Congress should establish a new division in the Justice Department to take charge of justice research and statistics, contends Jeremy Travis, former head of the federal justice research agency, the National Institute of Justice. Travis, now president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says that the “scientific integrity of the research functions is vulnerable to compromise” under the current setup, which places research and statistics in an agency largely devoted to giving out anticrime grants to states, localities, and organizations. Travis said research and statistics don’t get high priority in the Justice Department as things stand now.
Travis unveiled his proposal at the annual convention of the American Society of Criminology, which ended Saturday in St. Louis. Under his plan, a new Office of Justice Research would be headed by an assistant attorney general nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Criminologist Charles Wellford of the University of Maryland, who heads a National Academy of Sciences panel reviewing the National Institute of Justice, said that Travis’ idea may have merit. However, he recommended that it wait until President-elect Barack Obama’s second or third year in office, given more pressing problems in the Justice Department such as civil liberties concerns in the war on terror.