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â6â Strategic Goals for the Bureau of Justice Statistics 6âA PRIORITY SETTING AND CONSTRAINED RESOURCES A POSSIBLE CRITICISM of this reportâreviewing the detailed recom- mendations made throughout the textâis that it tends to suggest adding to the Bureau of Justice Statisticsâ (BJSâs) inventory of collec- tions rather than subtracting. The recommendations are generally geared to improvements within BJSâs various existing data collectionsâfor instance, ensuring a high-quality independent measure of crime in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), emphasizing conceptual frameworks in BJSâs adjudication and law enforcement collections, and expanding its corrections series to study prisoner reentry into society. (There are exceptions, such as Recommendation 3.10âs suggestion to discontinue special-focus law en- forcement agency surveys if they cannot be ï¬tted into a regular, structured Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics [LEMAS] sup- plement plan.) The panel raised its own questions regarding this: How should these im- provements be paid for? Should some existing series be cut to make ways for new ones? And, given the disproportionate share of BJSâs current resources consumed by the NCVS, should some smaller collections be stopped to free up additional resources for the NCVS or should some NCVS resources be steered to other areas? 277
278 JUSTICE STATISTICS The reason why we rejected explicitly suggesting that some data series be cut in order to pay for others is certainly not that the current collec- tions are perfect. The improvements we suggest in the recommendations are testimony to that. Rather, we cannot accept the underlying premise and inherent assumption that BJS can achieve its legislated goals by cutting pro- grams. In our assessment, we think it can be stated as a fact: BJS has been given more responsibilities than can be achieved with current resources. The resources provided to BJS to carry out its work are not commensurate with the breadthâand importanceâof the responsibilities assigned to the agency by its authorizing legislation. Because of this, the agency has for some years walked a tight line of small cuts of sample or measurement, short delays of publications, and temporary hiring freezesâeach of these tolerable in itself, but cumulating over the years such that core functions have broken down. On a routine basis, decisions must be made about addressing certain responsibilities and not addressing others; trade-offs must be made in the periodicity and completeness of data collections. Maintenance and continuation of existing data collections must also be balanced with the need to comply with directives from Congress and the Department of Justice, complicating resource allocation decisions and the setting of priorities. Such decisions are hardly unique to BJSâat some point, all organizations must make such trade-offsâbut BJSâs mismatch be- tween resources and responsibility makes the decisions particularly difï¬cult. Thus, in setting priorities, BJS directors have perforce had a short time horizonâresponding to a certain set of demands even though those deci- sions may have negative long-term consequences for individual data collec- tions and the health of the agency. Certainly, in the midst of year-to-year juggling of data series in order to keep production moving, longer-term in- vestments in research and innovation become difï¬cult or impossible to make. The most striking example of the consequences of this extremely tough cli- mate is the current state of the NCVS: What was once, clearly, the best victimization survey in the world is now unable to satisfy its basic function of providing annual estimates of level and change in common-law crime. This decay happened gradually as BJS administrators were attempting to respond to immediate exigencies, aggravated by an overly broad mandate. Each single cut in sample size, or other cost-cutting measure, was justiï¬- able given then-present alternatives. Cumulativelyâas demonstrated most vividly by the declared âbreak in seriesâ with the 2006 NCVS dataâthey lead to the conclusion that âthe [current] NCVS is not achieving and can- not achieve BJSâs legislatively mandated goalsâ (National Research Council, 2008b:Finding 3.1).
