Image: Public Domain/CC0 1.0