Juvenile Justice Studies Could be Harmed By Merging OJJDP Research Into NIJ, Expert Warns

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OJJDP: Chart of OJJDP’s Innovation and Research Division

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

WASHINGTON — Juvenile justice studies could be weakened by the transfer of the five research managers in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) into the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), said Jeffrey Butts, director of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center.

“We could end up with a significantly weaker research program. Juvenile issues will inevitably fall lower on the priority list, despite everyone’s best intentions,” he cautioned.

The five personnel comprise the entire OJJDP Research Unit, which is a part of the Innovation and Research Division.

When consolidation was proposed by previous administrations, the consensus among juvenile justice experts was that the risks outweighed the benefits, Butts said.

The reorganization of the OJJDP also includes the transferring of its statistics functions into the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The schedule for both changes has not yet been decided.

“The principal goals of transferring OJJDP’s research and evaluation functions back to NIJ is to improve efficiency and coordination,” said Office of Justice Programs (OJP) spokesperson Jim Goodwin. The consolidations are meant to support a unified strategic research agenda and fully utilize existing scientific knowledge and technical expertise across all program areas.

OJJDP and NIJ are part of OJP.

The research managers who are being transferred will have the advantage of access to a research infrastructure and the chance to collaborate with other social scientist colleagues who are also working on juvenile justice research as part of a larger NIJ research agenda, he said.

Both OJJDP and NIJ have conducted juvenile justice research, so the merger will simplify coordination, Goodwin said.

Funding already obligated for specific grants managed by the OJJDP Research Unit will be transferred with the unit’s members as they move to other offices and bureaus within OJP.

Future funding levels are yet to be determined.

Goodwin said he didn’t know if any of the five research managers scheduled to be transferred have quit their jobs rather than be reassigned to NIJ.

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