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 279 Statistical infrastructure (data collections and records series) shares with physical infrastructure (such as roads, bridges, sewers, and cable) the funda- mental problem that it lacks glamor and can be difï¬cult to champion as a government spending priority. Yet it is undeniably important to the public knowledge and the public good; BJSâs purview includes topics important to general welfare, spanning the measurement of interpersonal violence, the function and magnitude of law enforcement and corrections, and the oper- ations of the judicial branch of government. The problem is not that there are parts of BJSâs legal mandate that are unimportant or unworthy, but that its current resources do not permit it to cover its mandates as effectively as possible. Given this ï¬nding, we are loath to construct a list of series to terminate or reduce out of concern that the agency fail even more visibly to fulï¬ll the charge given to it in legislation. Another reason for not considering a speciï¬c ranking of data collections by importance, or some metric, in order to suggest possible cuts is consis- tency with the approach we took in our interim report on options for the NCVS. In that report, we presented an array of possible options and de- scribed how speciï¬c design choices corresponded to particular goals for the survey. However, we made a point of ânot suggest[ing] one single path as the ideal for a redesigned NCVSâ (National Research Council, 2008b:4). Different people and decision makers do not necessarily put the exact same weights on the goals and objectives of a program such as the NCVS, and we did not want presume âthat our preferred set of NCVS goals is correct to the exclusion of all othersâ (National Research Council, 2008b:4). The same logic applies to considering other collections in the BJS portfolio: deeming one collection more worthy than another involves complicated value judg- ments, not science. Speciï¬c constituencies for BJS data that are not repre- sented on the panel or by groups who have spoken before the panel could make eloquent and compelling cases for their particular favored set of statis- tics; again, we do not wish to suggest that any weighting we could suggest is somehow paramount. Ideally, in evaluating and weighing individual data collection programs, it would be possible to know the causal impact of particular BJS statisticsâfor instance, if BJS were to collect data and report estimates on X rather than Y , certain policy actions would result (or have different probabilities of result- ing). Such causal analysis is very difï¬cult and, aside from some studies on federal fund allocation based on government estimates (see, e.g., Spencer, 1980), very little work has been done to attempt even a partial understand- ing of the causal impact of government statistics. Although such analyses would be a worthwhile undertaking for BJS and the federal statistical sys- tem as a whole, it would involve such an extensive research agenda as to be infeasible for a small agency such as BJS. That said, there is merit in BJS devoting resources to understanding and documenting the ways in which its
280 JUSTICE STATISTICS estimates are actually used in making policy decisions at the federal, state, and local levels, and using that information to assess how well its statistical portfolio matches the needs of policy analysts. Finding 6.1: Relatively little is understood about how BJS data are used in developing policy and could be used in improving policy development. While hoping that tight ï¬scal constraints may be alleviated somewhat in coming years, we cannot assume inï¬nite resources either. We recognize that our charge obliges us to âassist BJS to reï¬ne its priorities and goals, as embodied in its strategic plan, both in the short and longer terms.â Hence, in this chapter, we consider basic strategic goals for BJS, formalizing some notions inherent in our detailed recommendations and deriving from the broader themes we noted in Chapter 1. 6âB CURRENT BJS STRATEGIC GOALS To begin, it is useful to review BJSâs current plans and goals. The agencyâs 2005â2008 strategic plan (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005a) articulates three goals for the agency: 1. To produce national statistics on crime and the administration of jus- tice that facilitate measurement over time and across geographic areas; 2. To improve record-keeping by state and local governments and to im- prove the ability of states and localities to produce statistics on crime and the administration of justice; 3. To ensure public access to statistics and criminal justice data. These goals mainly serve to reinforce the two parts of the agencyâs formal mission statementâservice as a statistical agency and support of state and local governmentsâwith an added goal of public access and dissemination. As stated above, the ï¬rst goal adds emphasis on âmeasurement over time,â though it is unclear whether this refers to simply continuing collections (thus building longer time series of data) or longitudinal measurement within the criminal justice system. Although they are not written into the agencyâs current strategic plan, other strategic priorities are evidenced by changes in BJSâs organizational structure (see Figure 1-3) and commentary at the panelâs public meetings. In particular, the organization was revised to create three distinct unitsâlaw enforcement, courts and adjudication, and ârecidivism, reentry, and spe- cial projectsâ (Sedgwick, 2008:2). These changes provide resources separate from BJSâs existing correctional statistics unit to study prisoner reentry is- sues; they are also consistent with comments made by BJS staff in remarks to the panel about the agencyâs interest in broadening its collections in the area of law enforcement.
