The Federal Role in Research on Crime and Justice
Much has changed since 1968, when the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, the forerunner to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), was created. To illuminate these changes and the current context in which NIJ operates, the committee discusses NIJ’s history in terms of four major time periods: (1) the first decade following its creation (1968-1978); (2) the second decade, beginning with the passage of the Justice System Improvement Act of 1979 (1979-1993); (3) the period following the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (1994-2000); and (4) the current time period, which commences with the decline of Crime Act funding and the change in administration. Across the four decades, we examine NIJ’s governance, mission, and budget, make observations about the current programmatic focus and relationship with its oversight agency, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and conclude with a description of the 1977 National Research Council (NRC) study of NIJ, which forms a useful backdrop to this report.
Although dealing with crime has historically been a state and local issue in the United States, federal involvement in crime control has a long history as well, beginning with efforts to control the opium trade and other drug use in the early part of the 20th century and the long fight against the mafia, which began during Prohibition and was at its height in the 1950s and 1960s. Direct federal assistance to state and local crime-fighting efforts emerged during the social upheaval of the 1960s. Newspapers and other
media reported that crime was the number one domestic issue in the minds of the public (Loo and Grimes, 2004). Whether this was in fact the case remains open to scholarly debate, because at the time it was almost impossible to know how bad the crime problem really was. Virtually no national data that could reliably compare crimes across jurisdictions existed.
For policy officials, the media, and the public, the riots and civil rights protests that erupted in major American cities between 1962 and 1968 served as a proxy for crime and created an atmosphere of fear. In response to these problems, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson created the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, known as the Katzenbach Commission. The commission’s 1967 report (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, 1967) called for a revolution in the way America thinks about crime and for greater involvement by the federal government in that revolution.
The Katzenbach Commission called for new initiatives in crime prevention, the development of a wider range of techniques for dealing with individual offenders, the elimination of injustices and biases in the administration of justice, the recruitment of more qualified personnel in every criminal justice system component, more operational and basic research on crime and the criminal justice system, the infusion of funds into every domain of justice system administration, and the involvement of the community in crime control efforts.
The report was prescient about the ways in which technology would revolutionize law enforcement. With regard to research, the commission noted in its report that “every segment of the system of criminal justice [should] devote a significant part of its resources for research to insure the development of new and effective methods of controlling crime” (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, 1967, p. x). Even in the face of the overwhelming operational needs of the criminal justice system at the time, the commission stated that the greatest need in criminal justice was the need to know (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, 1967). The commission’s recommendations fit with the policy approaches of President Johnson’s Great Society and provided a blueprint for the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, 1967; Woolley and Peters, 2010).
At the time the commission was doing its work, no national research enterprise on crime and justice with federal leadership existed. There were a handful of organizations—the Vera Institute, the American Bar Foundation, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the California Institute for the Study of Crime and Delinquency—that were conducting research projects, but there was no federal research leadership. The commission recommended a broad range of research efforts to address the
information needs of the criminal justice system, including organizing research units in criminal justice agencies and providing public and private support to research institutes, foundations, and universities across the country. It also called for the establishment of a national foundation for research on crime and justice. It recommended that such a national foundation be established as an independent agency; it also acknowledged that there were obvious advantages to having a research agency within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). It reasoned that the simultaneous establishment of a new research and a new aid program would result in competition for scarce resources and present other complications. Given the need for timely and useful information, it might be better to locate this agency within DOJ and defer the idea of an independent research agency (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, 1967).
Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968
Following the recommendations of the Katzenbach Commission, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, establishing the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) (P.L. 90-351, Title I, Part A). The role of the new agency was to assist state and local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies and to improve law enforcement training and education. Almost all of its funding and programs were geared toward improving the functioning of the criminal justice system at the local and state levels.
