THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
4TH ANNUAL JERRY LEE CRIME PREVENTION SYMPOSIUM
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2004
Good afternoon. Let me begin by recognizing Jerry Lee, Larry Sherman and Laurie Robinson, each of whom has contributed significantly not only to the body of knowledge which can inform criminal justice, but also to my personal ability, and that of the Office of Justice Programs, to do what I believe is the most important thing we can do.
That is, each of these distinguished and dedicated individuals has helped to bring into the mainstream of criminal justice practice the benefit of good science, thus making it possible for OJP to identify and encourage the employment of truly effective approaches to crime and delinquency prevention and reduction.
We have reached a promising new era in law enforcement and criminal justice. In the past, criminal justice practitioners operated on instinct, not science. They tried new approaches, if they did so at all, because they sounded as though they should be effective; but it did not occur to the practitioners to examine the research before they instituted a particular practice, or to measure its effectiveness as they deployed it.
Further, yesterday's system was completely reactive. Police responded to radio runs; prosecutors thought their job was to move cases - preferably, to win them - and judges thought their mission was to have an efficiently-run docket. Any effort to see one's mission as even in part to reduce crime and its impact on the community would be viewed by yesterday's judge as demonstrating a bias toward the prosecution.
Today's reality is far different. Criminal justice practitioners recognize, to an increasing degree, that their public trust is far broader than "moving cases through the system efficiently". They understand that their mission includes a responsibility to actually increase public safety and the quality of life in the community.
They recognize that the public, too, has a role in community safety - and that economic development, home ownership, and individual employment also play an important role in crime suppression. And they recognize that a tough, vigorous approach to violent predators and an aggressive delinquency prevention approach are not mutually exclusive; nor are drug supply and demand reduction.
In fact, practitioners and policymakers alike understand, virtually universally, that all these approaches, in tandem, are necessary to achieve safer communities.
Similarly, as expressed most recently in the President's State of the Union address this year, we know that, for the sake of public safety, we need to assist convicted offenders who are returning to our communities following a period of incarceration.
While it is clear that lengthy prison sentences for serious offenders have contributed significantly to our current record-low crime rates, it is equally clear that most of these offenders will at some point leave prison and return to communities which, statistics show, will be markedly less safe as a direct result of their return.
So we are engaged in a broad-based approach to the reintegration, or re-entry, of these offenders, involving education, drug treatment, mental health treatment, job and life skills training, housing assistance, and mentoring, in addition to close monitoring.
However, even though we, as a criminal justice community, are moving in this promising new direction, we still find ourselves without sufficient information about what approaches to crime reduction make a significant difference. Larry Sherman has, of course, done some groundbreaking work - and the Campbell Collaboration continues to do so - in reviewing research and cataloguing what works, what's promising, and (perhaps most importantly) what does not work, or has been found actually to do harm.
Similarly, the Blueprints for Violence Prevention project, conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, with funding from our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, has identified programs that have been shown, through rigorous evaluation, to make a positive difference in delinquency prevention, and that are capable of replication.
Unfortunately, we are faced with several challenges in clearly identifying exemplary programs, sharing that information in an understandable way with the criminal justice community, and using good science to influence practice. Among those challenges are these:
The good news, however, is this:
We are so grateful for the work of people like Jerry Lee, Larry Sherman, Jon Baron and Laurie Robinson, as well as the other excellent speakers you have heard at this symposium, for their dedication to furthering the national research agenda - and I know that all those present today share that dedication.
We at the Office of Justice Programs look forward to continuing to work with all of you toward the worthy goal of informing all criminal justice practice through research. Thank you so much for the opportunity to address you today.