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Director's Message: Corrections Strategic Research Plan

Date

Over the past few years, high-profile events have demonstrated the complexity and dangerous nature of corrections, and highlighted the difficulty of crafting comprehensive policy solutions. There are many factors at play that are outside of the control of the corrections system: who is sent to a facility, how long they stay, why they are there, and what issues they bring with them. Yet corrections personnel are tasked with keeping these individuals safe and providing them with tools and opportunities to ensure that when they leave a correctional facility, they successfully reintegrate into their communities.

This work is challenging and often hidden from the public view. In this plan, NIJ is encouraging increased empirical attention to the field of corrections. This plan establishes a five-year framework to better understand the highly interrelated areas of corrections personnel, organizational practices, and the experiences of adults and juveniles involved with the system. The research that comes out of this plan is intentionally policy and practice relevant to inform innovative solutions, improve the corrections environment, and assist corrections practitioners in successfully implementing their mission.

Corrections agencies must maintain a highly qualified workforce that is adept at responding to a myriad of issues on a daily basis. Our first strategic priority relates to research that will optimize workforce development for these personnel. We are committed to supporting research to better understand how to optimize workforces and deliver effective training to maximize the safety, health, and wellness of corrections staff and facilitate an environment in which they can thrive.

Too often, our efforts are driven by anecdote rather than evidence. Our second priority focuses on research to enhance corrections practices. We will support research to help understand organizational operations, climate, and the impact of external influences on corrections operations.

Finally, we will promote and support research to examine the experiences of individuals and populations involved with the corrections system. Many complex and interrelated factors contribute to an individual ending up in prison or jail. We want to understand the entry and trajectory of individuals within the corrections system, as well as the process of offender reintegration. We also want to specifically examine the experience of juveniles to better understand the challenges unique to this population.

No one organization, entity, or discipline can be fully effective working in isolation. This plan will guide NIJ’s efforts over the next five years to fund research and engage in partnerships and collaborations to help us better understand and improve our complex corrections system, to the ultimate end of increased public safety.