The National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (NILECJ) was established in LEAA on June 19, 1968, to develop new techniques and systems to strengthen law enforcement and criminal justice. Its mandate then and over the years has been much broader than state and local assistance, however. Under the original 1968 legislation, it was authorized “to carry out programs of behavioral research designed to provide more accurate information on the causes of crime and the effectiveness of various means of preventing crime, and to evaluate the effectiveness of correctional procedures” (section 401(b)2). It was authorized to conduct demonstrations or special projects pertaining to the purposes of the legislation; to undertake continuing studies and programs of research to develop new or improved approaches, techniques, systems, equipment, and devices to improve and strengthen law enforcement; to evaluate federal programs and demonstrations; to make recommendations for action that can be taken by federal, state, and local governments and by private persons and organizations to improve and strengthen law enforcement; and to carry out a program of collection and dissemination of information pertinent to crime and justice issues. See Box 2-1 for the complete legislative language. The institute’s mandate also called for the development of a national and inter-
Legislative Language of Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968
Sec. 402. (a) There is established within the Department of Justice a National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (hereafter referred to in this part as “Institute”). The Institute shall be under the general authority of the Administration. It shall be the purpose of the Institute to encourage research and development to improve and strengthen law enforcement. (b) The Institute is authorized-
national clearinghouse for the exchange of criminal justice information, a task that had been accomplished by 1974.
This broad mandate did not reflect earlier thinking on the part of legal scholars that a national institute of justice should be focused on the investigation, analysis, and solution of legal and law-related problems rather than on social science (Early and Burger, 1972). In 1972, the American Bar Association created the Commission on a National Institute of Justice, which sponsored a 3-day conference attended by more than 150 lawyers, judges, scholars, and citizens to discuss the concept. Conference recommendations revolved around the need for independence from political interference, the need to create an advisory board, and a role of “making recommendations and providing support for changes in the nation’s justice system” (Anonymous, 1979, p. 298). Despite these early deliberations, however, legal analysis never became a serious part of the institute’s portfolio and was partly taken up instead by the Office of Legal Policy within DOJ.
Justice System Improvement Act of 1979
NILECJ, and subsequently NIJ, has been reauthorized or redefined over the years in nine major pieces of federal legislation spanning the period 1979-2005 (see Appendix C). Under the Justice System Improvement Act of 1979, NILECJ functions were redefined and absorbed by NIJ. Under the 1979 statute, several new areas of research were added to the new institute’s portfolio, including identifying alternative programs for achieving system goals, analyzing the causes and correlates of juvenile delinquency, and developing improved methods for combating white-collar crime and public corruption. NIJ was also authorized to conduct research on civil justice matters. However, its total budget declined through the decade from a high of $53 million in 1975 to a low of $20 million in 1981. Its total annual budget remained below $25 million through 1988.1 Because NIJ’s limited appropriations were not increased to support the new provisions, most were never carried out. These provisions were removed from subsequent legislation, and new mandates were added over the years.
The institute’s mandate under the original 1968 legislation and the 1979 reauthorization clearly gave it a national scope and focus. The inclusion in 1968 of the original program of justice statistics to develop the nation’s information systems on crime and justice reflected that role. Under the reauthorization, NIJ made grants to public agencies, colleges and universities, and private organizations; conducted individual studies and
programs of research on the causes and correlates of crime and on corrections, police science, public administration, and law; and began planning national statistics programs.
Although the mandate in the 1979 legislation was in many senses broader than that of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, NIJ’s appropriation remained the same or decreased between 1979 and 1994 (see Figure 2-1). Nevertheless, important science programs were initiated during this period, including a major longitudinal study on the development of criminal behavior, the first systematic, federal data collection program on drug use by arrested persons, a multisite experimental study of domestic violence, the testing of geocoding or crime mapping in police departments, and the development of experiments for analyzing crime in places, or “hot spots” (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995; National Research Council, 2004b).
Crime Act of 1994
By 1993, violent crime, particularly youth homicide, had reached an all-time high in the United States. To address this problem, Congress passed
the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322, referred to here as the Crime Act). The Crime Act addressed the violent crime problem through a number of major provisions:
A federal ban on assault weapons, which banned the manufacture of certain semiautomatic firearms, any semiautomatic rifle with certain combinations of specific features, and the possession of newly manufactured magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The ban was allowed to expire in September 2004.
