Justice Official Urges Evidence-Based Crime Policy


Anticrime practices should be based on scientific evidence, says Deborah Daniels, assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs. Daniels said the Justice Department is developing a Web site that will catalogue “what works” against crime based on solid academic research. Daniels spoke yesterday at the annual Jerry Lee Crime Prevention Symposium sponsored by the universities of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Daniels criticized Congress for earmarking all of her agency’s discretionary money for projects of interest to lawmakers, “mostly without regard to scientific evidence.” She applauded the evolution of criminal justice policy past the days in which police, prosecutors and judges “operated on instinct, not science.”

The symposium in Washington, D.C., featured work sponsored by the Campbell Collaboration Crime & Justice Coordinating Group, which compiles systematic reviews of research on the effects of crime and justice practices.

Among research discussed yesterday:

* Studies encompassing more than 22,000 sex offenders found that there was between 6 and 14 percent less repeat criminology among convicts who participated in treatment, said Friedrich Losel of the University of Erlangen, Germany. Patricia Smoot, a prosecutor in Prince George’s County, Maryland, said her office increasingly urges treatment for offenders over the objection of victims. “We don’t want [convicts] to offend again,” Smoot said.

* Electronic monitoring of probationers has shown no overall impact in reducing crime, said criminologist Marc Renzema of Pennsylvania’s Kutztown University. Still, the practice is likely to continue because it is cheaper than incarceration. Corrections director Arthur Wallenstein of Montgomery County, Md., said he would keep using electronic monitoring for about 140 defendants “unless someone tells me differently.”

* The impact of intervening with suspects accused of battering their significant others is limited, said researchers Lynette Feder of Portland State University and David Wilson of George Mason University. Some programs show a small positive benefit; others have no apparent effect, said the researchers. Diane Stuart, director of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, observed that such special programs cannot be seen as a solution to the domestic violendce problem “in isolation.” Other parts of the justice system must pay more attention to family violence cases at the same time, she said.


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