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 281 Box 6-1 Summary of Recommendations and Commentary on Strategic Goal 1: A Strong Position of Independence Move BJS Out of the Ofï¬ce of Justice Programs Recommendation 5.3: BJS should be administratively moved out of the Ofï¬ce of Justice Programs, reporting to the attorney general or deputy attorney general. Make the BJS Directorship a Fixed-Term Appointment Recommendation 5.4: Congress and the administration should make the BJS director a ï¬xed-term presidential appointee with the advice and consent of the Senate. To insulate the BJS director from political interference, the term of service should be no less than 4 years. Strengthen BJSâs Independent Function as a Statistical Agency Recommendation 5.2: The Department of Justice review of any BJS statistical product and related communications should not require changes to the content, the release schedule, or the mode of dis- semination planned by BJS. Recommendation 5.1: Congress and the Department of Justice should not require, and BJS should not provide, individually iden- tiï¬ed data in support of regulatory functions that compromise the independence of BJS or require BJS to violate any of the principles of a federal statistical agency. Position BJS as a Statistical Resource to the Department of Justice Recommendation 5.5: The BJS director needs to reach out to other agencies within DOJ, forming partnerships to propose initiatives for information collection that are relevant to policy needs. Recommendation 5.6: The Department of Justice should build pro- visions for BJS collection of data and statistical information into its program initiatives aimed at crime reduction. These are not in- tended as program evaluation funds, but rather as funds for the ba- sic monitoring and assessment of the phenomena targeted by the initiative. (continued) 6âC SUGGESTED BJS STRATEGIC GOALS In the following section, we propose four strategic goals for the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Each section includes a text box (Boxes 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, and 6-4) illustrating how our recommendations and commentary through- out this report support or relate to Goals 1â4, respectively. 6âC.1 A Strong Position of Independence Goal 1: To establish and maintain a strong position of inde- pendence as a statistical agency; to serve as an independent and
282 JUSTICE STATISTICS Box 6-1 (continued) Improve Ties Between BJS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation As discussed in Section 4âC.4, a fully-functional National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) would be a valuable research tool. Accordingly, BJS should facilitate more universal implementation of NIBRS and offer technical support on issues such as small-agency bias, in order to promote better understanding of instances in which NIBRS data may best be used. Build the National Crime Victimization Surveyâs (NCVSâs) Standing as a Critical Social Indicator Recommendation 6.1: BJS must ensure that the nation has quality annual estimates of levels and changes in criminal victimization. Recommendation 6.2: Congress and the administration should en- sure that BJS has a budget that is adequate to ï¬eld a survey that satisï¬es the goal in Recommendation 6.1. Recommendation 6.4: Additional resources made available for the NCVS should be used not only to increase the reliability of annual estimates but also to supplement the survey in ways that increase our understanding of criminal victimization. Explore Means for Dedicated Funding of Victimization Studies Recommendation 6.3: More information about the needs of victims is essential to the compensation and assistance goals of the Ofï¬ce of Victims of Crime. Congress should allow additional funding for the collection and improvement of victimization data to be obtained from funds obtained through the Victims of Crime Act. Continue and Strengthen State Justice Statistics Program and Statistical Analysis Center Partnerships Recommendation 4.1: Through its Statistical Analysis Center and State Justice Statistics programs, BJS should continue to develop its ties with the states, and more fully exploit the potential for using states as partners in data collections. Recommendation 4.2: Developments toward longitudinal and small- area measurement systems should involve state partners who are active in data collection and knowledgeable about state justice sys- tems. objective source of statistical information on crime and the ad- ministration of justice. In light of the discussion in Chapter 5 on BJSâs performance relative to the expected principles and practices of a federal statistical agency, it should not be surprising that building (and rebuilding) BJSâs position of indepen- dence ranks high in our suggested directions for the agency. In recent years, BJS has endured strong challenges to its position of independence, as doc- umented in Section 5âA.2. Arguably, BJSâs most pressing priority in the coming years is restorative: rebuilding BJSâs position of independence as a statistical agency. We suggest an administrative shift of BJS out of the Ofï¬ce
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 283 of Justice Programs (OJP) and designation of a termed appointment for the BJS director as corrective measures. By this goal statement, we suggest that preserving a role of independence also be BJSâs ï¬rst criterion for undertak- ing new data collections or revising existing ones. We recommend (Recom- mendation 5.1) that BJS should not provide individually identiï¬ed data in support of regulatory functions that compromise BJSâs role; this goal state- ment formalizes and extends this clause to include acceptance of functions that involve collecting and analyzing data for policy-furthering, tactical, and operational purposes. Research on policy-speciï¬c evaluation issues should not be done by BJS but by other units within the Justice Department that are formally charged with this responsibility. In contrast to the âstatistical arm of the U.S. Department of Justiceâ verbiage that BJS has sometimes used to describe itself, it is useful to consider as a model the mission statement of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In past years, BLS used similar âstatistical armâ language. However, at least since 2001, BLS has taken the following as its mission statement (http:// stats.bls.gov/bls/blsmissn.htm):1 The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is the principal fact-ï¬nding agency for the Federal Government in the broad ï¬eld of labor economics and statistics. The BLS is an independent national statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, the U.S. Congress, other Federal agencies, State and local governments, business, and labor. The BLS also serves as a statistical resource to the Department of Labor. BJS would be well served to adopt similar language in its self-description, emphasizing that it is ï¬rst and foremost a statistical agency, and that it is a statistical resource to the Justice Department but not an âarmâ to further any policy objective. 6âC.2 Building Statistical Systems and Conceptual Frameworks Goal 2: To build, maintain, and utilize statistical systems that describe the extent and characteristics of crime in our nation and the status and response of the justice system. More than a basic statement of topic, the language of this goal is in- tended to reframe BJSâs grantmaking programs such as the National Crim- inal History Improvement Program. As discussed in Chapter 4, a major problem with the current administration of such programs is that they are strictly a money-transfer operation with no statistical product given back to 1 The full statement includes the second paragraph: âBLS data must satisfy a number of criteria, including relevance to current social and economic issues, timeliness in reï¬ecting to- dayâs rapidly changing economic conditions, accuracy and consistently high statistical quality, and impartiality in both subject matter and presentation.â
