The NORC Library Judges gavel Laptop and Paper in Hand Hyde Park Meeting Broken door Welcome to Bethesda Handcuffs behind Back

Criminal Justice

A fair and effective justice system is part of the foundation of a successful society, affecting every American citizen, every day. Concerns about the enormous costs of the system exist alongside deep uncertainty about the efficacy of law enforcement and correctional strategies, and whether and how reform efforts can impact rehabilitation and improve public safety.

NORC’s 1966 landmark study, Criminal Victimization in the United States, was the predecessor to the annual National Crime Victimization Survey now conducted by the U.S. Census. Since then, NORC has consistently taken a comprehensive look at the justice system, examining the perspectives of its primary participants: institutions that oversee the administration of justice; crime victims and their experiences; those who commit crime; and the public that develops perceptions about crime and punishment.

In many cases, NORC’s work has explored instances where victimization occurs outside the criminal justice system. For example, studies on sexual behavior and human trafficking uncovered new types of victimization not often reported to police or addressed within the system. NORC launched a rigorous longitudinal study of middle school dating violence curriculum—a prevention-oriented extension of our expertise on victims. NORC has also surveyed prosecutors’ offices, prison re-entry programs, and a host of substance abuse and mental health issues with implications for the criminal justice system. The 2011 study, Dynamics of Methamphetamine Markets, exemplifies an interdisciplinary approach to problems where substance abuse and criminal activity are closely intertwined.  This innovative study was one of the first to consider all local stakeholders—dealers and users, as well as police and community leaders. It meshed interactive Internet-based tools with Drug Enforcement Agency file data to create a detailed, street-level understanding of the epidemic.

These innovations, our expertise with data collection in law enforcement agencies, and a sensitivity to incarcerated or victimized subjects enhances NORC’s core capabilities to develop new knowledge about the functions of the criminal justice system.
Specific areas of expertise include:

Representative Projects

2012 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA). To provide an accurate sampling frame for the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) program, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) periodically sponsors the Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA).  More

Conversion of Criminal History Records into Research Databases (CCHRRD). For years, BJS has used information stored in the nation’s automated criminal history records to assess the officially-recognized, law-violating behavior of various samples of individuals.  To do recidivism studies, BJS has provided state criminal history repositories with identifying information on study subjects and has requested each participating state repository to extract selected information on each subject’s criminal justice activities, thus creating a reporting burden for participating repositories. In addition, the structure and content of the data extracted from these repositories varies from state to state requiring customized software to transform each state’s data into a commonly-formatted, researchable database.  In light of these challenges, only two national recidivism studies of released prisoners have been performed by BJS to date; the first in 1983 and the latest in 1994.  More

Law Enforcement Officers' Safety, Health, and Welfare. With support from the NORC Center for Excellence in Survey Research and the partnership of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), NORC researchers developed a study of law enforcement officer safety and welfare (OSAW) to investigate risks and stressors, protective factors, behavioral health, and safety and health outcomes. Initial qualitative research with a focus group of representatives of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) from the mid-Atlantic region informed the design of the survey instrument, and a random sample of officers from 11 LEAs responded to the online survey.

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth - 1997. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), sponsored and funded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor, is the youth-focused component of the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) Program – a set of surveys used to gather information on the labor market experiences of American men and women.  More

Social Ecology of Maternal Substance Use. Pregnancy is a key opportunity to affect the epidemiology and to enhance reduction of women’s tobacco and problem alcohol use. The opportunities to provide pregnant women with tobacco and alcohol cessation resources appear to be strongest when integrated into community-based health services, with attention to generating support in mothers’ networks of family and friends. With support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this secondary data analysis project investigates the role of neighborhood structural aspects and social processes in association with maternal alcohol and tobacco use in the perinatal and early childhood parenting periods. More

See all Criminal Justice projects


News The Huffington Post: Asking how safe Americans feels, with NORC research and surveys More
Posted: 4.22.2014 4:25PM
News The Wall Street Journal: Judicial sentencing in political years, with observations made possible by the GSS More
Posted: 8.17.2012 4:24PM
News The Wall Street Journal: NLSY97 cited in determining the links between obesity and behavior More
Posted: 2.22.2012 4:42PM
Event Teen Dating Violence Intervention & Prevention, , Wednesday, February 29, 2012 More
Posted: 2.13.2012 1:38PM
News Reuters: "Fuzzy numbers on guns" with data and research from NORC More
Posted: 2.7.2012 2:46PM


Eric Goplerud

(301) 634-9525

Jeffrey Hackett

(312) 759-4266