The director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) discusses current problems in corrections and NIJ research efforts that may aid correctional decisionmaking.
Criminal justice expenditures accounted for only 3 percent of government spending, and only a small proportion of that was for corrections. However, corrections is the fastest-growing part of State budgets. In addition, awareness of the costs of crime and prisons and of the problems caused by crowding are forcing difficult decisions. NIJ's research programs are designed to help State and local authorities make informed policy decisions. NIJ's examination of the economic impact of prisons has led to the conclusion that prisons are good investments for reducing crime. In addition, one way to realize the maximum benefit from the $25,000 annual cost per inmate is to put prisoners to work in private-sector prison industries. Another important need is to use faster, more economical, and modern prison construction methods. NIJ has established a construction information exchange to promote this effort. Another promising approach is to contract for the private operation of public corrections facilities to supplement rather than replace public facilities. Finally, NIJ is confronting the growing issue of AIDS by sponsoring research and establishing an AIDS clearinghouse.