284 JUSTICE STATISTICS Box 6-2 Summary of Recommendations and Commentary on Strategic Goal 2: Building Statistical Systems and Conceptual Frameworks Articulate Interrelationships of Data Collections in Strategic Plan Recommendation 3.7: To be useful, a BJS strategic plan must artic- ulate a blueprint of interrelated data collection and product activi- ties, including both current and potentially new data products. This blueprint would be used to evaluate new opportunities. Use Criminal History Record Databases for Research Studies Recommendation 4.3: BJS should actively utilize the NCHIP program to improve criminal history records necessary for longitudinal stud- ies of crime. Implement Core-and-Supplement Frameworks for the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) Recommendation 3.8: (Rec 4.3 from National Research Council, 2008b) BJS should make supplements a regular feature of the NCVS. Procedures should be developed for soliciting ideas for supplements from outside BJS and for evaluating these supplements for inclusion in the survey. Recommendation 3.9: To maximize both utility and timeliness of information, the LEMAS survey should be conducted as core- supplement design in the context of a continuous data collection. Recommendation 3.10: To improve the utility of censuses of law en- forcement agencies, BJS should develop an integrated conceptual plan for their periodicity, publish a 5-year schedule of their publi- cation, and integrate their measurement into the LEMAS as supple- ments. Develop Broader Vision of Law Enforcement Than Management and Administration As discussed in Section 3âF.2, BJSâs current data holdings in law enforce- ment are overly limited to administrative data (e.g., number of sworn ofï¬- cers or presence of certain policies or technologies). BJS should perform analyses linking these data to crime data (thus coming closer to informing assessment of the effectiveness of police policies). Recommendation 3.11: The NCVS (and its supplements) should be more effectively used as a tool for studying law enforcement, both in terms of the types of crime that are reported (and not reported) to police and the action that results from the reporting of a crime (e.g., the Police-Public Contact Survey). Pursue a Records-Based Law Enforcement Data Series Recommendation 4.4: To improve the timeliness of crime statis- tics, BJS should explore the development of a crime reporting sys- tem based on a probability sample of police administrative records. The goals of such a system would be national representativeness, high response, high data quality, timeliness and ï¬exibility in terms of crime classiï¬cation and analysis, and national statistics for the monitoring of crime trends. (continued)
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 285 Box 6-2 (continued) Explore Role of BJSâs Corrections Data Expertise Within the Federal Statistical System As discussed in Section 5âB.11, BJS and the Census Bureau should rec- oncile the relative roles of BJSâs prison and jail censuses and inmate sur- veys and the group quarters portion of the Census Bureauâs American Community Survey to determine which series (or combination) provides the most accurate picture of the correctional population. Stabilize and Improve Sampling in Adjudication Series Recommendation 3.12: As court records become more accessible through computerized case management systems, BJS should im- plement more rigorous methods of probability sampling in its adju- dication series. Recommendation 3.13: To inform future revisions to its adjudication portfolio and to more efï¬ciently acquire and work with court data in the future (including longitudinal analysis), BJS should develop a research program to build representative samples of courts and to assess strategies for collection of case records. Develop Better Understanding of Prosecutor Declinations and Other Adjudication Decisions As discussed in Section 3âF.3, prosecutorsâ declinations to prosecute cer- tain cases remain a major gap in understanding in the justice system ï¬ow model. Ideally, fuller data will arise as participation in State Court Process- ing Statisticsâtype collection becomes more common and standard; as a ï¬rst check, BJS should add some basic questions on case processing to the National Prosecutors Survey, which currently has a purely administra- tive focus. Outline Research Agenda for Civil Justice Collections As discussed in Sections 2âC.2 and 2âD, civil proceedings are a major part of the overall justice systemâand a major gap in BJSâs data portfo- lio, relying essentially on one collection. But an expanded role for BJS in covering civil justice issues raises serious deï¬nitional issues, and develop- ing a measurement system capable of taking an accurate reading of civil disputes settled privately is a very difï¬cult prospect. BJS should clearly ar- ticulate the strengths and weaknesses of its current work in civil justice and identify the highest priority for expanded data collection, should resources become available. the taxpayer. Other than generating rough summary statistics of ï¬rearm- purchase background checks, BJS has not been able to utilize the criminal history record data that its grant monies help to develop at the state and local levels. This failure has occurred, despite a formal set-aside of funds in all of those grants for BJS evaluation purposes. However, as also described in Chapter 4, recent developments have ï¬nally made it possible for BJS to access the compiled history record data for research purposes, opening very exciting avenues for study.
