The bureau of justice statistics
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The Bureau of Justice Statistics. Mission and Organization. Statistical arm of the Department of Justice Staffed by about 40 statisticians (grades 9-15) and 20 other support staff Report data on the life-cycle of a crime from when it occurs through post-correctional outcomes

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Mission and organization
Mission and Organization

  • Statistical arm of the Department of Justice

  • Staffed by about 40 statisticians (grades 9-15) and 20 other support staff

  • Report data on the life-cycle of a crime from when it occurs through post-correctional outcomes

  • Five major units:

    • Victimization

    • Law Enforcement

    • Prosecution and Adjudication

    • Corrections

    • Special Projects and Recidivism

The national crime victimization survey
The National Crime Victimization Survey

  • Flagship Program

  • Measures national yearly rate of reported and unreported crime victimization and property thief, and moreover characteristics and consequences of these crimes.

  • Rotating panel survey -

    • Households interviewed twice a year for about three years.

    • Completes about 40,000 households interviews / 60,000 person interviews every six months

Challenges and research
Challenges and Research

  • Ongoing challenges:

    • Very low incidence rate of crimes (21.1 violent crimes committed per 1,000 persons) => massive screening required to obtain data on crimes.

    • Currently only provides yearly national estimates

    • Given sensitivity, precise change estimates required

  • New directions

    • Desire for survey to produce sub-national estimates

    • Reduce survey costs to enable expansion

Example data analysis activities
Example Data Analysis Activities

  • Goal: Measure impact of various factors on the occurrence of motions for post-trial relief in civil tort and contract trials

  • Challenges:

    • Factor effects varied by case-type

    • Factors heavy correlated with each other

    • County “climate” suspected to highly influence rates

  • Questions:

    • How to transform factors to eliminate multicollinearity

    • How to disentangle county effects from respective case profiles

Simple data analysis significant impacts
Simple Data Analysis, Significant Impacts

Violent crime by juvenile offenders peaks in the afternoon; violent crime by adults peaks in the late evening

Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report

Some big ideas for bjs
Some Big Ideas for BJS

  • Better linkage of data criminal justice data to understand flow through system and reasons behind progression

  • Establish a set of special recidivism studies capturing the behaviors of various populations

  • Examine the prosecution of juveniles in adult criminal courts to asses the variability across states in waiver statues and practices

  • Examine feasibility and utility of conducting officer surveys to examine:

    • Recruitment, retention, barriers to cross-agency transfer and promotion, and other career opportunity issues

    • Interactions with citizen groups, victims, and advocacy groups

  • Expand the collection and reporting of data on inmate health conditions.


  • Greater opportunity to explore issues in more depth, and to conduct primary research

  • Greater opportunity and value placed on attending and presenting at professional conferences and working on peer-reviewed journals.

  • Surrounded by peer professionals

  • Part of the mission rather than being viewed among the “support staff.”

  • Projects affect real differences in people’s lives


  • Government, non-profit and social science work still falls short of other industries in pay rates (but gaps have narrowed)

  • Slow to change, less ability to try new things

  • Swinging budgets – need patience

  • May need to move around to work on new things, and for advancement.


  • Coursework is directly applicable to real-world problems

  • Don’t discount the theory

  • Look for opportunities to work on difficult data issues

  • Invest in a survey methods class

  • Be prepared to start with the “grunt work”

  • Look to enhance interpersonal, management, leadership skills

  • Take as many writing/presentation classes as possible