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This issue of the NIJ Journal features articles on a diverse collection of topics, but they all reflect how research can be transformative in shaping policy and practice.
Two articles address corrections, rehabilitation and reentry — topics for which the conventional wisdom is often "nothing works." In "Beyond the Prison Bubble," Dr. Joan Petersilia argues that we in fact know a great deal about what works in corrections and that we fail to put serious effort into implementing programs that work at our peril, given the costs of incarceration. The other article is about Project Greenlight — a reentry program that was created based on current knowledge of "what works" in reentry. It turned out that Greenlight did not actually work; failure of that sort gives us the opportunity to find out why it did not work. The authors of "Reconsidering the Project Greenlight Intervention: Why Thinking About Risk Matters" offer a new look at the evaluation and paint a more nuanced picture of why, perhaps, Greenlight failed and what lessons we can learn from it for designing and implementing programs in the future.
This issue's cover story on transnational organized crime and an article on an indigent defense workshop highlight the value of sharing knowledge with domestic and international partners and inviting both researchers and practitioners to the table. Working with international partners not only allows the U.S. to showcase its most innovative and successful practices, it also helps identify solutions that have been shown to be effective in other countries and that might be transferable to the U.S. Transnational organized crime, by its nature, requires collaboration among research and law enforcement agencies at home and abroad. Indigent defense is a problem that nations all over the world grapple with — the need to ensure justice for those among us who have the least. NIJ partnered with the Justice Department's Access to Justice Initiative to bring researchers, practitioners and advocates together for a discussion on best practices in indigent defense from around the world.
"Final Findings From the Expert Panel on the Safety of Conducted Energy Devices" presents the fruits of another successful collaboration. NIJ sponsored an expert panel, along with the College of American Pathologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Association of Medical Examiners, to study whether conducted energy devices (CEDs), such as the Taser, can contribute to or be the primary cause of death. CEDs are used by more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. Their safety has sometimes been called into question, particularly when deaths have occurred after their use. The expert panel concluded that, in general, there is little risk of death or serious injury when CEDs are used on healthy adults.
Finally, two articles in this issue discuss changes coming to the Institute. In the first article, I discuss NIJ's response to the National Research Council's evaluation. The second focuses on a specific part of that response — changes to how NIJ conducts peer review. The National Research Council's report made it clear that the status quo for peer review at NIJ was no longer acceptable. NIJ took its recommendation to reform peer review to heart and will pilot a process in fiscal year 2012 based on the "standing panels" model used by a number of other federal science agencies. Watch the "Director's Corner" on NIJ.gov for additional updates about NIJ's response to the National Research Council's evaluation.
John H. Laub
Director, National Institute of Justice
NIJ Journal No. 268, October 2011