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Criminology and Criminal Justice Research: Organization - The Federal Impact On Research

crime program data violence

The federal government's interest in appropriating funds for the research and understanding of crime has continued to grow since its early interest in the 1960s. Housed within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is principally in charge of allocating research funds. OJP is topically divided into bureaus and programs that provide research support per topic area, including: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Bureau of Justice Assistance, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and Office of Victims of Crime.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) was created in 1979 and is primarily in charge of criminal justice statistics, including the collection, analysis, publishing, and disseminating of all information related to crime and criminal victimizations at all levels of government. BJS also administers the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), which provides funding and technical assistance to improve the quality and accessibility of criminal history and related records, to support the interface between state and national record systems, and for data collection on presale firearm background checks. Finally, BJS assists states in technical and financial support of Statistical Analysis Centers (SACs), state-level agencies that are responsible for statistical activities concerning criminal justice issues and policies in each state. The national organization of the SACs is the Justice Research and Statistics Association ( JRSA). This association is comprised of state SAC directors, analysts, researchers, and practitioners throughout the justice system. JRSA performs three main functions: it provides a clearinghouse of information on state criminal justice research, programs, and publications; offers training in computer technology as it relates to criminal justice issues; and reports on the latest research being conducted within federal and state criminal justice agencies. In addition, JRSA holds an annual conference in which grantees, researchers, and practitioners convene for information dissemination and sharing.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) was established by the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and administers the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Enforcement Assistance Program. BJA provides funding and technical support to assist state and local agencies to combat crime and drug abuse. BJA also identifies, develops, and shares programs, techniques, and information with the states to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system, and provides training and technical assistance to enhance the expertise of criminal justice personnel. In addition, BJA provides funding for the National White Collar Crime Center (NWCCC), which offers national support for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of economic crimes.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), also created by the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, is authorized to support research, evaluation, and demonstration programs, development of technology, and both national and international information dissemination. NIJ funds a number of programs covering a variety of issues within criminal justice. Among its many funded programs are: Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM), Breaking the Cycle, Correctional and Law Enforcement Family Support Program (CLEFs), Crime Mapping Research Center, Data Resources Program, International Center, Sentencing and Adjudication Program, Violence Against Women, and Family Violence Research and Evaluation Program. In particular, ADAM tracks trends in the prevalence and types of drug use among booked arrestees in urban areas within the United States, and has also expanded to rural areas and a site in England. Breaking the Cycle is a systemwide intervention designed to identify and treat all defendants in need of substance abuse treatment throughout the entire justice system. CLEFS is designed to find ways to prevent and treat the negative effects of stress experienced by law enforcement and correctional officers and their families. The Crime Mapping Research Center was established in 1997 with the goal of promotion, research, evaluation, development, and dissemination of GIS (geographic information systems) technology and the spatial analysis of crime. The International Center takes as it mission the comparison and study of criminal behavior and criminal justice systems in an international context. Although NIJ holds an annual conference in which grantees present work-in-progress to other researchers and practitioners, many of the programs within NIJ, such as ADAM and the Crime Mapping Research Center, also hold annual conferences.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) was established in 1974 and provides funding to states, territories, localities, and private organizations on matters related to juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice. There are seven divisions within OJJDP: missing and exploited children, concentration of federal effort, information dissemination, state relations and assistance, research and program development, training and technology assistance, and a special emphasis unit. Since the mid-1980s, the office has been engaged in a number of important research projects including Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Safefutures, and a three-site longitudinal study known as the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency. This last program, with sites in Rochester, Pittsburgh, and Denver, employs a team of researchers who have been collecting data for cohorts of individuals since middle/late childhood through early adulthood in an effort to understand the development and desistance of criminal offending.

The Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) was formed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1983 and formally established by Congress in 1988 through an amendment to the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). The office provides federal funds to support victim assistance and compensation programs around the country and advocates for the fair treatment of crime victims. OVC administers formula and discretionary grants for programs designed to benefit victims, to provide training for diverse professionals who work with victims, and to develop projects to enhance victims' rights and services. The mission of OVC is to enhance the nation's capacity to assist crime victims and to provide leadership in changing attitudes, policies, and practices to promote justice and healing for all victims of crime. The office accomplishes these tasks by administering the Crime Victim's Fund, supporting demonstration projects with national impact, and publishing and disseminating materials that highlight promising practices in the effective treatment of crime victims that can be replicated throughout the country. A major responsibility of OVC is the administration of the Crime Victims Fund, which is derived not from tax dollars but from fines and penalties paid by federal criminal offenders. In 1997, $363 million was collected and distributed to states to assist in funding their victim assistance and compensation programs. Since 1988, OVC has distributed over $2 billion to the states to support victim services and compensation.

In addition to providing monetary support to crime victims, OVC also sponsors training on a variety of victims' issues for many different professions, including victim service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, the judiciary, the clergy, and medical and mental health personnel. OVC also provides discretionary grants for innovative projects and has funded important reports on civil legal remedies for victims, on model antistalking laws, and on protocols for handling offenses on native tribal lands. The office has also established the OVC Resource Center, an information clearinghouse that provides current research findings, statistics, and literature on emerging victim issues. Finally, OVC has established the OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC). This center serves as a centralized access point for information about OVC's training and technical assistance resources.

