Mr. Arnold Hopkins
Special Assistant to the
Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice

Dear Mr. Hopkins:

Per our conversation on July 8, 1999, 1 am responding to your request regarding SEARCH's participation as a member of the technical assistance response team for the Rio Arriba, New Mexico, Community Health and Justice project. SEARCH would be pleased to provide information systems technical assistance to public safety organizations in this community.

As you know, SEARCH's National Technical Assistance and Training Program, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, has, for over 12 years, provided specialized technical assistance to local and state justice agencies in assessing existing automated information systems, and planning for, acquiring, developing, upgrading and integrating both existing and new automated systems. Assistance is provided to all justice components of a state or local jurisdiction, including law enforcement, prosecutor, public defender, courts, jails, corrections, probation/parole, juvenile justice and other related organizations. SEARCH assistance also aids local, State and Federal justice agencies integrate and share information with one another.

In addition, SEARCH and OJP, through the Drug Courts Program Office, are providing technical assistance to Drug Courts across the nation in their efforts to plan for, design, develop, procure and/or implement drug court evaluation and management information systems, as well as integrate those systems with the entire justice community. Integration and access to complete and accurate information will allow judges at the bench to make the best decisions about an individual's treatment and to evaluate the continued success of that treatment. Expertise in this area and the knowledge gained from this project will no doubt be of assistance to Rio Arriba.

Given our long-term and wide-ranging nationwide experience in these areas, it would be appropriate for SEARCH to provide justice information system technical assistance to Rio Arriba. I have enclosed a package of materials that describes the SEARCH and the National Technical Assistance Program for your review.

Justice agencies rely on instant access to critical information on offenders and their status in the justice system; indeed, public safety is dependent on judges accessing an offender's up-to-date criminal history for appropriate review, evaluation and sentencing, a police officer obtaining a suspect's outstanding warrant history real-time via computer in the patrol car, and a jailer establishing positive identification of an inmate at booking and release. Information systems are the cornerstone of successful public safety and crime prevention efforts.

Information systems planning and implementation, however, is rarely a short-term project, and to maximize the success for technical assistance in this area, I would suggest that SEARCH could be of assistance to Rio Arriba in the immediate, short and long-terrn technical assistance categories defined for this project. Within the first three months of the project ("immediate technical assistance"), SEARCH could assist by conducting a review and assessment of the community's public safety information systems, the data and information they capture, maintain, and share, as well as analyze those systems' individual and system-wide functionality. From this review and analysis, SEARCH will issue a report of findings and recommendations about those systems.

Given the objectives of this project, we feel it is key that an information systems assessment take place early in the process, as it will impact and need to be considered when crafting the vision, mission, goals and objectives for the planned infrastructure that would support a "balanced and comprehensive approach to reduce substance abuse and control associated crime".

In the short- and long-term technical assistance categories that span the next 9-12 months,

SEARCH could be available to provide assistance to the public safety agencies as they

move forward with any number of public safety information system planning and enhancement efforts or new systems planning and implementation.

Access to timely, accurate and complete data and information on offender activities that is shared broadly within the justice system will enhance a variety of efforts that Rio Arriba and ON have planned for this project, including complete and effective evaluation and assessment of at-risk individuals and the development of effective treatment and crime prevention strategies. Indeed, information systems will be a core component of the ON recommendation that Rio Arriba implement an "infrastructure designed to link Federal, State and local public health and safety initiatives and resources in a comprehensive, balanced approach aimed at reducing the demand for illegal substances, interdicting drug trafficking and its associated crimes, and revitalizing communities coping with the stress of widespread chemical dependency."

Please call me if you have any questions about this letter, the technical assistance program, or would like to discuss any of these issues further. I look forward to working with you and SEARCH is pleased to be part of this critical and worthwhile effort.

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