Academia-To-Criminal Justice Communication: “Pathetic”


How good is the communication of academic research on criminal justice to practitioners like police chiefs, judges, and prison wardens, as well as to policymakers like state legislators? That was the topic of a roundtable discussion last week in San Francisco at the American Society of Criminology’s annual convention. “It’s pathetic,” said Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for Justice Programs. One of many examples offered: Many states ran “boot camps” for offenders despite research saying they did little good without significant follow-up. Robinson’s agency vows to start an online “What Works Clearinghouse” to advise the field of leading research results.

Criminologist Joan Petersilia, now at Stanford Law School, lamented that translating research into practical advice for practitioners “is nobody’s job.” While panelists hailed the large volume of information available on the Internet, Petersilia noted that “there is no quality control,” which may leave online searchers confused. John Laub, new director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the U.S. Justice Department’s research agency, said it is NIJ’s job–and one of his priorities–to improve the communication process. Jeremy Travis, former NIJ director now president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the picture isn’t entirely bleak, noting that the word has spread about successful ideas like drug courts.

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