The addition of some 60 offenses to federal death penalty statutes.
The elimination of student loans (Pell grants) for inmate education.
The Violence Against Women Act and the creation of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).
The hiring of 100,000 police officers and the creation of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
“Truth-in-sentencing” provisions and other correctional reforms.
Congress appropriated over $4.5 billion per year for 5 years to carry out the provisions of the law.
But as Congress and DOJ worked together to develop the sweeping changes in the criminal justice system described above, no plans for expanding the research enterprise to support these new activities were included in the law. NIJ was reauthorized, but the research endeavor was not highlighted nor its relevance or usefulness noted.
References in the legislation to research are limited to listing it (a) as one of seven purposes for which block grant funds may be used; (b) in various places under “limitations of data use” when collecting data on individuals; (c) in encouraging state and local program grantees to comply with any national “research” effort; and (d) in descriptions of specific studies. The specific research studies authorized in the act include an NRC study to develop a research agenda on violence against women; research on drug addiction and antidrug technologies to be conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in consultation with the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and the study of family support to police officers by awarding research grants to state and local agencies.
Governance and Mission
Leadership. Prior to 1979, the institute director was selected by the U.S. attorney general. After 1979, the director became a presidential appointee, in part to protect the independence of the institute and its programs. Over the past four decades, NIJ has had 19 directors or acting directors (see
List of NIJ Directors
Kristina Rose, acting 2009
David W. Hagy, 2006-2009 (confirmed 2008)
Glenn R. Schmitt, acting 2005-2006
Sarah V. Hart, 2001-2005
Julie Samuels, acting 2000-2001
Jeremy Travis, 1995-2000
Carol V. Petrie, acting 1994
Michael J. Russell, acting 1993-1994
Charles B. DeWitt, 1990-1993
James K. Stewart, 1982-1990
W. Robert Burkhart, acting 1982
James Underwood, acting 1981-1982
Harry Bratt, acting 1979-1981
Blair Ewing, acting 1977-1979
Gerald Caplan, 1973-1977
Martin Danziger, 1971-1973
Irving Slott, acting 1970-1971
Henry Ruth, 1969-1970
Ralph Siu, 1968-1969
Box 2-2). None of these had experience in directing crime and justice research, was recognized as a highly qualified authority in the fields of crime and justice research, or had demonstrated success in managing crime and justice research efforts. Of these, 10 were politically appointed, and 13 served for 2 years or less. Only three directors served for 5 or more years and as a result, the years 1973-1977, 1982-1990, and 1995-2000 were the only real periods of stability in terms of leadership.
The constant change in directors made scientific progress complicated. It was extremely difficult, for example, to establish and maintain the kind of stable scientific planning and awards process called for in the report Understanding Crime (National Research Council, 1977). It was almost impossible to accumulate knowledge on any given topic. Not one long-range research plan and very few programs developed during the tenure of a specific director survived the appointment and tenure of his or her successor.
Advisory Boards. In the 1970s and 1980s, the institute had advisory boards to guide its overall program. Although NILECJ and NIJ advisory boards
had several incarnations during this period, the original focus was on policy issues rather than on research priorities and activities. Various iterations of the NIJ advisory board focused more on research in later years, but they had limited success in shaping a coherent research program and the idea was abandoned after 1986.
The Institute’s first advisory board was called the National Institute Advisory Committee. Although it is unclear exactly when it was constituted, it is mentioned in the first NILECJ annual report in 1974. It was not required by the authorizing legislation but was established by the NILECJ director, who appointed its 19 members, drawn primarily from the medical, education, public policy, and law fields. Three members were practicing law enforcement, courts, and corrections officials and two were researchers. Over the next few years, as members rotated off the committee, they were replaced by prominent researchers. By 1978, researchers constituted a third of the advisory committee’s membership.
