Our favorite criminal justice data visualizations of 2016

by Wendy Sawyer, December 23, 2016

Every year, researchers find new ways to make criminal justice information more accessible and compelling. In 2016, we saw some incredible data visualizations in criminal justice reporting. Here are our five favorite data visualizations from this year, in no particular order:

  • Criminal Charges
    Article by Colin Lecher. Interactive by Frank Bi, designer and developer. Michael Zelenko, editor.
    Verge
    When people are incarcerated, phone calls home are a vital connection to friends, family, and the community. However, those calls come at an exorbitant price. This article uses an innovative time-based data visualization to put that price into a very personal perspective. A timer calculates how much a call from a state prison in your state would cost you if the call was as long as the time it took you to read the accompanying article about the predatory prison telephone industry.
  • Bail, Fines, and Fees
    Vera Institute of Justice
    When you are arrested and booked into jail, you face an expensive choice before you even go to trial. Few people understand the hidden fines and fees that individuals face pre-trial: How much do fees cost? Where do they go? Who pays them?
     
    This 90 second video explains the hidden costs of court-ordered fines, fees, and financial bail in New Orleans, framing bail reform as a common sense choice that benefits everyone.
  • Crime in Context
    By Gabriel Dance and Tom Meagher. Additional reporting by Emily Hopkins and Mark Hansen. Additional production and design by Andy Rossback.
    The Marshall Project
    Is crime in America rising or falling? This year saw upticks in violent crime in some U.S. cities, but the uproar about the “rise in crime” had more to do with how news sources present crime data than dramatic changes in criminal offending. At a time when people can’t agree on facts, this interactive chart of violent crime over time in 68 major cities illustrates how our perceptions of crime change depending on how we look at the numbers.
  • Police have shot and killed at least 2,195 people since Ferguson
    Article by German Lopez and Soo Oh. Interactive map by Soo Oh.
    Vox
    After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, some people were quick to call his death an isolated incident. To counteract this narrative and shed light on use of force by the police, the nonprofit Fatal Encounters tracked all available reports — over 2,000 reported deaths — of fatal shootings by law enforcement since Brown’s death. Vox created an interactive map of this data with information about each victim and incident to make it clear that fatal police shootings are not isolated incidents.
  • Sandra Bland Died One Year Ago & Since Sandra
    Story by Dana Liebelson & Ryan J. Reilly. Data and reporting by Shane Shifflett, with support from a large team of researchers and reporters. Database graphics by Hilary Fung and Alissa Scheller.
    Huffington Post
    Deaths inside American jails frequently go unnoticed. So after Sandra Bland’s death, the Huffington Post aimed to expose exactly how many people die in jail. After a year-long crowd-sourced investigation of jail deaths, its team of researchers created a powerful infographic detailing the most troubling findings. The article links to the full database of all 815 cases of jail deaths (that’s an average of more than two per day) from July 2015-July 2016.

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