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Corrections Strategic Research Plan 2018-2023

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Cover of the Corrections Strategic Research Plan, links to PDF version
Date Published
September 30, 2018

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NIJ has developed the Corrections Strategic Research Plan to describe NIJ’s current and projected efforts to help corrections practitioners and policymakers enhance public safety. The strategic goals outlined in the plan are interrelated and vital to finding solutions to the challenges of corrections. This document should be of interest to researchers (academia, government, and industry); federal, state, local, tribal, and international government partners; and justice policymaker and practitioner communities. Findings from the activities that fall within this strategic plan will be disseminated among these constituents and partners in ways designed to achieve the greatest impact.

Corrections Mission:

NIJ’s mission for corrections research is to develop knowledge and science-based tools to enhance public safety and the successful reintegration of offenders. This will be accomplished by examining the safe and secure incarceration of offenders, effective community supervision, and strategies to reintegrate offenders into our communities. From its inception 50 years ago, NIJ has encouraged research on issues affecting corrections systems. As corrections systems evolve, NIJ will continue to develop tools and knowledge to help corrections practitioners faithfully execute their duties and fulfill their important mission.

A Call of Collaboration

The research agenda included within this strategic research plan intentionally spans many scientific disciplines. The breadth of research is driven by the magnitude of questions that need to be addressed within the criminal and juvenile justice systems.1 NIJ envisions that the research resulting from this plan will require interdisciplinary collaboration between many stakeholder groups, including the following:

  • Individuals from academic and higher education institutions, think tanks, and organizations that engage in empirical research and policy assessment.
  • Agencies directly responsible for individuals under corrections supervision and, within those agencies, staff with security, clinical, and administrative responsibilities.
  • Agencies (both governmental and nongovernmental) that provide services to individuals under corrections supervision.
  • Professional associations and organizations that support the field.

This plan will also require partnerships between stakeholders from a variety of disciplines and practitioners. Finally, reflecting the need for collaboration among researchers, NIJ will seek partnerships with other federal agencies and institutions that support research relevant to criminal and juvenile justice applications. These partnerships could include cosponsoring research awards, convening meetings of key researchers and practitioners, peer-to-peer learning, networking, and providing criminal justice system expertise in discussions and meetings that pertain to corrections.

Strategic Priority I: Promote and support research to optimize workforce development for corrections personnel.

NIJ is committed to promoting research that will build knowledge to develop and maintain a corrections workforce that is composed of qualified and committed personnel. NIJ is particularly interested in factors that influence and motivate members of the corrections workforce today and attract viable candidates to the corrections profession. NIJ will promote research to assess the knowledge and skills of personnel required to work in diverse corrections environments. NIJ will also evaluate the impact of training and education programs designed to develop and maintain an optimized workforce.

Priority I Objectives and Action Plan

The objectives of Strategic Priority I are to inform and support a corrections workforce that can enhance public safety and support the reintegration of individuals under corrections supervision. The research will involve a comprehensive assessment of a variety of corrections workforce components to identify the challenges and promising practices of workforce recruitment and development, examine the impact of academic and in-service training and education, and support practices and technologies to advance officer safety.

  • Objective I.1: Support research to optimize the corrections workforce.[1]
    • Research the background, skills, education, training, and experiences needed for today’s corrections workforce, and identify emerging needs.
    • Examine the influence of working conditions in corrections environments on staff outcomes.
    • Evaluate how job satisfaction and stress affect staff performance.
    • Assess the impact of exposure to trauma (e.g., suicide of incarcerated persons or staff) on corrections personnel.
    • Study the influence of leadership and communication on staff performance, particularly the willingness to implement new initiatives.
    • Research the influence of staff attitudes regarding their duties and the corrections mission on work performance.
    • Examine the association between pre-employment characteristics of corrections personnel and the workforce cycle (recruitment, selection, retention, promotion, assignment, attrition, and performance).
    • Research the workforce cycle and identify challenges and promising practices.
    • Assess the impact of the availability of resources (e.g., time and funding) on workforce development.
  • Objective I.2: Promote research on corrections workforce training and education.
    • Assess the impact of the availability of resources (e.g., time and funding) on workforce development.
    • Evaluate the impact of officer training (e.g., academy, infield, recertification, and specialized training) and training curricula on the performance of corrections personnel.
    • Examine the relationship between training and the corrections culture.
    • Examine the impact of corrections researcher-practitioner partnerships developed to improve corrections training programs.
    • Examine and assess the impact of corrections training on cultural competencies.
    • Research the impact of supervisory and leadership training on the performance of corrections personnel.
    • Study, develop, and evaluate training technologies (e.g., mobile, video-based, e-learning, augmented and virtual learning environments) designed to advance officer performance and support learning among corrections personnel.
    • Evaluate the impact of education on the performance of corrections personnel.

Strategic Priority II: Promote and support research to enhance corrections practices.

NIJ remains focused on supporting research that will enhance corrections practices. This focus entails a robust research agenda that includes corrections operations, organizational performance, effectiveness and efficiency of corrections operations, organizational leadership, organizational climate, and corrections strategies. This priority addresses issues relevant to both institutional and community corrections and seeks to explore the conditions driving innovation across the entire correctional system.

