Justice System and Reform

When bad things happen in a complex system, the cause is rarely a single act or a lone "bad apple." More often, an error — or "sentinel event" — actually signals a system-wide problem.

In criminal justice, a sentinel event could be a wrongful conviction or even a "near-miss" that could have led to a bad outcome if it had not been caught. In fact, other high-risk fields, such as aviation and medicine, have seen significant improvements by using a learning-from-error review process that puts all stakeholders at the table to explore errors in a nonblaming, forward-looking way.

Could reviewing sentinel events in a new, innovative way provide important keys to strengthening our criminal justice system and preventing errors in the future? NIJ supports research on a wide range of topics — such as using a sentinel events approach in criminal justice, examining wrongful convictions and improving eyewitness identification — aimed at reducing criminal justice errors and improving the administration of justice.

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Date Created: Novermber 19, 2013