286 JUSTICE STATISTICS To be clear, we consider methodological research to be an essential part of building and maintaining statistical systems. Although attention to in- novation and methodological development is difï¬cult in a climate of con- strained resources, it is essential to the effective improvement or expansion of statistical systems. A higher priority on methodological research is not a panacea; it might not have prevented the necessity of the cost-cutting mea- sures that produced the recent âbreak in seriesâ in the NCVS but it could have provided a fuller assessment of possible risks before those changes were ï¬nalized. By use of the term âstatistical systems,â this goal statement would give lesser priority to one-time data collections that have no enduring beneï¬t to ongoing series or planned data collections. This is not meant to stiï¬e new one-time collections but to ensure that additions to the portfolio are done in a broader context. For example, it is not meant to say that ï¬rst-time efforts like a census of law enforcement aviation units should not be undertaken, but rather that their role should be made clear (as part of the larger LEMAS survey and as a means of building and improving the frame for that broader survey) and that its utility in describing part of the justice system should be explicated. We also consider âstatistical systemsâ to include the partnerships between BJS and state and local authoritiesâpartnerships that, properly, go beyond âimprove[ment of] record-keepingâ and dissemination of BJS products. 6âC.3 Improving Coverage of the Justice System Goal 3: To provide comprehensive statistical coverage of all parts of the criminal justice system, including the longitudinal ï¬ow of persons and cases through the system and their return to the community. The speciï¬c extents of what is called âthe criminal justice systemâ can be debated. In general, the criminal justice system includes the criminal act, consequences of the act, and responses to the act by public agencies and other parties. We think the 1967 funnel model of the system remains useful and have taken it as a point of reference. Accepting this model as a premise, this goal might be restated as saying that data collections rise and fall in importance relative to their proximity to the funnel: the further a speciï¬c phenomenon is from the activities described by the funnel model, the less central it is to the mission of BJS. By its nature, the funnel model has strong implications for setting prior- ities that merit further discussion. First, it suggests that BJS should focus on activities that affect the most people and affect them most extensively. By deï¬nition, this means the incidence of crime and victimization, which the funnel graphically describes as the most prevalent phenomenon in the crim-
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 287 Box 6-3 Summary of Recommendations and Commentary on Strategic Goal 3: Improving Coverage of the Justice System Emphasize Longitudinal Flows and Structures Recommendation 3.4: BJS should develop an approach to measure the experiences of individuals through the criminal justice system on a prospective, longitudinal basis, beginning as early as practicable in the process (arrest) and ending with their eventual exit (ranging from early dismissal of charge through completion of sentence). Recommendation 3.5: BJS should develop an approach to measure the victimization experiences of individuals on a prospective, lon- gitudinal basis, beginning from a focal victimization and following the victim forward in time measuring subsequent victimizations and possible consequences of victimization. The NCVS may be used to recruit respondents to a panel survey of crime victims. Recommendation 3.1: BJSâs goal in providing statistics from basic administrative data on corrections should be the development of a yearly count of correctional populations capable of disaggregation and cross-tabulation by state, offense categories, and by demo- graphic groups (age, race, gender, education). Recommendation 3.2: BJS should produce yearly transition rates between steps in the corrections process capable of disaggregation and cross-tabulation by state, offense categories, and demographic groups. Recommendation 3.6: BJS should develop a panel survey of people under correctional supervision to understand how individuals move between institutional and community settings, and to understand the social contexts of correctional supervision. Facilitate Linkage in Existing Data Sets Recommendation 3.3: BJS should explore the possibilities of in- creasing the utility of their correctional data collections by facili- tating the linkage of records across the data series. For example, the ability to link records from the Recidivism Studies or from NCRP to the Census of Adult Correctional Facilities (CACF) would increase the ability to understand how correctional facilities contribute to re- cidivism. Build Capacity for Studying New and Emerging Types of Crime Recommendation 2.1: Consistent with its legal mandate to collect, analyze, and disseminate statistical information on all aspects of the justice system, BJS should (a) document and organize the avail- able statistics on forms of crime not covered by the NCVS, the FBIâs UCR and NIBRS data systems, and other major data series main- tained by other statistical agencies, (b) pursue research on what new statistics could be feasibly and usefully developed, and (c) pro- pose such new data collections as the research suggests to be both feasible and useful. BJS should strive to function as a clearinghouse of justice-related statistical information, including reference to data not directly collected by BJS. (continued)
288 JUSTICE STATISTICS Box 6-3 (continued) Build Capacity for Covering Hard-to-Reach Populations Recommendation 5.14: BJS should study the measurement of emerging or hard-to-reach groups and should develop more appro- priate approaches to sampling and measurement of these popula- tions. Continue Coordination With Ofï¬ce of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention on Juvenile Justice Data Recommendation 2.2: In line with its original charge and to bet- ter document and understand the contribution of juveniles to street crime and violence, the victimization of youth, and the conse- quences for youth and society of their victimization and offending, BJS should develop juvenile victimization, crime, and justice sta- tistical series suitable for describing the patterns of offending and victimization of youth, longitudinal progression of youth through the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and reentry into the commu- nity and criminal system. Taking on this responsibility would require additional resources. Leverage Second Chance Act Responsibilities to Build Active Program on Recidivism and Reentry Recommendation 3.14: BJS should mount a feasibility study of the ï¬ow of individuals between correctional supervision and community settings. Repeated interviews of samples of about-to-be-released prisoners that track their successes and failures in reintegrating with the community would enhance understanding of this critical policy issue. inal justice system. Following this logic, and all other things being equal, describing crime, victimization, and the immediate consequences should be the principal focus of BJS. Second, however, the nature of a funnel also di- rects attention to the late stages of the process. As offenders make their way through the funnel, their numbers decrease but the consequences of justice system decisions become increasingly consequential in terms of impacts on lives and public budgets. At the far end of the criminal justice system, in the correctional area, the effects of criminal justice decisions are so extensive that obtaining adequate data on these populations takes on an importance well beyond their numbers. This principle for establishing the importance of any given activity need not correspond to the allocation of resources to that activity because some data can be collected more efï¬ciently than others. Nonetheless, it should guide decisions as to where to put the intellectual energy of the agency if not in a one-to-one correspondence to its ï¬scal re- sources. A logical decision process may be to separately value activities by their proximity to the funnel, then assess their relative cost; the ï¬nal portfo- lio is a function of both importance and cost.
