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How NIJ Is Advancing Technology in Corrections

Date Published
December 31, 2016

Sidebar to the article Identifying Technology Needs and Innovations to Advance Corrections.

The core activity of the Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative is eliciting actionable findings. For NIJ, this means identifying needs with enough specificity to inform the Institute's research agenda and includes not only examining current technology needs but also determining future needs.

As is clear in the RAND Corporation's report (discussed in the main article), contraband in correctional facilities is a significant concern: It negatively affects an agency's ability to provide a safe environment, maintain the wellness of incarcerated persons, and prevent criminal activity. Some of the most common types of contraband are improvised weapons, drugs and narcotics, cell phones and smartphones, and tobacco.

In 2015, informed by the report, NIJ solicited proposals for research on identifying the interdiction modalities agencies use to keep contraband out of correctional facilities and what is known about their efficacy. NIJ saw this research as a first step toward gaining a more complete understanding of the contraband issue within correctional facilities and addressing the problem.

The Urban Institute, in collaboration with the American Correctional Association and the Fortune Society, submitted the winning proposal. The three-year effort will use a mixed-methods approach. The project team will hold focus groups with correctional administrators and formerly incarcerated individuals to help finalize key data measures for a national survey and in-depth case studies.

Based on a stratified sample from 600 to 800 U.S. correctional facilities, the survey will generate national estimates of the prevalence of contraband and use of different interdiction modalities. In-depth case studies in up to nine facilities will supplement the survey data. The case studies will include a comprehensive review of contraband policies, administrative data, and semistructured interviews with correctional staff. The case studies will help shed light on the motivations for adopting certain contraband interdiction modalities, implementation challenges, and the efficacy of interdiction modalities.

See details of this award.

About This Article

This artice appeared in NIJ Journal Issue 278, May 2017, as a sidebar to the article Identifying Technology Needs and Innovations to Advance Corrections.

Date Published: December 31, 2016