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I have been the acting director of NIJ for just over a year, and on my anniversary, I naturally looked back at the past 12 months and forward to the coming months. So I was particularly intrigued by the article in this issue of the NIJ Journal in which former NIJ employee Winnie Reed reflects on her many years at NIJ.
When asked what she will miss most about the work, Winnie said, "The substance. Whatever the subject area, the idea has been improvement: Help people in the field stop doing things that aren't useful and start doing things that are. It makes life better for everybody."
This gets to the very heart of NIJ's mission: using rigorous science to determine what works — and what does not work — in criminal justice. We do this a number of ways:
Supporting scientific research and evaluation: NIJ provides evidence-based knowledge and tools to help ensure the safety of families, neighborhoods and communities. Several articles in this issue — like the one on NIJ's Second Chance Act evaluation and the story on the latest DNA research that helped Boston solve a 50-year-old rape and murder — demonstrate how we work across disciplines to reduce crime and promote justice.
Fostering innovative partnerships: We are committed to bringing all stakeholders to the table to help solve community problems. For example, two other articles in this issue highlight how police chiefs, public health directors and social science researchers are collaborating to find creative ways to address gangs, crime and violence.
Propelling the field forward: We are always looking to build a more effective, fair and efficient criminal justice system — be it through cutting-edge technology, groundbreaking programs or, perhaps most important, improved practice. NIJ has begun looking at ways to reduce criminal justice errors and strengthen the administration of justice. This issue's cover story talks about the viability of using a nonblaming, forward-thinking, all-stakeholders sentinel events review process to improve outcomes.
This issue of the NIJ Journal presents just a small sample of the innovative research, development, testing and evaluation we do every day to advance what works best in preventing and reducing crime — because the more we know about what works, the better we are at making a difference.
Acting Director, National Institute of Justice