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Director’s Message - NIJ Journal Issue No. 283

National Institute of Justice Journal

Rigorous science is at the core of everything NIJ does. Our mission is to provide objective and independent knowledge on the complex issues facing our justice systems and the people who work to protect and improve public safety. We do this by funding research from across the social and behavioral sciences, forensic sciences, physical sciences, and technology. We then disseminate the research findings so that criminal justice stakeholders can make evidence-based decisions on what works best in preventing and reducing crime.

Three years ago, the scope of our work expanded in important ways. In October 2018, the juvenile justice research function that had been part of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) moved to NIJ. This move allowed OJJDP, also a part of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), to focus on providing national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. The move consolidated all of OJP’s research activities under a single agency to improve efficiency and coordination and to take advantage of NIJ’s infrastructure, processes, and experience managing justice system research grants and intramural projects.

Over the past three years, we have continued the critical research, evaluation, and statistical data collection projects started under OJJDP. We have also sought opportunities to expand and elevate juvenile justice research at OJP and develop a more comprehensive, coordinated, and complete juvenile justice and delinquency prevention research agenda. This issue of the NIJ Journal reflects the confluence of this important work.

The articles in this issue span projects funded by both OJJDP and NIJ. They examine what works and what doesn’t when it comes to juvenile justice and child protection programming. For example, one article explores the potential of mentoring programs for preventing negative outcomes and promoting resilience among at-risk youth. Another examines the types of interventions needed to address the complex needs of “dual system youth,” youth who have experienced both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. A third article looks at the pathways from violence exposure and trauma during childhood to involvement in the justice system.

The articles in this issue also reflect the shared vision of OJJDP and NIJ: a nation where children are free from crime and violence. In support of that vision, one article examines how schools can gather tips and better respond to safety threats. A second discusses using science to differentiate between abuse and accidental trauma in children. Another article looks at how to better understand female genital mutilation and mount an effective and coordinated response.

Finally, this issue highlights our agencies’ joint commitment to high-quality data. For years, OJJDP has sponsored statistical collections to gather information from residential placement facilities that hold juveniles who are charged with, or adjudicated for, law violations. These collections are now managed by NIJ, but our two agencies are collaborating to review and redesign them to ensure they generate the most useful, timely, and reliable statistics available. One article discusses this ongoing work.

I am thrilled to present this latest issue of the NIJ Journal and showcase our continued partnership with OJJDP and our efforts to create a comprehensive criminal and juvenile justice research agenda. We remain steadfast in our commitment to using rigorous science to inform and advance evidence-based policies and practices across the country — for both the adult criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system.

Jennifer Scherer, Ph.D.
Acting Director, National Institute of Justice

About This Article

This article was published as part of NIJ Journal issue number 283, October 2021.

Date Published: October 31, 2021