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 289 Two of these goals may be combined and interpreted as providing an an- swer to one of the questions raised at the outset of this section: the primacy of the NCVS in BJSâs resource allocations. In terms of BJSâs function as an independent statistical agency (Goal 1), the NCVS can play a major role. The surveyâs role as an independent counterpoint to the count of crimes of- ï¬cially reported to police and its capacity to assess public opinions of and interactions with justice ofï¬cials make a vigorous NCVS a cornerstone of BJSâs reputation for objectivity and data quality. The NCVSâs role in mea- suring the input to, and largest part of, the justice system funnel of Goal 3 further argues for NCVS-intensive funding. This interpretation is valid and we accept it. In our interim report, we considered a number of alternative structures for conducting the survey and the ways in which speciï¬c design features satisfy desired measurement goals. In doing so, one fundamental option that had to be considered âis not to conduct the survey at allââto decide that the collection is, for whatever reasons, not worth its considerable expense. As we noted in that report (National Research Council, 2008b:79), and reafï¬rm here: We reject that option. To take that option violates the legislative re- sponsibilities of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Furthermore, the panel thinks that BJS is the appropriate locus of responsibility for victimiza- tion measurement. As a federal statistical agency, it alone has the man- date for independent, objective, statistical measurement, with the trans- parency that can establish public trust in the information. In our assessment, the NCVS is sufï¬ciently core to BJSâs legally mandated duties and itâs basic function as a statistical agency that it is difï¬cult to imag- ine an effective BJS without a strong and continuing NCVS. For reasons we describe in more detail in our ï¬rst report (National Re- search Council, 2008b), the costs of personal survey interviewing are in- creasing and response rates to surveys in general are declining (even though some federal surveys such as the NCVS continue to maintain very high re- sponse rates). The NCVS requires large sample sizes in order to derive infor- mation on relatively low-incidence phenomena, and so these broader forces on survey research render impossible the truly ideal situation: survey data on victimization with the same quality as the existing NCVS but gathered at a small fraction of the cost. Congress and the administration need to be aware that a high-quality victimization survey is an investment and that accuracy comes with a price. Accordingly, we reiterate two recommendations from our interim report (National Research Council, 2008b:Recs. 3.1 and 3.2)âone on the overrid- ing goal of the NCVS to serve as a continuous, quality indicator of criminal victimization in the United States and another on the need to maintain the NCVS with proper resources.
290 JUSTICE STATISTICS Recommendation 6.1: BJS must ensure that the nation has qual- ity annual estimates of levels and changes in criminal victimiza- tion. Recommendation 6.2: Congress and the administration should ensure that BJS has a budget that is adequate to ï¬eld a survey that satisï¬es the goal in Recommendation 6.1. We see the development of a core-supplement structure for the NCVS as one means of remedying the chronic funding difï¬culties of the NCVS. By seeking commitments from federal agency partners for regular and recur- ring topic supplements to the NCVS, with some portion of the payment for supplements also contributing to the core costs of the survey, BJS has oppor- tunities to more aggressively position NCVS as a ï¬exible and effective data collection vehicle. Another partial solution to the chronic funding difï¬cul- ties of the NCVS is to consider alternative funding streams, one possibility of which is the Crime Victims Fund created by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (42 USC Â§ 10601). The fund consists of monies paid as various federal ï¬nes, penalty assessments, and the proceeds from federal asset forfeitures (as well as gifts from private entities), and grants for victim compensation and support services are made by OJPâs Ofï¬ce of Victims of Crime from the fund. In 1999, the law enabling the fund was changed to authorize, in particular, U.S. Attorneys Ofï¬ces and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to âsuch sums as may be necessaryâ in order âto improve services for the beneï¬t of crime victims in the Federal criminal justice system, and for a Victim Notiï¬cation System.â Although creating similar access for BJS would require language in a legislative reauthorization, it stands to reason that some provision for a modestâbut, importantly, stable and recurringâallocation from the Crime Victim Fund to defray NCVS expenses would be consonant with the intent of the fund. Recommendation 6.3: More information about the needs of vic- tims is essential to the compensation and assistance goals of the Ofï¬ce of Victims of Crime. Congress should allow addi- tional funding for the collection and improvement of victimiza- tion data to be obtained from funds obtained through the Vic- tims of Crime Act. However, we also reiterateâas we described in Section 3âFâthat more should also be expected from that investment in terms of timeliness of anal- ysis, content of topic supplements, and methodological improvement, and we offer a follow-up recommendation: Recommendation 6.4: Additional resources made available for the NCVS should be used not only to increase the reliability of annual estimates but also to supplement the survey in ways that increase our understanding of criminal victimization.
