THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
NATIONAL FORUM ON EVIDENCE-BASED
CRIME AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE POLICY
MONDAY, JUNE 14, 2004
Good morning! I want to thank all of you for being here today to discuss the critical issue of how we can better use research and science to ensure that we are investing taxpayer dollars in crime and substance-abuse reduction approaches that work.
I also want to thank our partners in this pioneering effort, the Council for Excellence in Government and its Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy for all the work they have done, particularly in producing the report we'll discuss today. And I want to thank the Robert Wood Johnson and Jerry Lee Foundations for their financial support for this important initiative.
As you all know, some work has already been done to help start criminal justice on the path blazed by the medical community of rigorous testing and scientific trials that have led to huge advances in the field of medicine.
I want to particularly recognize Jerry Lee, Jon Baron, and my predecessor, Laurie Robinson, each of whom has contributed significantly, not only to the body of knowledge that 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 and assumption, 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.
Let give you an example from personal experience of the danger of assumption in criminal justice policy-making - and of how randomized controlled trials CAN be conducted in the criminal justice field, even in as sensitive an area as domestic violence.
When I was a county prosecutor in Indiana, the prevailing theory in domestic violence cases was that you didn't allow the victim to drop charges. It was thought that this approach served the best interests of both the victim and the criminal justice system.
However, our office took part in a landmark experiment by Dr. David Ford at Indiana University in the mid-1980s that tested the effects of alternative criminal justice policies in preventing further abuse in misdemeanor wife battery cases.
The study found that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, women victims were significantly more likely to be safe from continuing violence when the perpetrator was arrested under a victim-initiated warrant AND the victim was given the option of whether to drop the charges.
None of the other policies or sanctions had any beneficial effect whatsoever. The only positive factor in preventing further violence was in giving victims a choice whether to proceed with the criminal justice process.
Despite these almost 20-year-old findings, many jurisdictions today still have no-drop policies in effect, and many victim advocates still think such policies are needed to protect battered women from further abuse.
The ability of federal, state, and local efforts effectively to prevent crime and substance abuse depends critically on whether we have scientifically valid knowledge that tells us which strategies and interventions work and which don't work. It also depends on whether we use that knowledge effectively to guide policy and practice. The effort we have undertaken with the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy is working to advance these two goals.
As I mentioned, some work has already been done to move criminal justice policy forward through sound research. 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'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.
But challenges remain in clearly identifying exemplary programs, sharing that information in an understandable way with the criminal justice community, and using good science to influence practice.
For example, we lack standard definitions or yardsticks for determining what constitutes an "exemplary," "model," or "promising" program. Embarrassingly, I learned a few months ago that, though OJJDP has put significant funding into the Blueprints program, our own Title V program within OJJDP uses different definitions than those employed by the Blueprints initiative.
And other agencies with whom we collaborate closely, such as SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services, use still other criteria for determining what programs fall into which of these categories. Happily, we have brought all these players together, and are working on a system that will clarify these issues for the field.
Second, we do not possess, even within OJP, much less on a cross-agency basis, a single repository of all the information currently available on what works.
Third, the 2004 National Institute of Justice social science research budget is so bare-bones that the Department of Justice cannot afford to add nearly as much as we would like to the national knowledge base.
Fourth, we have to struggle to keep even our own grantees from using Department of Justice funds to put out unscientific "best practices" information. This particularly occurs with grantees whose funding is not awarded through a competitive process.
Finally, because of a dearth of scientific evidence in the criminal justice field, Members of Congress lack hard data on which to base funding decisions. Partly as a result, Members of Congress have directed 100 percent of our discretionary program budget to specific projects, without regard to scientific evidence of effectiveness.
However, the Appropriations Committees have expressed an interest in receiving such information - and, in 2003, they allowed us to set aside a small amount of funding to conduct evaluations of these projects. Unfortunately, when I asked our National Institute of Justice to determine which of the 150 earmarked projects for 2003 Byrne discretionary grant funding were susceptible to evaluation, we found only three.
Congress wants and needs more information on what works so that it can make more informed decisions about where to direct public monies. And while I'll be reporting back to Congress on the results of our findings, I'd like to thank the Congressional staff members who are participating in this forum for being here and for recognizing this critical need.
There is, however, much good news.
We know that criminal justice interventions can be measured using randomized controlled trials - and both practitioners and social scientists are embracing the potential for truly rigorous scientific research into crime reduction. That's the reason we're all here today - to determine how best to move this effort forward.
There also is a growing recognition across the federal government that we must embrace randomized controlled trials as the "gold standard" for research on government-funded programs, and seek to come as close as possible to that standard in the research we fund.
And I'd like to thank our federal partners for their willingness to work together to come to some consensus on how we can better standardize our definitions, coordinate our work, and jointly support research in areas where we have mutual interest or responsibility.
We also have already started to implement one of the recommendations of the Coalition report that you'll be hearing more about in a moment. We are developing a "what works" web site, through which we will pull together the scientific information currently available, catalogue it, and help communities to make good use of this information to problem-solve at the local level.
In addition, in all our grant programs, we are requiring grantees to benchmark and measure the impact of their programs on the problem they are seeking to solve.
And we're also helping communities build their own capacity for measuring the performance of the programs they support - both with and without the aid of federal dollars.
For example, we're encouraging communities to partner with local universities to help collect data needed to inform policy making and programming, and to conduct evaluations of funded programs.
I look forward to working with all of you to build on these efforts and to apply the lessons learned from medicine, welfare, and other fields to advance evidence-based approaches to crime and substance abuse prevention policy. Thank you again for joining in this critical initiative.
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We're going to continue our program now as we eat lunch, and Charles Curie, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has graciously agreed to give the luncheon remarks.
I know it's always hard being the luncheon speaker and having to speak over the din as people eat, but I can think of no one who can hold our attention better than Administrator Curie. I've worked closely with Mr. Curie on a number of important efforts, including the Reentry Initiative. In fact, he was confirmed as SAMHSA Administrator just one month after I came back to the Justice Department to head OJP.
Over these last several years, I've been truly impressed by the breadth of his knowledge and experience in the fields of substance abuse prevention, additions treatment, and mental health services. And I value his vision and his guidance on a host of issues relating to the problems of substance abuse, crime, and mental health.
I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to continue working with him on this Evidence-Based Policy Initiative, and I look forward to hearing his views. He's also, by the way, a fellow Hoosier from my home State of Indiana. Please welcome The Honorable Charles Curie.
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Thank you very much, Administrator Curie. I'm very pleased to welcome our keynote speaker. Clay Johnson is Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget, where he is responsible for helping Executive Branch agencies improve their operations and program performance.
He also has served as Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel, where he was responsible, essentially, for staffing the entire Administration of President George W. Bush. He worked on the Bush-Cheney transition team, and before that for then-Governor Bush in Austin as his Chief of Staff.
He has brought to these positions a strong background in corporate management, having worked in top positions at major corporations such as Neiman Marcus, Citicorp, Wilson Sporting Goods, and Frito Lay. He also has very impressive academic credentials. His undergraduate degree is from Yale University, where he had a very famous classmate, and he has a Masters from MIT's Sloan School of Management.
One of the primary areas of concentration running through all of his professional life is the very subject on which we meet today, and the reason we are so fortunate to have him with us: he feels strongly about the need to measure the actual impact of public and corporate decisions, and to inform future policy decisions on the basis of science.
As they often say in the private sector, "if you're not keeping score, you're just practicing." Clay Johnson is dedicated to keeping score, with the specific intention of making a real and positive difference in the quality of life of people throughout America.
Please welcome Clay Johnson III.