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Ensuring the Quality, Credibility, and Relevance of U.S. Justice Statistics
and the summary of that report is included in this volume as Appendix B. In this final report, we complement our work on the NCVS by considering the balance of BJS’s data collection series, its work in providing assistance to state and local authorities, and the functions and priorities of the agency as a whole.
Established in its present form in 1979, BJS is one of the smallest of the principal agencies in the U.S. federal statistical system, yet it shoulders one of the most expansive and detailed legal mandates among the statistical agencies. Formally, BJS is tasked to provide information on crime and the operation of the justice system, across all levels of government. Like its administrative parent, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), BJS was originally created as part of the former Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA); accordingly, BJS also inherits the LEAA’s strong mandate to assist state and local authorities—both financially and technically—in developing justice information systems.
ASSESSMENT OF THE BJS DATA COLLECTION PORTFOLIO
In our review of BJS programs, we have used as a guide a model of the series of events in the justice system that was first developed by the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967). Graphically, this model resembles a funnel, in which large numbers of crimes and victimization incidents are processed—in decreasing numbers—through major parts of the system, including police work, prosecution and adjudication, and correctional supervision.
Through our review of existing BJS data collections and the manner in which they map to the funnel model of the justice system, we conclude that BJS’s data collection portfolio is a solid body of work, generally well justified by public information needs or legal requirements. It represents a better-than-good-faith effort to marshal data relevant to an astoundingly large mandate, given that fiscal resources have typically been less than commensurate. Within its resources and the topics it has chosen to address, BJS has done well in the sense that nothing in its portfolio is obviously frivolous, wasteful, or inconsistent with its legal mandates.
Our basic observations about BJS’s portfolio include:
BJS’s key victimization series, the NCVS, is its most expensive, most flexible, and most scrutinized collection. It is also, arguably, the agency’s most underutilized collection, undercut by scarce resources, diminishing sample size, and—to a degree—a lack of innovation in analyzing and promoting the data.
BJS’s corrections data series is a good example of a well-designed and integrated system of collections, wisely using different methods (per-