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About the NIJ Office of the Director

The NIJ Director is appointed by the President. Our current  director is David Muhlhausen. See a list of past Directors.

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Overview of the NIJ Office of the Director

The NIJ Office of the Director establishes the agency's objectives, which are guided by the needs of the criminal justice system and the priorities of the U.S. Department of Justice. In doing this, the Director and other office staff work closely with leadership and staff across NIJ’s offices.  

The NIJ Director is appointed by the President. NIJ’s current Director, Dr. David B. Muhlhausen, was sworn in August 22, 2017.

NIJ’s Principal Deputy Director, Howard Spivak, M.D., and Deputy Director, Jennifer Scherer, Ph.D., oversee the activities of the three science and three support offices, respectively. See How NIJ is Organized.

Priorities of the NIJ Office of the Director

The Director's priorities include:

  • Strengthen science by supporting rigorous research and evaluation designs, with an emphasis on randomized controlled trials when possible, with the goal of understanding criminal justice issues and improving public safety and the administration of justice.
  • Measure impact of NIJ’s work through the development of new metrics that show how our investments in science impact criminal justice policies and practices.
  • Encourage multidisciplinary activity by encouraging boundary-crossing practices within the agency and in our research investments.
  • Empower practitioners by expanding NIJ’s engagement with the field, support of practitioner-led research, and promotion of researcher-practitioner partnerships.

Major Initiatives of the NIJ Office of the Director

  • Elevating the field.
  • Building the research field through career development.
  • Understanding and implementing what works in reentry.
  • Expanding intramural research.

Elevating the Field. The work of criminal justice practitioners forms the foundation for everything that NIJ does, and the Institute works to be responsive to the most pressing needs of the field. The Office of the Director has taken numerous measures to strengthen the Institute’s connection to practitioners.

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Building the Research Field through Career Development. NIJ is committed to building the field and developing the careers of criminal justice researchers and practitioners investing in the development of researchers’ careers as a cornerstone of its leadership agenda. NIJ has a long history of making such investments, and the level of attention, the size of the investment, the number of opportunities and the planning for the future development of this element of NIJ’s work has substantially increased in recent years, with a particular increased focus on practitioners engaged in research.       

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Understanding and Implementing What Works in Reentry. Reentry is a critically issue in American corrections. Ninety-five percent of inmates in state and federal prisons will be released eventually. Studies have consistently shown high rates of recidivism, with more than three quarters of released offenders being rearrested within five years. Given the lack of scientific evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of reentry programs on recidivism, NIJ is committed funding randomized controlled trials to identify effective interventions that can serve as models for replication. Our Corrections Strategic Research Plan details our funding priorities and corrections over the next five years.

In addition to NIJ’s longstanding research reentry portfolio, NIJ Director David Muhlhausen is the Executive Director of the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry, or the Reentry Council. The Reentry Council was established by executive order in 2018 to address the inextricably linked problems of reentry, recidivism, and crime. The Council includes the heads of more than a dozen federal departments and offices, and is mandated to develop recommendations for evidence-based reforms that prevent crime, facilitate reentry, and reduce recidivism. Activities include regular Council meetings, White House listening sessions, focus groups, a Research for the Real World seminar, and site visits.

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Intramural Research Program. A robust intramural research program supplementing NIJ’s extramural research program helps to ensure the continuous and efficient fulfillment of NIJ’s statutory mission. It also complements, advances and informs extramural research efforts and helps improve criminal justice policy and practice. Identifying potential research and technology gaps, for example, can help direct future research resources to ensure they have maximum impact on improving the criminal justice system and public safety. Learn more about NIJ’s intramural research initiative.

Contact NIJ Office of the Director

Date Created: February 5, 2016