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 291 Although the NCVS may, fairly, enjoy some primacy in resource alloca- tions, the other parts of the justice system funnel are also important. Accord- ingly, BJS should also give priority to ï¬lling in the funnel, that is, ensuring that data exist on every important decision made throughout the process. Some decisionsânotably the declination decisions made by prosecutors and the revocation decisions made by parole and probation ofï¬cersâare not well described by BJS data systems at this time. Increasing the coverage of deci- sion points in the system may not happen overnight and the quality of these data could be designed to improve over time, but BJS should have a plan and should gather the information necessary for planning data collections or other means of describing all important decisions in the criminal justice system. The panel has judged that the most cost-efï¬cient method to study the key transition points in the funnel requires new longitudinal measure- ments. This simple statement of priorities also relegates to a position of lesser importance matters that are not criminal in their nature. We reiterate the point made in Section 2âD that civil justice issues are very important, repre- senting a major share of the judicial proceedings in the nationâs courts. The deï¬nitional problems inherent in scoping out major new data collection in civil justice, as well as the problems of accurately measuring private, out-of- court settlements, are such that expanded data collection in the civil justice area is only practicable with substantial resources and commitment from Congress and the Justice Department. More work in civil justice is certainly worth doing if such resources become available, but a strict interpretation of priorities makes it a lower priority for the agency in the immediate future. 6âC.4 Facilitating Access and Improving Dissemination and Outreach Goal 4: To ensure access to statistics and data on crime and justice by the American public, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. De- partment of Justice and other executive agencies, and state and local government agencies. This goal is a direct carryover from BJSâs self-identiï¬ed strategic goals, and we recognize BJS for including the notion of outreach in its original listing; we have adapted language from BLSâs mission statement to develop our wording. BJS has made laudable strides in promoting access to its data and reports. Its website provides ready and relatively easy access to an extensive backï¬le of BJS reports, summary tabulations, and data collection instruments; so, too, does the OJPâsponsored National Criminal Justice Reference Service which also includes content from the National Institute of Justice and other agencies. The summary tabulations included with report releases are acces- sible to more casual data users while high-end users are well served by BJSâs
292 JUSTICE STATISTICS Box 6-4 Summary of Recommendations and Commentary on Strategic Goal 4: Facilitating Access and Improving Dissemination and Outreach Create and Utilize a Professional Advisory Committee Recommendation 5.8: BJS should establish an Advisory Group under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to provide guidance to BJS on the addition of new data collection efforts and the modiï¬cation of current ones in light of needs identiï¬ed by the group. Membership in the group should include, at a minimum, leaders and practition- ers from each of the major subject matters covered by BJS data, as well as those with statistical and other types of academic expertise in these subject matters. The members of the group should be se- lected by the BJS director and the group should provide the director with at least two reports each year that contain its recommenda- tions. Institute Ad Hoc User and Stakeholder Workshops Recommendation 5.7: To effectively get input on contemporaneous topics of interest, BJS should regularly convene ad hoc stakeholder workshops to suggest areas of immediate data needs. Continue to Develop Mechanisms for More Accurate Data Compilation Recommendation 5.10: To improve the utility and accuracy of the National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP), BJS should work with correctional agencies to develop their own internal records to promote consistent data collections and expand coverage beyond the 41 states covered in the most recent NCRP. Nurture an Active, Continuous Research Program Recommendation 5.13: BJS should carefully study changes in the NCVS survey design before implementing them. Improve Technical Skill Mix of BJS Staff Recommendation 5.15: BJS must improve the technical skills of its staff, including mathematical statisticians, computer scientists, sur- vey methodologists, and criminologists. Build Ties With Congress Recommendation 5.9: DOJ should take steps to ensure that con- gressional staff are aware of BJS data that could be used in devel- oping legislation; DOJ and BJS should learn from congressional staff how their data are needed to inform/support legislation so that they can improve the utility of their current data and so that they can develop new data sets that could enhance policy development. Consider Means to Improve Timeliness of BJS Estimates Recommendation 5.11: BJS should evaluate each of its data pro- grams to inquire whether more timely estimates might be obtained by (a) making discrete data collections into more continuous oper- ations and (b) issuing preliminary estimates, to be followed by ï¬nal estimates. (continued)
