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Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

SEARCH Fall Group Meeting and 40th Anniversary Celebration
November 17, 2009

       Thank you, Paco. It's so nice to be here.

       I'm delighted to be here with Senator Leahy, and to have the opportunity of introducing him in just a few moments. Senator Leahy is one of the real stalwarts on the Hill when it comes to criminal and juvenile justice issues, and it's a real honor to share this time with him.

       Before I introduce him, SEARCH asked that I share a few thoughts - as OJP's newly sworn-in Assistant Attorney General - about my priorities. And I'll keep this brief because I know you're all anxious to hear from Senator Leahy.

       First, I feel it's very important that you all know that the Attorney General and I are committed to keeping an open dialogue with you and those you represent. This is something we both feel very strongly about - and take very seriously. This frankly hasn't been the case in recent years, and I think the Department's failure to listen to and fully engage its state and local partners has been a great disservice, both to the Department and to the field. I want you to know that things are different now.

       Many of you, I know, were at the listening sessions I held back in the spring. The idea behind those sessions was to get your feedback about what the issues and challenges are - and how we can work with you to meet those challenges. And I feel like we're off to a good start.

       Another thing we're working hard to do is to restore respect for the science. That's another thing that's been forgotten in recent years, and we need to bring it back. Eric Holder is right out front on this. If you've heard him speak, you know that this has become a mantra for him. And I think we should all be very encouraged by that. We need to get back to supporting basic social science research and to really work on expanding our inventory of evidence-based approaches. And then we need to do a better job of helping the field apply that knowledge. We have an effort now that we call the Evidence Integration Initiative, where we're working to improve the quantity and quality of evidence that we generate through our research, evaluation, and statistical functions, and then to better integrate evidence in program and policy decisions.

       I'm also so pleased that President Obama has appointed two respected researchers - John Laub and Jim Lynch - as directors of our National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics, respectively. Of course, they're awaiting Senate confirmation, but it's very encouraging that two people with their credentials are being considered for these positions.

        We're also working to make sure that we're being open and transparent in how we administer funds. As you know, OJP does much more than dole out money, but good stewardship of federal funds is one of our most important responsibilities. This means being completely fair in our decision-making within OJP, and it also means holding our grantees accountable for how they're using our money.

        Finally - and this gets back to what I said earlier about partnership - I want to really strengthen our collaboration with other parts of the Department and the Administration - and also with Congress. I don't think there's been nearly enough of that in the recent past. But now we're doing things like holding research briefings for DOJ staff on issues ranging from procedural justice to Hot Spots Policing. We're working closely with ONDCP and HHS on substance abuse issues in the justice system. We're coordinating with the White House on reentry and youth and gang violence issues. And we're providing regular briefings to Members of Congress and their staff on our activities.

       There are a host of other things we're doing:

  • For example, next week we're holding a symposium on predictive policing in L.A. Our National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Assistance are working with the LAPD on that effort.
  • We're working through our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention on issues related to children exposed to violence, which is a very high priority of the Attorney General's.
  • Our tribal programs are part of an overall Department effort to increase engagement in Indian country. The Attorney General just held a tribal listening session in Minneapolis, and we were part of that.
  • We're continuing our work to improve services to victims - we want to make sure our programs are reaching under-served victims like victims with disabilities, and we want to make sure we're responsive to victims of crime with an international dimension - crimes like human trafficking, computer-facilitated child sexual exploitation, and identity theft.
  • We're working through our SMART Office to improve the management of sex offenders. And I know you heard from Linda Baldwin about that yesterday.
  • And of course, we're continuing the work we've been doing through BJA, NIJ, and BJS to improve justice information sharing and information management. You'll be hearing more about some of those efforts from Jim Burch. And I just want to applaud SEARCH - and all of you - for really being the leaders in this area - particularly for the work you've been doing lately on protecting privacy and civil liberties, which is so important to achieving a legitimate system of justice.

       I mentioned a moment ago working with our partners on Capitol Hill. One of our best partners - and true supporters - over the years has been the senior senator from Vermont, and it's my honor to introduce him to you today.

        Senator Leahy is one of those rare people who have both an intellectual mastery of the issues and a true understanding of how those issues affect Americans. I think it's safe to say he's devoted his entire career to public safety - first as a prosecutor, and then as a member of the United States Senate, where he's served now for 35 years.

       As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he's at the center of national debates on topics ranging from terrorism and domestic preparedness, to DNA and forensics, to law enforcement funding and victim services. And having testified before him on many occasions, I can tell you that he's fully engaged. He does his homework. He asks just the right questions. And you can really tell that he cares about the issues, and he cares about the safety of American citizens.

       Senator Leahy is also a leading member of the Appropriations Commerce-Justice-State Subcommittee, among other roles. And I can tell you that, having spent seven years at Justice under Janet Reno, I was always grateful that OJP's stakeholders had a champion like him on the Hill.

       It's always a pleasure to see him. Please welcome the Honorable Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy.

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