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Correctional Technology: Plotting a Course for the '90s

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 57 Issue: 4 Dated: June 2005
Peter Nacci
Date Published
5 pages

This paper reviews the history and current\ challenges of technology research and development (R&D) for corrections.


Both the Navy and the FBI spend large amounts on technology research and development (R&D), with the Navy focusing on new technologies for military use and the FBI focusing on technology for use in law enforcement. Investments in R&D for corrections technology, however, have been comparatively meager. Four large State prison systems (California, Florida, New York, and Texas) report spending nothing on new technology development in 1994. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) spent $6 million on R&D in 1994, but less than $100,000 of this investment produced new technologies. The two U.S. Justice Department agencies with oversight for technology development are the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Approximately 30 percent of NIJ's annual spending is for corrections technology. NIC's budget for technology development is much smaller than NIJ's, but NIC leverages and works with other Federal agencies. NIJ recently adjusted its Science and Technology program so law enforcement can capitalize on technology changes in the defense industry, and this should benefit corrections as well. The purpose of NIJ's joint venture with the Department of Defense is to identify technology needs and develop solutions of mutual value to the military and law enforcement. Corrections is represented in this effort. NIJ recently established regional centers for technology development in five cities. Two centers were established specifically for testing and evaluating correctional technologies. These centers, along with the increased presence of corrections officials on important NIJ panels, should improve the development of technologies relevant to corrections. Some strategies are proposed for corrections policymakers in this endeavor.

Date Published: January 1, 2005