The original purpose of the advisory committee, according to Gerald Caplan, the former NILECJ director who established it, was to insulate NILECJ from any political interference regarding how it could spend its money. Caplan also wanted it to be a sounding board and to promote research that the staff might not otherwise consider; to provide an additional level of expertise and judgment that staff did not have; and to serve as a source of feedback on general practices. Finally, he hoped that an advisory board would strengthen relationships with prominent individuals as well as collectively create a group of allies.2
However, the advisory committee did not play the expected role in shaping the program, and the potential for interference with the research program from others in LEAA never materialized. But as the membership changed and was more heavily researcher based, there was a shift in the deliberations from broad policy issues to advising on research priorities and strategies.
The 1979 Justice System Improvement Act created the National Institute of Justice Advisory Board. The law called for a 21-person board appointed by the president with responsibility for recommending the policies and priorities of the institute; creating, when necessary, formal peer review procedures; recommending to the president at least three candidates for the director’s position in the event of a vacancy; and performing additional tasks as necessary. The initial members of the advisory board were appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 but were dismissed in June 1981 by the newly elected President Ronald Reagan, who appointed a new board in its place. This sparked a lawsuit by several members, who petitioned the
federal government unsuccessfully that they had been deprived of their appointments (Martin v. Reagan, 525 F. Supp. 110, 1981).
The membership of the new advisory board was almost evenly divided between business entrepreneurs, representatives of not-for-profit organizations, legal and security experts, and criminal justice practitioners. No researchers were appointed. From 1981 to 1984, it held meetings regularly and produced a report based on public hearings in four cities. The report, Too Much Crime, Too Little Justice (President’s Advisory Board, National Institute of Justice, 1983), dealt exclusively with serious violent crime and included research recommendations in a number of broad areas: law enforcement; costs and fear of crime: response to career criminals; community involvement in crime control; criminal justice management; improving adjudication programs; victims, jails, and prisons; probation and parole; and federal and state local cooperation. It was published but never distributed to the public by the agency. The explanation to NIJ staff regarding the department’s refusal to disseminate the report was that it presented too gloomy a picture of the state of affairs in crime and justice, particularly given its timing after the 1984 election. After 1984, meetings of the NIJ advisory board became irregular until its existence was terminated with the passage of the Justice Assistance Act of 1984, which repealed the provision for an agencywide group of advisers. NIJ’s lack of an advisory infrastructure is discussed further in Chapter 4.
Mission. The mission of NIJ is to “advance scientific research, development, and evaluation to enhance the administration of justice and public safety.”3 In 1968, as NILECJ was being created, the planners stated that “the basic purpose of the overall program … is fostering successful innovation in all our efforts to control crime, especially those of the criminal justice system” (Starnes, 1969). It is clear that the official mission of the agency has changed little over the years, although the implementation of that mission has looked very different in the hands of different directors and under the aegis of different organizations. Once LEAA was abolished in 1979 and NIJ was placed first under the Office of Justice Assistance Research and Statistics and then under the assistant attorney general for OJP, independence became ever harder to maintain as its mission became more and more tied to the state and local assistance mission of OJP through the strategic planning process of the assistant attorney general’s office.4 For
See http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/about/welcome.htm [accessed March 17, 2010].
See OJP Strategic Goal 4.2: “OJP will reposition statistical, research, and evaluation activities so that they can be more fully leveraged across a wide range of OJP activities and to ensure that programs are addressing the most critical problems in the most effective manner” (Office of Justice Programs, 2006b, p. 20).
example, in the late 1980s and again in the late 1990s, NIJ’s programs had to fit the program priorities established by OJP, placing constraints on its ability to develop cumulative knowledge in areas outside these priorities (Office of Justice Programs, 1999). NIJ’s research has subsequently focused more on improving standard criminal justice administration and programming than on pursuing and testing new theories about what kinds of justice system responses might have the greatest crime reduction effects.
