Because youth in the juvenile justice system also encounter many other systems—before and after their juvenile justice involvement—the sharing of information across systemic boundaries can help these youth to achieve better outcomes. Done well, the sharing of personally identifiable information can reduce duplication of effort (e.g. multiple assessments) and enhance understanding of the youth’s needs and circumstances for coordinated case planning, all in service of the ultimate goal of reducing the youth’s unnecessary penetration further into the juvenile justice system.
At the same time, there are important legal, constitutional, and ethical principles that protect the privacy of certain types of information in each of these systems. Reconciling these two potentially contradictory principles is a primary challenge to those developing Category One information sharing projects. Moreover, advances in technology provide both opportunities and challenges to managing these sometimes conflicting values.
Legal, constitutional and ethical concerns
The collection and disclosure of information that may or does identify an individual raises important legal, constitutional and ethical concerns regarding privacy. Consequently, Information sharing and reporting protocols must be imbedded with basic legal, constitutional and ethical principles regarding the confidentiality of personally identifiable information. These tenets are described in more detail in the Principles section. Briefly stated here, there is a presumption of non-disclosure of personally identifiable information. At the same time, in certain circumstances – for example, to provide coordinated care to youth – there may be a need to share personally identifiable information. In such situations, the presumption is that information shall be shared with the authorization of the individual and only to the extent necessary to carry out the narrow purpose. Moreover, Federal and state laws also define limited situations in which personally identifiable information must be or can be disclosed without an individual’s authorization. This includes, for example, state mandated child abuse reporting laws and other laws that require disclosure for public safety reasons.
Advances in technology have demanded change in how information is shared, managed, and secured. Technology’s role in the information sharing process has increased the need to improve business practices and ensure that the information that is exchanged between systems is accurate and is being viewed by only those that have the right to view it or access it. Guiding principles for implementing a successful information sharing system include:
--> Align Business and Technology. The multiple agencies involved in the information sharing effort must understand their business functions within the collaborative and the role of technology in support of the business functions. The agencies have joint responsibility for defining technology needs. They must ensure that individual systems participating in the information sharing enterprise fulfill the collaborative business and technical needs and overall objectives. They also should implement agreed-upon national standards and state information sharing protocols to ensure they are aligned from a technical perspective.
--> Design for Sharing. The systems of individual partner agencies must be designed to facilitate information sharing across systems and boundaries with partnering agencies and organizations.
--> Incorporate Security Elements. All new systems must include access controls and security requirements to ensure that the data is protected and that the systems are not susceptible to threats.
--> Design for Growth. Ensure that the technical infrastructure accommodates growth to create the lowest total cost of ownership while creating flexibility for future growth of the systems.
--> Design for Performance and Outcomes. Implement technology to capture performance measurements to support management and analysis.