Priority II Objectives and Action Plan

The objectives supporting Strategic Priority II build on strengths of NIJ’s past research agenda. NIJ is specifically interested in understanding and supporting corrections practices in institutional and community settings. These objectives focus on organization, operations, leadership, and strategies. Additionally, the focus on organizational outcomes and performance encompasses all of these topics.

  • Objective II.1: Promote and support research to enhance the operations of corrections organizations.[2]
    • Identify and examine practices that enhance corrections operations.
    • Examine how practices are adopted and diffused in corrections organizations.
    • Study the effects of organizational and management structure on corrections operations.
    • Examine the impact of the architectural design of institutions and community corrections settings on safety and security.
    • Assess the use of technology in corrections organizations.[3]
    • Assess the use and impact of performance measurement systems and analytics on corrections staff performance.
    • Examine the data management infrastructure of the corrections system and its impact on operations.
    • Research and develop requirements for next-generation corrections information systems based upon correctional and external stakeholder input.
    • Assess how organizations determine staffing levels and offender assignment, and their impact on safety and security.
    • Examine the impact of varying offender population characteristics on corrections operations.
  • Objective II.2: Examine the operations of corrections.
    • Measure the impact of programs, services, and strategies on safety and security.
    • Examine the effectiveness of corrections programming that aims to reduce misconduct and recidivism among incarcerated persons.
    • Examine the influence of organizational characteristics on the implementation and sustainability of corrections innovations.
    • Research the influence of organizational characteristics on the implementation and delivery of programs and services.
    • Assess the accuracy and reliability of risk assessment methods on the congruence and delivery of services.
    • Study the ability and effectiveness of risk assessment methods to inform corrections decision-making.
    • Identify the extent of and barriers to adoption and implementation of risk assessments in corrections settings.
    • Examine the influence of resource allocation strategies on offender assignments and referrals to services.
    • Examine the impact of the architectural design of institutions and community corrections settings on the delivery of services.
    • Examine how institutional history (e.g., riots and other critical incidents) may impact the delivery of services.
    • Assess how staffing levels, staff assignments, and offender population size and characteristics affect delivery of services.
  • Objective II.3: Examine the impact of organizational climate on corrections operations.
    • Examine how institutional history (e.g., riots and other critical incidents) impacts organizational climate and performance.
    • Understand how corrections leadership influences organizational climate.
    • Assess the impact of diversity on organizational climate.
    • Study the influence of organizational climate on staff outcomes.
    • Examine the characteristics that allow corrections organizations to perform more effectively.
  • Objective II.4: Examine organizational and systemic conditions that impact public safety.
    • Examine corrections costs and their impact on public safety.
    • Evaluate strategies to enhance information sharing and intelligence gathering within corrections and between other agencies.
    • Assess the role of corrections in critical incident responses (e.g., riots, active shooters, and natural disasters).
  • Objective II.5: Study the impact of external influences on corrections operations.
    • Study the impact of budgets, statutory or regulatory policies, and court decisions on corrections operations and public safety.
    • Measure how evaluations of legislative initiatives impact corrections operations.
    • Examine the influence of external entities on corrections operations.
    • Examine the impact of institution closures and downsizing on corrections and public safety outcomes.
    • Examine the impact of corrections partnerships on public safety.[4]

Strategic Priority III: Promote and support research to examine the experiences of individuals involved with the corrections system.

NIJ seeks to provide evidence about how persons convicted of a crime experience corrections settings and their process of returning to communities and families.12 The overwhelming majority of persons convicted of a crime will be released from correctional supervision at some point. The research agenda in the current plan aims to provide evidence on how an individual’s experience during incarceration and the interactions with staff may mitigate the likelihood that he or she will commit additional crimes.

Priority III Objectives and Action Plan

The objectives of Strategic Priority III aim to contribute to the breadth of knowledge about offender decision-making,the process of desistance, and offender reintegration. This strategic priority seeks to move beyond examining the characteristics of individuals engaged with the criminal and juvenile justice and corrections systems — toward abetter understanding of how to prevent individuals from entering the corrections system and how to better prepare incarcerated individuals for their re-entry into the community.

  • Objective III.1: Examine the entry and trajectory of individuals within corrections systems.
    • Research the impact of entry, including cyclic re-entry and entry, into corrections systems on short- and long-term individual outcomes.
      • Examine the impact of alternatives to detention or incarceration on offender outcomes.
    • Explore the impact of statutory and regulatory policies (e.g., decarceration initiatives, sentencing schemes, and alternatives to sentencing) on offender outcomes.
    • Examine the impact of organizational policies and practices on offender outcomes.
    • Study the effects of confinement on offender outcomes.
  • Objective III.2: Promote research that examines the process of offender reintegration.
    • Study the provision of release planning on offender reintegration.
    • Evaluate the impact of strategies that promote prosocial behavior and desistance among person convicted of a crime.
    • Examine the influence of individual factors on offender reintegration.
    • Examine the influence of community characteristics and resources on offender reintegration.
    • Examine the effectiveness of community supervision on offender outcomes.
    • Research measures and milestones of success, early indicators of re-entry distress, and barriers to sustaining successful re-entry.
    • Support research on the use of technology to promote offender reintegration.

Date Published: September 30, 2018