The effect of all this is that over time the emphasis of NIJ’s research program has swung back and forth between basic and applied research. But the two kinds of research activities do not have to be mutually exclusive. Basic research undertaken by NIJ has frequently had implications for policy and practice, and applied research has often pointed out the need for basic research.
One issue that has been neglected is research on what appear to be success stories. A prominent example is the dramatic decline in crime, especially violent crime, since the early 1990s. Many have speculated on this decline, but NIJ has not provided the leadership to provide comprehensive research to address this issue. While others have considered the role of the New York City Police Department’s COMPSTAT management system in this reduction (see Kelling and Sousa, 2001) as well as contrary evidence (Harcourt and Ludwig, 2007), NIJ has not developed a comprehensive research program to assess the full range of plausible explanations for the decline in crime.
When added to the institute’s inadequate resources (described below), the ever-expanding and changing OJP program priorities over the years have resulted in a scattershot approach by the institute to the development of knowledge on crime and justice, despite the best intentions of staff and new directors to develop a strong and sustainable program.
Post Crime Act Period
In the years immediately following the passage of the Crime Act of 1994, NIJ was impacted in several ways. First, it received an infusion of funds from program offices that were either newly established or authorized to carry out the law’s mandates, such as the Violence Against Women Grants Office, COPS, Weed and Seed, the Drug Courts Office, and the Corrections Program Office. While many of these early initiatives undertaken by NIJ at the request of the program offices were modest, later they became much larger in terms of scope and funding. As described in Chapter 3, much of this money went to support large-scale evaluations of Crime Act programs. For the first time in its history, NIJ had the opportunity to expand its work in various target areas, such as corrections, courts, community policing, and drugs. NIJ staff size also grew to meet the demand.
But within 5 or 6 years, many of these funding streams dried up and, with them, NIJ’s opportunity to continue its research in specific areas. But one change occurring in this period that did not go away was the shift to a focus on science and technology.
Focus on Science and Technology
Changes in justice assistance5 legislation have led to a more concentrated focus on research related to justice system operations and less emphasis on research on national and international crime and violence issues. This is particularly evident in the expansion of NIJ’s science and technology portfolio, administered through its Office of Science and Technology (OST). NIJ’s funding of science and technology activities grew exponentially after the passage of the Violent Crime Reduction Act of 1994 (National Institute of Justice, 1996). Technology research and development had been pursued by NIJ from its earliest days through a small office called the Advanced Technology Division. During the mid-1970s, the office’s functions were divided among NIJ’s major divisions: a technology assessment program in the Division of Development, Testing, and Dissemination, mostly devoted to developing standards for soft body armor through an interagency agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and a small program office in the Office of Research Programs that handled forensic science and some development programs, such as automated fingerprint systems and concealed weapons detection programs. When the immediate predecessor to OST, the Division of Science and Technology, was created in 1992, it had a small budget of between $2 and $4 million annually and a staff of four employees, including the division director.
Prior to the Crime Act, NIJ’s most notable accomplishments in the area of science and technology were the development and testing of soft body armor for police, support for research on forensic DNA testing and automated fingerprint systems, and development of modern protocols in death investigations. Nearly half of the office’s annual budget was spent developing standards for soft body armor, which had become commercially available to police and sheriff’s departments.
The first expansion of the OST budget grew out of congressional earmarks. A few members of Congress were interested in technology development to improve law enforcement. OST also enhanced its budget in those early years by developing a formal partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense to transfer and adapt technology related to defense to law en-
forcement settings. Over the ensuing years, OST received large transfers of funds through interagency agreements and, in many cases, through the appropriations process.
In 1995, the budget for OST nearly tripled over 1994 levels, and over the ensuing 8 years the office received over $1 billion through a combination of DOJ appropriations and the reimbursement of funds from other federal agencies whose projects OST had agreed to administer (U.S. General Accounting Office, 2003b). In 1994, the total OST budget represented 18 percent of NIJ’s overall budget. In 2008, the budget for OST represented more than 80 percent of NIJ’s overall budget.