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 293 Box 6-4 (continued) Improve Equitable Release of BJS Data for Analytical Purposes As discussed in Section 5âB.4, and in keeping with the expected practice of wide dissemination of data, BJS should continue to work to ensure that all of the public (including external researchers) should have access to data releases at the same time, in formats that are conducive to use and analysis. Enhance BJS Web Presence Recommendation 5.12: BJS should articulate why some data collec- tions are housed on external websites and describe the process by which links to external websites are allowed. BJS should articulate and justify the use of its insignia on external websites. microdata holdings at the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. It has also, in recent years, taken steps to add to the feedback and expert knowl- edge contribution that it already obtains through its state Statistical Analysis Center networks; its sponsorship of a data user conference in February 2008 was an instructive exercise. Going forward, the challenge is for BJS to increase its public proï¬le and its relevance in policy debates while maintaining the high quality standards it has set for itself. In the panelâs assessment, the creation of a formal advisory committee would beneï¬t BJS as a sounding board for speciï¬c data collection revisions, a reviewer of new research priorities, and a source of intelligence on new and emerging topics in criminal justice. A formal advisory commit- tee would usefully complement feedback from ad hoc user and stakeholder workshops on speciï¬c data needs. From the technical standpoint, an impor- tant means for BJS to increase its public relevance is to ï¬nd ways to address long-standing concerns about the agencyâs data products: though they are generally held in high regard, they are frequently seen as lacking timeliness and, particularly for the NCVS, subnational geographic detail. In addition to work on statistical modeling to improve the temporal and spatial resolu- tion of estimates (a search in which BJS could partner with federal statistical agencies, most of which face similar pressures from its user constituencies), BJS should also consider a release schedule involving preliminary estimates subject to ï¬nal review and possible revision. 6âD SUMMARY Congress has given the Bureau of Justice Statistics a comprehensive man- date to collect data and disseminate policy-relevant statistical information on a broad array of domains. However, BJS does not have the human and ï¬scal resources to fulï¬ll this mandate. Recent history shows evidence of in-
294 JUSTICE STATISTICS terference from within the Department of Justice in its attempts to report objectively the information it does collect. As a principal federal statistical agency BJS must become an independent, objective collector and reporter to the nation about the justice system. To achieve that independence, in the judgment of the panel, BJS should be orga- nizationally separated from units of the Justice Department that administer programs; its director should be a presidential, ï¬xed-term appointment; it should not participate in regulatory activities; its products must not be cen- sored; it should renew the NCVS; it should enrich its ties with state justice systems to the beneï¬t of national statistical information. BJS should shape its statistical series with the entire justice system in mind, from the moment of a criminal act through all stages of the adminis- trative consequences. This means a new blueprint for its products, exploit- ing new developments in computerized record systems, more timely sup- plements to existing surveys on new developments, guiding conceptual and statistical principles for its adjudication series, and revived attention to court statistics. The panel urges BJS to develop more longitudinal measurement tools, following the course of a criminal event and the actors involved in the event over time. Only with such longitudinal observation can the country learn about the outcome of various policy interventions. This longitudinal measurement will probably involve the mix of administrative data and self- report data from sample surveys, and should apply to all stages of the justice system. Such a plan will probably involve active partnerships with the FBI, the Ofï¬ce of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the courts. It will clearly entail studies of the movement in and out of incarceration and in and out of the community. The panel believes that such a longitudinal vision requires new funding models to achieve success. One action step to achieve BJSâs appropriate stature is to expand BJSâs role as a clearinghouse for all justice-related statistical information. To do this, BJS must develop mechanisms to be informed about the key informa- tion needs of the country. BJS needs a permanent technical advisory com- mittee, with rotating membership of key stakeholders and statistical experts; it needs ongoing user workshops; it needs human resources to continuously examine new ways to utilize records and innovative measurement designs for its statistical series. The agency needs to add more highly skilled statis- tical staff so that it can design its own statistical programs instead of relying on other agencies and contractors. In short, BJS should be able to provide the technical leadership for the countryâs justice statistics. As it is currently equipped, BJS is not fulï¬lling its legal mandate. This is due neither to the current staff of BJS, who have proven capable and re- silient over the 30 years since the agencyâs creation, nor to its existing set of data collections. Nor is it due to the legal mandate itself: the tasks and expectations placed on BJS are appropriately broad and sprawling, reï¬ecting
STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS 295 the complexity of crime and the importance of information on the admin- istration of justice to the public good. Rather, the problem is that BJS lacks the position of independence and culture of innovation that areâwith com- mensurate resourcesânecessary for the agency to more fully meet its legally deï¬ned expectations. BJS has accomplished a great deal in 30 years, but much work remains to be done to ensure the quality, credibility, and rel- evance of statistics on justice in the United Statesâto achieve the BJS the country deserves.