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Director’s Corner: Juvenile Justice Research Comes to NIJ


David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D.

If you have heard me describing what NIJ does lately, you may have noticed that I have started sprinkling in references to the criminal and juvenile justice systems. There’s a good reason for that.

As of October 22, the juvenile justice research function that had been part of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has moved to NIJ. We are thrilled to welcome this new challenge along with the wealth of expertise and experience that also are coming to us in the staff who are transferring to NIJ along with their ongoing research, evaluation, and statistical data collection projects.

This move was made to consolidate all of the Office of Justice Program’s (OJP) 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.

I understand that with any change comes some apprehension. Will juvenile justice research be an afterthought? Does NIJ understand the nuances of the juvenile justice system and the differences between it and the criminal justice system?

I want to recognize that OJJDP has a long and important history in supporting and doing a variety of important research activities. For years, their work investigated critical questions about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to juvenile justice and child protection programming. OJJDP’s data collections provide the only available national information about size and scope of the juvenile justice sector.

I want to ensure those working in the juvenile justice field that this move presents an opportunity to continue all of this important work in NIJ while allowing for a more comprehensive, coordinated, and complete juvenile justice and delinquency prevention research agenda.

By integrating this function into NIJ’s Office of Research and Evaluation, we will be able to expand juvenile justice research at OJP to include more staff and topics than it could have before. We won’t bury the juvenile justice research agenda; we will expand and elevate it.

OJJDP continues to be a leader in applying and using research. NIJ shares OJJDP’s vision of a nation where our children are free from crime and violence. And if they come into contact with the justice system, that contact should be both just and beneficial to them.[1] We recognize that although the juvenile justice system is similar to that of the adult criminal justice system in some ways, the juvenile justice system operates on the premise that youth are fundamentally different from adults in terms of level of responsibility and potential for rehabilitation.[2]

Beyond the opportunity to create a comprehensive criminal and juvenile justice research agenda, we’re also welcoming some very talented new staff. In addition to continuing to manage existing OJJDP-initiated research projects, the social science analysts joining NIJ from OJJDP’s research unit will support the development, management, and operation of NIJ’s research and evaluation agenda around diverse juvenile justice system, delinquency prevention, and child victimization topics.

Meet our new staff —

Benjamin Adams, Social Science Analyst
Mr. Adams served as a Social Science Analyst in OJJDP and was the technical lead on national juvenile justice data collection, analysis, and dissemination programs and research examining the effectiveness of juvenile justice interventions and system improvement efforts. Prior to joining OJJDP, he was a senior associate with the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts and a research associate at the National Center for Juvenile Justice.

Brecht Donoghue, Senior Social Science Analyst
Ms. Donoghue served as Deputy Associate Administrator for OJJDP’s Innovation and Research Division, overseeing OJJDP’s Research and Training and Technical Assistance Units. Before that, she was OJJDP’s research coordinator and a policy advisor in the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of the Assistant Attorney General, where she was integral to the development of the CrimeSolutions. She also worked in the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, on early childhood and child welfare research.

Barbara Kelley, Social Science Analyst
Throughout her career, Ms. Kelley has focused her professional energies on advancing knowledge and practices related to improvement of the juvenile justice system, prevention of delinquency, and advancement of positive youth development. Ms. Kelley previously served in the Innovation and Research Division of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. She has expertise in the area of longitudinal studies of the causes and correlates of delinquency, evaluation of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs, and research on the onset and desistance of youth gang involvement.

Angela Parker, Grant Manager
Ms. Parker served in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for 28 years as a Juvenile Justice Program Manager. Ms. Parker was responsible for overseeing the implementation and management of programs that have a direct impact on youth throughout the country such as the Drug Courts Program, Juvenile Mentoring Program, Truancy Reduction Program, Tribal Youth Program, Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, Reentry Program, and other Congressionally-mandated programs. Ms. Parker also participated in various work groups, organizations for development, revision or assessment of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention issues, policies, procedures, programs, standards, guidelines, and evaluation. She attended the University of Maryland University College.

Jennifer Tyson, Senior Social Science Analyst
Ms. Tyson served as the research coordinator for OJJDP and was the technical lead on several demonstration and research programs, with a focus on translational research efforts in mentoring, juvenile drug treatment courts, and delinquency prevention initiatives. Prior to joining OJJDP, she served as a coordinator for a national training and technical assistance project at American University and as a program coordinator for a community-based crime prevention and public safety effort in Massachusetts’ Office of the Attorney General.

[note 1] OJJDP.gov, OJJDP Vision and Mission, accessed October 15, 2018

[note 2] Youth.gov, Juvenile Justice, accessed October 15, 2018