This stands in stark contrast to what has happened to the social science research budget. Once around two-thirds of NIJ’s base appropriation prior to 1994, it has remained relatively stagnant in the past decade, representing less than 10 percent of NIJ’s overall budget by 2008. However, as this report makes clear, neither OST nor the Office of Research and Evaluation (ORE) has had much discretion over its funds in the Post Crime Act period.
Relationship with OJP
In the past decade, NIJ’s identity as an independent research agency has been challenged by efforts of OJP to provide more oversight and centralize activities being undertaken by its various units. OJP’s leadership role is described as one of promoting coordination, but, in fact, the assistant attorney general wields a great deal of authority and power that goes beyond coordination. This control has been most evident in OJP’s assumption of sign-off authority for all grants and contracts emanating from its five bureaus. See for example solicitation language “all final grant award decisions will be made by the Assistant Attorney General (AAG)” (National Institute of Justice, 2009c, p. 16).
Congress did grant sign-off authority to NIJ on its awards, although interpretation of that authority has varied over the past decade. For example, the 1999 appropriations (P.L. 105-277) authorized OJP to exercise authority over and approve grants and contracts. The 2000 appropriations (P.L. 106-113) renewed the authority but denied OJP authority to approve grants for NIJ, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and a few programs of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Those limitations were repeated in the 2001 appropriations bill language (P.L. 106-553). However, in 2002, the Patriot Act removed those limitations (Doyle, 2001) and, during the period 2002-2008, all funded research required sign-off by the assistant attorney general for OJP. During the transition period in early 2009 and prior to a permanent assistant attorney general’s being named head of the Office of Justice Programs, OJP’s general
counsel affirmed in a meeting on March 17, 2009, and in a follow-up email that NIJ has sign-off authority on grants.6
OJP also wields control through oversight of the budget and control of the various offices that support the work of the bureaus. In addition to the Office for Administration, these include the Office for Audit, Assessment, and Management, the Office for Civil Rights, the Office of Communications, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, and the Office of the General Counsel. While these offices had existed under predecessor agencies, the individual bureaus, including NIJ, had either been given or had maintained responsibility for many activities relating to budgeting, staffing, grant awarding, dissemination, and various administrative resources.
Beginning around 2005, in an effort to improve coordination and reduce inefficiencies and overlap, the OJP leadership undertook efforts to reorganize and to centralize many of the functions and activities undertaken by the individual offices. For example, both the peer review process and dissemination activities carried out by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service are managed centrally through contracts administered by OJP. Various documents, such as solicitations, adhere to an OJP-wide template, go through numerous OJP offices during review, and must be approved by the assistant attorney general. NIJ is also dependent on OJP offices for information and administrative services, such as record maintenance and tracking of various grant-related activities. Since 2003, OJP has conducted most of its grant-related operations through its electronic grants management system, and NIJ’s capacity to track information relevant to its own operations is very dependent on whether OJP approves such modifications to the system or provides operational support through the Office of the Chief Information Officer. For example, a deficiency of this system is its failure to include names of project directors or principal investigators. Consequently, this information is not publicly available when information on grant activities or products is sought.
Various decisions associated with the hiring of employees are also controlled by OJP. For example, OJP’s Human Resources Division screens the
initial group of candidates and then forwards the names to the appropriate bureau. An NIJ manager commented that this practice of having nonresearch staff screen for relevant educational and employment backgrounds had resulted in unqualified persons being considered. Most importantly, the assistant attorney general can prevent a bureau such as NIJ from filling its vacancies. Chapter 4 discusses these issues in more detail.
Relationship with Other OJP and Department of Justice Agencies
NIJ research activities are intertwined in various ways with the activities of its six OJP sister agencies as well as agencies within DOJ like COPS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and others. The activities take many forms: participating on DOJ-wide task forces and OJP committees and working groups; providing findings and relevant research information on specific issues; obtaining funding support from these agencies for research and evaluations of interest to them; and advising on program development. NIJ also regularly communicates with its sister agencies to solicit information on the needs of the field and to provide them with information on research findings of use to the field. On its website, it prominently declares that “partnerships with other government agencies and professional associations are critical to determining what works.”