In addition to OJP's bureaus, which provide monetary funds for research, OJP has also developed specialized programs to aid in furthering criminological research. The corrections program office was established in 1995 to implement the correctional grant programs created by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The Drug Courts Program Office was established to administer the drug court grant program and provide financial and technical assistance, training, guidance, and leadership. Operation Weed and Seed is a program that seeks to "weed" out criminal behavior and "seed" the target area through social and economic revitalization. State and Local Domestic Preparedness Support is offered to aid local public safety personnel in acquiring the equipment and skills to safely respond to domestic terrorist activities. The Police Corps is a college scholarship program designed to pay for education expenses for students who agree to work in a state or local police force for at least four years after graduation.

In addition to the funding available from the Office of Justice Programs, the National Science Foundation (NSF), under the Law and Human Behavior Program, has provided researchers with funding opportunities to study criminological and criminal justice issues. In 1994, NSF called for proposals for an interdisciplinary, multi-university effort to be supported by a five-year, $12 million grant. The funding for the grant was primarily from NSF with an additional $2 million from Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and $400,000 from the National Institute of Justice. Of the thirteen proposals received, one from Carnegie Mellon University was selected and has been the distributor of funds under the name National Consortium on Violence Research (NCOVR). The purpose of NCOVR is to employ a "virtual" consortium whereby the top researchers in the social and behavioral sciences use communication technology (i.e., e-mail) that was largely unavailable twenty years ago to study issues related to violence. Each summer, the consortium members convene for a summer workshop that involves the reporting of research results and development of future plans. As of 1999, the consortium had seventy members at thirty-eight universities in twenty-two states and four nations, including England, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

NCOVR is comprised of three research program areas that are designed to cover the array of violence-causing factors: individual, situational, and community. The individual level is concerned with individual characteristics and developmental experiences that lead some individuals to become more violent than others. The area on Continuity and Change uses a variety of longitudinal data sets to examine developmental processes and how they affect differential individual responses to a variety of violence-inducing stimuli. The situational level is concerned with identifying those factors that contribute to escalation in violence in some conflict situations and to peaceful resolution in others. The area on Situational Dynamics uses data on individual experiences in conflict situations that range from unstructured ethnographic observation to structured interviews to identify when conflicts turn into violence and when they are resolved otherwise. Specific attention is directed at studying guns, relationships, and the presence of drugs, including alcohol. The community level is concerned with identifying the differences between communities with high and low rates of violence, even after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic compositions. The Time and Space area is concerned with identifying factors that contribute to both long-term trends in violence as well as short-term variation around those trends.

In the late 1990s NCOVR initiated a series of projects in two other research areas: Race and Ethnicity, and Women and Violence. Research in the Race and Ethnicity area focuses on the factors that contribute to the differences and similarities among racial and ethnic groups in their involvement in violence as both victims and perpetrators. An important emphasis within the Race and Ethnicity area is the explanation of ethnic differences within racial or broader ethnic categories. Research in the Women and Violence area explores violence involving women, both as offenders and victims.

NCOVR provides two main sources of funding and operates four educative programs. The two main funding opportunities are grants and research initiative funds. The former are the kinds of awards that are typically awarded to those interested in studying criminological issues, while the latter entail small amounts of monies (under $5,000) that are designed to field small-scale pilot studies that are hoped to result in larger-scale research projects. The four educative programs operated by NCOVR include: pre-doctoral fellowships, postdoctoral fellowships, professional career-development fellowships, and an undergraduate training program. Pre-doctoral fellowships are designed for students pursuing a doctoral degree with an NCOVR member and with a secondary advisor of a different discipline. The pre-doctoral stipend is $10,000 per year. Postdoctoral fellowships are new Ph.D.s who work on one of the ongoing NCOVR research projects. The stipend is $30,000 for full-time work. The Professional Career Development Fellowships are designed for faculty members at minority-serving institutions who work with one or more NCOVR members on research projects to improve their research and grant-writing skills. These fellowships are eligible for funding to support their research efforts. The Undergraduate Training Program is designed to reach out to minority-serving institutions in an effort to provide undergraduates an opportunity to learn about research and education opportunities related to the study of violence.

In addition to grant-making and education, NCOVR also fields the NCOVR Data Center. Accessed through the NCOVR web site, the Data Center maintains a number of important data sets that can be readily linked. As of 1999, NCOVR had the complete set of Uniform Crime Reports from 1980 through 1996 as well as the complete 1980 and 1990 census data. The Data Center also retains Supplemental Homicide Report Data on details of individual homicide incidents. These crime and census data are available to the broader research community and are not restricted to NCOVR members. Finally, the Data Center has a special version of the National Crime Victimization Survey. This data set is provided to NCOVR by BJS through the Census Bureau, which collects the data for BJS, and indicates the census tract of each respondent, and so permits examination of victimization risk based on community characteristics. Because of Census Bureau policies designed to limit disclosure risk, these data can only be used in the Regional Census Data Center located at Carnegie Mellon University. Importantly, NCOVR believes that this can be an important resource for violence research, and as a result, it is prepared to cover the out-of-pocket costs of anyone wanting to pursue research with these data.

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