NIJ Conference attendees.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Conference, held on June 1416, 2010, in Arlington, VA, featured more than 60 panel discussions about the latest research on effective approaches to preventing and intervening in crime. Attended by approximately 1,400 researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from across the nation, the conference addressed research and evidence-based practices in corrections, courts and sentencing, forensic science policy and technical issues, geography and crime, building safer communities, policing, and violence and victimization.
Laurence Tribe, renowned Harvard constitutional law scholar and now Senior Counselor for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice, gave the keynote address on June 14. Television host Paula Zahn made a presentation preceding a plenary panel on June 16 marking the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.
In her opening remarks on the first day of the conference, Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), provided an overview of the agency's Evidence Integration Initiative, which aims to improve the quality and quantity of evidence that OJP generates, to ensure that the evidence informs program and policy decisions, and to consistently translate evidence into practice in the juvenile justice field. Working groups within OJP have been established to synthesize evidence on specific justice topics and develop principles for practice that can be communicated to the field. The initiative also includes plans for developing a Crime Solutions Resource Center, a Web site for evidence-based programs and practices, and a help desk to provide direct support to jurisdictions as they apply evidence-based approaches.
"It's . . . critical that we bear in mind who the consumers are herelaw enforcement, prosecutors, judges, juvenile justice professionals, and victim service providers," Assistant Attorney General Robinson said. "If we're not reaching them and helping them do their jobs better, then I think we've failed in our mission. . . . Restoring respect for science can't happen unless we respect the needs of those who apply it."
Among many presentations related to evidence-based practices, the NIJ Conference included the following panels on OJJDP-supported research and programs:
- Pathways to Desistance: Preventing Crime and Rehabilitating Juvenile Offenders highlighted findings from a 7-year longitudinal study of serious and persistent juvenile offenders from Philadelphia and Phoenix. The study follows a large sample of serious offenders into early adulthood, providing insight into changes across multiple life domains that contribute to offenders' desisting from or persisting in antisocial activities. One goal of the Pathways study is to provide juvenile justice professionals and policymakers with reliable empirical information that can be applied to improve practice, particularly regarding juveniles' competence and culpability, risk for future offending, and amenability to rehabilitation.
During the panel discussion, two of the study's researchers, Edward P. Mulvey and Carol A. Schubert, compared youth who are transferred to adult court with their peers in the juvenile system; explored the relationships between certain mental disorders and a range of outcomes, including employment, education, and recidivism; and examined the different effects of institutional placement on offending for individuals with and without mental health disorders. Dr. Mulvey and Ms. Schubert are coauthors of the forthcoming OJJDP bulletin, Substance Use and Delinquent Behavior Among Serious Adolescent Offenders, one in a series of OJJDP bulletins about the researchers' findings.
Children Exposed to Violence included a discussion about the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), the first comprehensive attempt to measure children's exposure to all types of violence in the home, school, and community across age groups from birth to age 17 and the first attempt to measure the cumulative exposure to violence over a child's lifetime. The reports of lifetime exposure indicate how certain types of exposure change and accumulate as a child grows up. Dr. David Finkelhor, Director of NatSCEV, said during the panel discussion that the survey found that more than 60 percent of children have been exposed to violence, crime, and abuse in the past year and 10 percent reported an assault-related injury. He is a coauthor of the OJJDP bulletin Children's Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey, released in October 2009. This bulletin is the first in a series that will address the survey results and the implications for prevention, assessment, and treatment. Upcoming bulletins will focus on children's exposure to intimate partner and other family violence and the impact on children of multiple exposures to violence.
The OJJDP bulletin, Children's Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey
. The bulletin was published jointly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Gang Membership Prevention addressed the risk and protective factors that influence gang membership. One of the panelists, Dr. James "Buddy" Howell, Senior Research Associate at the Bureau of Justice Assistance's and OJJDP's National Gang Center, discussed the proven effectiveness of a "continuum of prevention and intervention programs" starting in early childhood and including programs to remove older children from gangs and suppression strategies to target more violent gangs and gang members. Citing OJJDP's annual National Youth Gang Survey, Dr. Howell reported that following a marked decline from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, there has been a steady resurgence of gang problems.
- The Greening of Corrections, which focused on environmental conservation efforts in the field of corrections, featured, among other topics, new OJJDP-funded projects that incorporate environmentally sustainable activities as part of reentry programs for tribal youth in detention. The programs are designed to prevent delinquency and reduce recidivism, alcoholism, and substance abuse by deepening pride in traditional tribal culture, strengthening families, and promoting health and wellness activities. Important components of the programs include tutoring and other educational opportunities as well as substance abuse and mental health counseling. OJJDP plans to select a national evaluator to conduct an outcome evaluation of this initiative. The evaluation findings will provide the data needed to determine which strategies work most effectively in addressing the needs of youth during incarceration and after they reenter their communities. For more information on this program, see the article, "OJJDP's Reentry Programs for Tribal Youth Incorporate Green Technologies," in this issue.
For a recap of events at the conference, visit the NIJ Web site.