NIJ is described as the research, development, and evaluation agency of DOJ but other agencies (BJS, OJJDP) have functions that are spelled out in their legislation that are overlapping or similar to those of NIJ. For example, BJS has a mandate to collect, analyze, publish, and disseminate information on crime and to provide assistance to state and local governments to improve their statistics programs. While BJS has lead responsibility for statistical activities, NIJ is not precluded from undertaking surveys or studying the feasibility of collecting particular kinds of data or the use of such data. Similarly, OJJDP has research as part of its mission and other OJP and DOJ agencies are not necessarily precluded from funding grants that include a research focus or research activities. Historically, this has created a situation in which issues arise over whether certain activities are research and should be appropriately within NIJ’s bailiwick, whether funds will be provided to NIJ to support research activities, and what should be the modus operandi for monitoring those studies by both NIJ and the sponsoring agency. Specifically in the case of OJJDP, during the past 10 years, there has been continuing discussion over the question of whether responsibility for all juvenile justice research should be moved to NIJ. Efforts to do so have not been successful. As in the past, NIJ and OJJDP have worked out a modus operandi at the staff level to determine what kinds of research topics will be handled by each office. But this agreement and
others like it depend on the willingness and ability of NIJ and the various offices to maintain good relationships with each other.
RISE AND FALL OF RESOURCES
Growth in Funding to State and Local Areas
During the past two decades, an unprecedented level of federal funding was made available to help state and local jurisdictions around the country fight crime. According to its annual reports, between 1990 and 2000 the budget of OJP for state and local assistance grew in constant fiscal 2000 dollars by 610 percent, from about $640 million in fiscal year (FY) 1990 to $3.9 billion in FY 2000, and the OJP budget remained at that level through 2003 (Office of Justice Programs, 1990, 2001). In addition, some $8 billion was available to state and local jurisdictions through COPS in DOJ during the period 1996-2002. These increases supported a vast array of criminal justice system activities, improvements, and new program efforts, including joint federal-local task forces to combat drug-related crime, antigang, and antiterrorism programs.
Although some observers have compared NIJ’s funding to the funding of other government research institutes that study different but equally important problems (see Blumstein and Petersilia, 1994), the committee thinks the more appropriate comparison is the funding for research and funding for direct federal support of justice programs and functions. Despite the breadth and far-reaching scope of the Crime Act of 1994, there was no expansion of the mandate for conducting research on crime and justice. No additional funds were appropriated for NIJ to carry out research to support the purposes or programs of the new law. This does not appear to be an oversight, but rather seemed at the time to stem from a consensus on the part of the legislation’s many authors that enough was known from research, that the correct course of action was clear, and that whatever additional research might be needed to improve operational strategies should be embedded in the programs themselves or conducted by NIJ at the request of program staff.
The NIJ appropriation, which had been a stable 3-5 percent of the LEAA overall appropriation (Armbrust, 1978), was by FY 2000 approximately 1 percent of the funding of OJP and the COPS office combined and approximately half of that consisted of restricted funds. Figure 2-2 shows the trend of appropriations increases for OJP and the COPS office for the period 1984-2003 compared with appropriations for NIJ.
In 2008, NIJ’s overall appropriations, including restricted funds, were 2 percent of overall OJP funding and 0.002 percent of the overall appropriations of DOJ. We do not include in these calculations the billions of dollars spent at the state and local level for criminal justice system programs and functions.
In contrast, the annual budget of the National Institutes of Health for research (about $28.5 billion) is well over one-third of the discretionary funding of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and 7 percent of the total annual departmental budget when one includes the entitlement programs. The Environmental Protection Agency research budget is also around 7 percent of the total annual budget for the agency. The Department of Education appropriation for research and statistics is a much smaller percentage of its overall appropriations but is still close to $500 million each year (Boisseau, 2009).
