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: