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Abstract T HE B UREAU OF J USTICE S TATISTICS (BJS) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is one of the smallest of the U.S. principal statistical agencies but shoulders one of the most expansive and detailed legal mandates among those agencies. BJS requested that this panel be convened to examine the full range of BJS programs and suggest priorities for data collection. We described the current methods of and future options for the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) in an interim report (National Research Council, 2008b). This ï¬nal report considers the balance of BJSâs portfolio, its assistance to state and local authorities, and the functions of BJS as a whole. We conclude that BJSâs data collection portfolio is a solid body of work, well justiï¬ed by public information needs or legal requirements and a com- mendable effort to meet its broad mandate given less-than-commensurate ï¬scal resources. We identify some major gaps in the substantive coverage of BJS data, such as white-collar crime, civil justice, juvenile justice, and con- textual factors such as the interaction between drugs and crime. However, the methodological challenges involved in ï¬lling these major gaps preclude doing so under BJSâs current funding; it would require increased and sus- tained support in terms of staff and ï¬scal resources. BJS generally espouses the principles and practices of a federal statisti- cal agency, but it has sustained major shocks to its position of independence as a national statistical resource in recent years. We suggest two strong or- ganizational measures to reduce the likelihood that BJS and its ofï¬cials are inappropriately treated in the future. Concluding that BJSâs current admin- istrative position within the Ofï¬ce of Justice Programs (OJP) is detrimental to the agencyâs function, we recommend that BJS be moved out of OJP We . further recommend that the position of BJS director be made a ï¬xed-term presidential appointment with Senate conï¬rmation. 1
2 JUSTICE STATISTICS BJSâs independence as a statistical agency would be enhanced by fuller use of its ï¬agship study. The NCVS has unique value in providing insight on the etiology as well as the characteristics of crime not reported to po- lice. It is critically important for the NCVS to continue to provide annual estimates of levels and changes in criminal victimizationâand be funded commensuratelyâbut also that the NCVSâs substantive reach grow through the use of topic supplements. BJSâs individual data series are of generally high quality but would bene- ï¬t from attention to explicit conceptual frameworks on several levels. Most generally, the interrelationships of BJSâs current set of collections are not always immediately clear; this is particularly so for BJSâs law enforcement collections, the utility of which have been hurt by an overly restrictive focus on management and administration issues. Core-supplement frameworks should be implemented within BJSâs major surveys, streamlining recurring basic content to a simpliï¬ed âcoreâ and adding structured topic supplements. In BJSâs data series on adjudication, we urge a third type of frameworkâ progression toward a more rigorous basis in probability sampling as com- puterized case management systems become more accessible. The nation currently has two principal indicators of crime and justice: BJSâs NCVS and the FBIâs Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, the latter of which covers crimes reported to the police. Both these series have unique strengths in studying crime but share the common problem of lengthy lag times between data collection and the release of the results. We suggest that BJS study the feasibility of compiling crime incident data already main- tained in individual police departmentsâ electronic systems. This new col- lection is not intended to duplicate the UCR, as it would not involve local police staff to record counts in a prescribed fashion; it is simply intended as a way to leverage the availability of existing local data and to produce a quick indicator of general national crime trends. BJS data cover all the steps in the criminal justice process but, almost exclusively, this coverage is cross-sectional in nature. We see a longitudinal approach as essential to study the performance of the justice system as a whole. We recommend a variety of strategies for improving longitudinal structures, ranging from improving the linkage capacity of existing data to ï¬elding panel surveys of crime victims or persons leaving incarceration. Outreach and dissemination are areas in which BJS has made laudable strides. Its network of state Statistical Analysis Centers (SACs) stands as a strong example of federal-state cooperation. The network beneï¬ts BJS in terms of feedback and the inventiveness of research performed by the SACs, while the SACs beneï¬t from technical assistance that would be cost- prohibitive to provide on their own; we urge continued strengthening of the BJS-SAC relationship. To further strengthen outreach, we suggest that BJS
ABSTRACT 3 create a standing advisory committee and make continued use of ad hoc user and stakeholder workshops. We have avoided ranking data collections for several reasons, among them that the current collections are necessary for coverage of events in the justice system; elimination of data series would make BJS appear more visi- bly to fail to fulï¬ll its massive legal mandates. However, this report suggests a mix of short- and long-term ideas for improving the evidence with which crime and justice policy in the United States is developed. The strategic goals we suggest through this report provide BJS a set of principles against which the content of its data collection portfolio can be assessed. In its thirtieth year, BJS can look back on a solid body of accomplishment; our work in this report suggests further directions for improvement to give the nation the justice statisticsâand the BJSâthat it deserves.