NIJ’s base appropriation, in constant 2008 dollars, hovered between $38 and $41 million between 1984 and 1996, and rose to a high of
$87 million in 2001. However, its total budget grew from $48 million in 1984 to $293 million in 2001. Of this latter amount, the share in 2001 for discretionary research awards was around $22 million in ORE and $14 million in OST. The balance for that year was allocated to earmarked research and development efforts and nonresearch areas, such as forensic capacity building, technology support assistance, program support, and dissemination. As NIJ’s budget grew, an increasing portion of its funds were directed to specific recipients or projects by public law, subject to guidance in congressional committee reports or directed though reimbursable agreements. In the period 1995-2003, approximately 72 percent of OST expenditures were predetermined (U.S. General Accounting Office, 2003b). In the subsequent 5 years, OST has continued to lose discretion over its own budget. In 2008, according to the OST deputy director, $2 million of its $209 million budget was discretionary—that is, funds that were not received for specific, predetermined purposes. ORE is in a similar but less oppressive position, because it has had discretion over roughly 20-50 percent of its total budget for the past decade, depending primarily on the amount of transferred funds through reimbursable agreements for a given year. However, its total budget has been one-eighth to one-fourth the size of the OST total budget in the Post Crime Act period. Figure 2-1 illustrates how NIJ’s total budget has compared with its discretionary base budget since its inception.
1977 NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL ASSESSMENT
In 1977 an NRC study assessed the operations of NIJ’s predecessor agency. Understanding Crime: An Evaluation of the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice was undertaken at the request of the administrator of LEAA in an attempt to strengthen scientific processes and improve the quality of the institute’s awards and their results. This study is mentioned frequently in this report because several of its conclusions remain as strikingly valid today as they were in 1977. For example, a major criticism was that the results of the institute’s research activities were not reaching or being used by practitioners. Another criticism was that the institute made no attempt to build a body of knowledge on crime or criminal justice system problems. That earlier report concluded that there is a need for a program of research on crime problems that is national in scope and should be supported by the federal government. It was most concerned with identifying a style of research and a mode of work that would be effective and sustainable over time (National Research Council, 1977).
The major conclusions in Understanding Crime address five areas: (1) the institute’s mission to develop reliable, generalized knowledge about crime, criminal behaviors, and the effectiveness of crime control methods and policies; (2) the expansion of resources, including ideas from a wide
range of sources, research skills among staff from a variety of disciplines, and more and better data; (3) broadened access to program development, improved mechanisms for quality control, and improved measures to insulate the institute from destructive pressures; (4) a strong advisory system to assist with priority setting and to provide quality control over the research process; and (5) insulation from destructive pressures emanating from unrealistic congressional demands to perform a direct service function, with the committee noting that such demands create impossible conditions for the development of a constructive research program (National Research Council, 1977). Virtually all of these areas are again being addressed in this report, some 30 years later.
From this brief review of NIJ’s history, several important conclusions begin to emerge. First, it is clear that Congress intended NIJ to conduct a broad program of research related to crime causation and prevention, but, through the years, this mandate has shifted to a focus on improving criminal justice administration that is of more immediate benefit to state and local criminal justice agencies. This has played itself out to the extent that NIJ’s social science agenda, once predominant, is now dwarfed by technology research, dissemination, and technology assistance activities. Second, despite some early and notable successes in social science and technology research, NIJ resources have never kept up with the mandates imposed on it. Even as increased federal dollars have flowed to state and local criminal justice agencies, NIJ’s proportion of those dollars has declined. Third, NIJ has experienced unstable governance for most of its existence, with frequent turnover in leadership, directors whose backgrounds and experience did not reflect NIJ’s science mission, and the lack of an advisory board to play a role in supporting and shaping its research activities. Finally, OJP oversight and the centralization of functions among its offices and bureaus have had, over the years, an uneven impact on NIJ’s authority over its planning and awards processes, its dissemination processes, its ability to maintain its identity as a research agency, and the overall resources available for research.