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Ensuring the Quality, Credibility, and Relevance of U.S. Justice Statistics
renamed and authorized the NCJISS as the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) within a new Office of Justice Assistance, Research, and Statistics. Subsequent reauthorization (the Justice Assistance Act of 1984, P.L. 98–473) completed the process of converting the former LEAA into the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), which remains BJS’s administrative parent agency within the Justice Department.
From these beginnings, BJS has developed into one of the principal statistical agencies of the federal government. Armed with a broad mandate to provide statistical measures on the justice system, the agency maintains dozens of data collection series. Each year, it releases about 40 bulletins or reports summarizing its findings, disseminated through BJS’s own website (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/) or through the OJP-administered National Criminal Justice Reference Service (http://www.ncjrs.gov/). BJS data are generally made available in processed spreadsheets on the BJS website or in microdata form at the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data hosted by the University of Michigan (http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/NACJD/). BJS also supports the maintenance of an online Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook). BJS’s report series and dissemination venues are described more completely in Box 1-1, and an illustrative front page of a BJS bulletin is shown in Figure 1-1.
BJS’s signature data collection, and its most demanding in terms of budget resources, is the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), an effort that—like BJS itself—is the direct result of a recommendation by the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967). The NCVS serves as a critical indicator of crime and violence in the United States because it includes crimes that are not reported to police as well as those that are. In this respect, it serves as an important counterpart to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program of the FBI—the nation’s other key indicator of violent crime levels—because the UCR is strictly limited to incidents reported to law enforcement authorities. More significantly, the importance of the NCVS stems from its flexibility as a detailed survey measurement tool, permitting valuable insight into the nature and etiology of victimization incidents as well as public perceptions of and encounters with other parts of the justice system.
Although the NCVS represents a dominant share of BJS’s budgetary resources, the balance of BJS’s data collection portfolio covers an enormous range of phenomena. BJS is well known for its body of data series on populations under correctional supervision; these provide important information on the levels and dynamics of correctional populations, which are (like other institutionalized populations) commonly excluded from household surveys