NIJ Conference Panel
Welcome to NIJ's Annual Conference. And to those of you who have come from out of town, welcome to our beautiful city, Washington, D.C.
I know that most of you know who NIJ is. We are the research, evaluation and development arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. But many of you may not know who I am. My name is Kristina Rose, and I'm the Acting Director of the National Institute of Justice and was designated as such on January 20th of this year. I never in a million years thought I would be lucky enough to be serving in this capacity during such an important time in our country's history and such an historic point in the Department of Justice.
Many, many, many years ago, my mother gave me my first Nancy Drew detective book.
And by the time I finished that first chapter, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to work in criminal justice. And little did I know that decades later I would be standing at this podium today welcoming you to NIJ's Annual Conference as NIJ's Acting Director. Well, let me just tell you, I am most honored and humbled.
This is such an exciting time to be working at NIJ. We have a President, we have an Attorney General, and we have an Acting Assistant Attorney General who all believe strongly in science and in its role to shape criminal justice policy and practice. Today we are lucky enough to be able to hear directly from Attorney General Eric Holder and Acting Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. And their presence here today is a wonderful testament to their strong commitment to the work that all of you do and to the renewed emphasis on research at the Department of Justice.
But before we get started, I want to take a few minutes to give you kind of a big picture of what's in store for you this week — what my Communications Division people call the 40,000.foot view. And let me start by making a few statements about what NIJ stands for and what we believe in.
NIJ believes that research and evaluation make a difference in the safety and well.being of individuals and communities. It is this conviction that has sustained NIJ for over 40 years, and keeps us working hard to produce good research about what works in crime and justice.
NIJ believes that government-funded research must be awarded through open and fair competition and through rigorous peer review. This has always been a cornerstone of our agency, and it remains so today.
NIJ believes that our research agenda must be driven by real.world issues. We rely heavily on the input of practitioners and policymakers like yourselves. NIJ believes that the best policies and programs are those that are based on scientific evidence. We believe in evidence-based programs for criminal justice.
"Evidence-based programs," "evidence-based policies" — these phrases can be so overused, and at times they lose their meaning. So, let me tell you what NIJ means by evidence-based programs and policies. Criminal justice programs are evidence-based when science is the central foundation of what a policy, a program or a practice attempts to do. But let me give you a few examples.
Evidence has shown that having a sexual assault nurse examiner, or a SANE, collect evidence in sexual assault cases not only increases the reporting of sexual assault, it increases the prosecution of those cases. Evidence has shown that policing that is targeted to specific crime problems in specific places can effectively prevent crime without displacing it to somewhere else. Evidence has shown that firearms violence among young men can be prevented using research-driven approaches. And you will hear about some of these approaches at this conference.
It's studies like these that are crucial to making our communities safer. And how do we do that? We use science, social science, technological science and, of course, forensic science. Improving the forensic sciences is one of our top priorities at NIJ.
When we think of forensics, we most often think of DNA. But we shouldn't forget that there are many forensics beyond DNA. And of course, the recent report published by the National Academy of Sciences talks about our nation's need to improve the reliability of non.DNA forensic science. And that's one reason I'm very excited to tell you about a new solicitation that NIJ recently issued to improve our understanding of the accuracy, the reliability and the measurement validity of forensic science.
And what do we hope to get from this research? Well, many things, including the reliability of firearms and tool mark identification, fire debris analysis and arson scene investigation, fingerprint evidence, blood pattern analysis, digital evidence. But one thing in particular that we want to examine is the potential for human error in these non.DNA analyses.
Another of our top priorities is building and improving research-practitioner relationships. And we currently have an open solicitation, which is just one piece of a long-term strategy geared toward that goal.
And in this solicitation, NIJ is looking for applicants who are interested in being what we call a "junior faculty grant program." In this program, we pair senior faculty members with a new, or junior, faculty member to conduct a research project within a practice-based organization, like a law enforcement agency or a corrections agency. The junior faculty member will be mentored by the senior faculty member, who will already have a solid relationship with that law enforcement agency or corrections agency or a court.
Our goal is to infuse researchers with the thinking of practitioners, as well as inform practitioner agencies through the thinking and approaches of research and, most importantly, to pass these connections on to the next generation of criminologists. Now, I wish I could take credit for this myself. But this, as do many of some of our best ideas, come from the field.
In the time I have left, which is not long here, I want to share with you a few examples of why criminal justice research matters. What do we know today because of criminal justice research that we didn't know before?
We know that research has helped prosecutors show juries how accidental — "accidental" — bruises in the elderly may actually be bruises by an abusive family member or a caregiver. We know that therapeutic, structured drug treatment programs can reduce recidivism, through community corrections, drug court supervision or when people re-enter the community following imprisonment. We know that collecting DNA in burglary cases results in twice the number of suspect IDs, arrests and prosecutions as collecting only fingerprint evidence.
We know that gang violence can be prevented and that kids who use guns to solve differences can be led down a path that avoids violence. We know that conducted energy devices, like Tasers, while not without risk, can be a safe and effective tool when deployed effectively. And we know that the use of advanced information and geospatial tools and technologies can help law enforcement agencies to better target their scarce resources as they fight crime every day.
And over the next few days, you'll have an opportunity to hear all about the research I've mentioned. People have come from all over this country, and the world, to tell you how research is making a critical difference in our lives every day. I implore you to take advantage of every minute.
Now conferences like these don't happen without the assistance of some very, very talented individuals. First, I would like to thank the people at Marriott for their usual outstanding hospitality and support.
And I want to thank Maria Young, from Palladian Partners, whose cool and calm approach to conference planning kept us all sane and focused.
And I want to thank the fearless NIJ conference team, headed by Jolene Hernon, who is our communications chief. Jolene, Melissa Marmer Cohen, Yolanda Curtis and Lois Tully, thank you. Thank you for your energy, your enthusiasm and for helping to make this conference all it can be.
And finally, I want to thank all of the NIJ staff for putting together three days' worth of exciting and thought-provoking panels and doing it with such passion and commitment. You are extraordinary individuals, and I am so proud to work with you each and every day.
Now I would like to introduce a very special person. Many of you will remember Laurie Robinson from her earlier appointment as our Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs under Janet Reno during the Clinton administration. We in OJP are delighted that Laurie has returned.
She spent the last five years at the University of Pennsylvania as the director of the master's program in criminal justice. She has also served as a distinguished senior scholar in the university's Jerry Lee Center of Criminology and is the executive director of its Forum on Crime and Justice.
Anyone who knows Laurie knows of her fierce commitment and passion for the work of state and local crime fighters, like those of you in this room. She is a great champion for the work of NIJ and for the importance of research and program evaluation. We are so fortunate to have her back with us again to lead OJP. And we are thrilled that she is here to open this conference.
I am one of those lucky people that can say she is not only my boss, but she is a mentor and a friend.
Please welcome our Acting Assistant Attorney General, Laurie Robinson.
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Moderator: Kristina Rose, Acting Director, National Institute of Justice Panelists:
Date Modified: September, 25 2009