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What Criminal Justice Can Learn From Its Bad Outcomes

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2018
2 pages
This article discusses the rationale for and the features of the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Sentinel Events Initiative (SEI).
A "sentinel event" is a "significant negative outcome" in the criminal justice system, such as the conviction of a person who is later proven to be innocent of the conviction offense. The SEI involves mobilizing a system-oriented approach in a review process focused on the sentinel event. It supports the local development of a review process in which all actors, including law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, victims, advocates, and other relevant parties conduct a forward-looking review of a sentinel event for the purpose of identifying and countering system weaknesses that contributed to the sentinel event. In addressing factors that eliminate the need for future compensation and lawsuits, sentinel-event reviews can help mitigate the costs associated with these events and prevent them from recurring. The NIJ recently launched a $1.6 million national sentinel event demonstration project in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance. This project will support state and local sentinel-event review panels across the country. It will assist jurisdictions in learning how to best examine system weaknesses and produce locally tailored solutions to mitigate risk and improve performance.

Date Published: February 1, 2018