Research & Policy Development in Criminal Justice

Research & Policy Development in Criminal Justice

Reactive, Proactive, & Corrective Policies

Policy development relies heavily on research in the criminal justice fields. There are number of areas that research impacts, such as evaluations of methods and programs, spending for criminal justice, as well as enforcement (US Department of Justice, 2016). So important is research in the area of criminal justice that the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) was formed as the primary agency for data collection, analysis, dissemination and publishing (US Department of Justice, 2016). The BJS provides access to data for the public, state and federal agencies, as well as for policymakers. The use of research provided through the BJS has increased the efficiency and allowed for better policy making in the criminal justice system.

Types of Policies

There are numerous forms of policies in the criminal justice system. Some policies are created as reactive policies which are created to deal with emerging or existing issues. There proactive policies which are intended to reduce the risk of certain problems. There are also corrective policies that are sometimes needed to fix issues that were unintended consequences of either policy making or programs. ­

Reactive Policies

Reactive policies occur when problems occur in the criminal justice system such as increased crime or increased internal corruption. Policies are not limited to the work of law enforcement but also are focused on the methodologies of police and how these agencies work. An example of reactive policies can be seen in the last decade with the implementation of new policies towards domestic terrorism. Because of the widespread impact and increase in terrorist activity, policies and programs had to be initiated such that local and state police could begin to deal with the threat. One of the major developments in policy was achieved through research in terrorism that revealed that increased communication was one of the best methods of dealing with the problem. This has been established in different ways and in a variety of programs such as the LAPD Counterterrorism Programs which the “LAPD must also continuously develop ways to forge partnerships and foster collaboration among agencies” (Downing, 2016). The agency accomplishes it tasks through the study of data by its programs intelligence investigators in a hybrid model of cross-training that provides officers with tools normally used by analysts (Downing, 2016).

Proactive Policies

Research is also used to proactively combat crime. The use of statistics and other data can provide policymakers with information that allows for the development of programs and laws that can deter or stop trends in criminal activity. For example, in the last few decades, violent crime has continued to decrease in the US (Overberg & Hoyer, 2013). Statistics support this pattern but also show that nonviolent crimes such as hacking, fraud, identity theft, and other activities have increased significantly. According to the Department of Justice:

Research & Policy Development in Criminal Justice

·(Office of Justice Programs, 2014)

As a result of this data, policymaking has become more focused on technologically based crimes which has taken the form of hiring more computer savvy agents and technicians to combat the problem. In the last, decade almost all police departments in the US require some form of computer skill, and higher education in this area is required in other areas of law enforcement such as forensics and analysis.

Criminal Justice leadership also uses statistical data in numerous ways to proactively combat crime. The use of statistics can be used to find patterns and trends in crime at the macro and micro levels. In this way, crime can be analyzed such as rises in violent crime across the nation or these methods can also be used at the micro level when dealing with specialized crimes such as bank robbers or serial killers. For example, current crime statistics at the macro level show that violent crimes such as murder have been decreasing since the 1970s. At the same time, nonviolent cybercrime has been on the rise since the 1970s. What this tells law enforcement leadership is that criminals are becoming more sophisticated and opting for high paying crimes that are less violent. This trend is currently being examined by law enforcement and more agencies are now seeking more technologically proficient agents in order to combat this problem.

Corrective Policy

Corrective policy is often the result of poorly performed research or too little research. Starting in the 1980s when drugs became a major source of violent crime, there was tremendous public outcry and lawmakers responded by introducing zero tolerance or mandatory sentencing laws. Rationally, these policies seemed like a sound means of deterring drug crime but because no research was performed, the result was a massive problem in prison overcrowding that continues today with jails being filled with repeat low level drug offenders (Justice Policy Institute, 2007).

Since the 1980s prison populations have grown by 800% with the majority of these inmates having drug offenses. This was poor policy making which resulted in decades of losses for taxpayers and only now is the research beginning to provide more solutions such as better treatment options and other non-prison alternatives.


Criminal justice policy making is driven by research. There are many different areas of criminal justice that need research in order to uncover issues and patterns which might go unnoticed. For example, a large amount of research has been committed to figuring out the biases within the criminal justice system. This research has been invaluable in framing the problem. Without this research issues such as discrimination and bias in sentencing would go undetected or would at least have no practical basis for argument. There are other areas of statistics that have also proven vital such as in research performed on programs such as DARE which have been statistically shown to provide no significant reduction in juvenile drug use (C., S.T., & Holt, 1991). Research such as this serves a variety of purposes such as directing policymakers to better alternatives as well as reducing cost in areas that are not effective. For these reasons, the continued use of research in criminal justice is necessary and important.


C., R., S.T., E., & Holt, K. (1991). An outcome evaluation of Project D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Health Education Research, 6, 327–337.

Downing, M. P. (2016). Policing Terrorism in the United States: The Los Angeles Police Department’s Convergence Strategy . Retrieved from Police Chief:

Justice Policy Institute (2007). Retrieved from

Office of Justice Programs. (2014). Cybercrime. Retrieved from Bureau of Justice Statistics:

US Department of Justice. (2016). Research, Statistics, & Evaluation. Retrieved from Office of Justice Programs:


Triola Vincent. Mon, Feb 01, 2021. Research & Policy Development in Criminal Justice Retrieved from

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