In January, Barack H. Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. On that cold Tuesday afternoon, he told 1.8 million people on the Mall — and millions more watching around the country and the world — that the question before us is whether government works.
"Where the answer is yes," he said, "we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end."
In February, when Attorney General Eric Holder visited the Office of Justice Programs, he emphasized that the U.S. Department of Justice is more committed than ever before to using science to strengthen our entire system of justice.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) continues to play a major role in using science to find answers. At the heart of NIJ's mission is the use of scientific principles to determine what works — and what doesn't — in criminal justice.
Speaking of "what works," we are pleased to present in this issue of the NIJ Journal a continuing discussion regarding drug market interventions. David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, kept hundreds of criminal justice professionals spellbound during his luncheon address at last year's NIJ Conference. His talk was so compelling and well-received that we asked him to write about his work on the High Point (N.C.) Intervention for the Journal. Here Kennedy explores the roots of that groundbreaking program and why he thinks it works. NIJ is currently funding an independent evaluation of the program (findings are due in June), which is now being replicated in more than 20 cities around the country.
We also reached out to one of the top experts in human trafficking in the country to write about the underground criminal industry of sex trafficking for this issue. Robert Moossy, director of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, leads a team of the most experienced human trafficking prosecutors in the nation. In his article, Moossy focuses on identifying cases and victims of sex trafficking — and many of his points reaffirm findings of recent NIJ studies that have looked at local law enforcement's role in uncovering and investigating these heartbreaking and difficult cases.
I encourage our readers to register for the annual NIJ Conference, being held June 15–17 in Arlington, Va. This year we will feature two plenary panels — one on homicide in the United States and one on what works in probation and parole. Our keynote speaker, Clea Koff (also known as "The Bone Woman"), will talk about her experiences after the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda.
I'm also pleased to mention that the NIJ Conference is "going green." From name badges to lanyards, many products at this year's event will be made from recycled materials.
Exciting changes are on the horizon all across the country … including here at NIJ. There is one thing, however, that will not change: our commitment to ensuring that science serves justice.
Acting Director, National Institute of Justice
About This Article
This article appeared in NIJ Journal Issue 262, March 2009.