About the NIJ Director

Portrait of NIJ Directory Nancy Rodriguez

Nancy Rodriguez, NIJ Director

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The Director is appointed by the President to lead the National Institute of Justice and establish the agency's objectives, guided by the needs of the field and the priorities of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nancy Rodriguez was sworn in as the director of NIJ on February 9, 2015. Dr. Rodriguez's research expertise covers a wide range of criminal justice issues from the collateral consequences of imprisonment; the intersection of race, ethnicity, crime, and justice; to evaluations of drug courts and restorative justice programs. Her most recent work includes a longitudinal study of families affected by maternal and paternal incarceration.

On this page you can follow NIJ Directors through their speeches and commentary.

Posted February 12, 2013

Statement on NIJ's Role in the National Dialogue on Gun Violence

Our entire country is talking about gun violence. The recent spate of mass gun violence coupled with the stubbornly persistent death toll in smaller incidents has brought this issue to the forefront of our nation’s consciousness. On Jan. 16, 2013, President Obama delineated 23 executive action items designed to put us on a path toward reducing the problem of gun violence in America. The Senate has been holding hearings to begin an official dialogue on policy development. Read the full statement.

Posted January 10, 2013

A Message from Acting Director Ridgeway

Before I arrived at NIJ in July 2012, I had been impressed from afar with NIJ's research, especially with the innovation and intellectual curiosity that has led to major changes in the way law enforcement works—historic examples include the development of body armor and crime mapping. Now that I have been onboard at NIJ for seven months and Acting Director since January 7, I am even more impressed with NIJ's potential for propelling innovation forward. We have remarkable people at NIJ and operate from a prominent national platform. I am committed to making decisions that will continue to ensure rigorous science and leading edge activities.

The Director's Corner messages below are from former Director John Laub.

Posted December 21, 2012

Farewell Message from Director Laub

As I write my final message for NIJ's Director Corner, I'm filled with a full sweep of emotions. I'm excited to resume my teaching of bright, enthusiastic students at the University of Maryland — but I'm already starting to feel how much I will miss working with the bright, enthusiastic public servants at NIJ. Read the full entry.

Posted September 24, 2012

Combining Intellectual Muscle: NIJ and the National Science Foundation Sign a Memorandum of Understanding
I have on numerous occasions championed a scientific, comprehensive approach to meeting the challenge of reducing crime and promoting justice. That is why I was especially pleased when the National Science Foundation's Assistant Director, Myron Gutmann, joined me on September 10, 2012, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between our two agencies. Myron leads NSF's Directorate for the Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences. I am encouraged by the combined intellectual muscle we will be able to apply to solving some of the most entrenched criminal justice problems that affect individuals, communities, and even families across generations. Read the full entry.

Posted August 3, 2012

A Post-NIJ Conference Recap...and Moving Forward
Greetings from the midst of "Redbook" season. Redbook is a hold-over term from the days when NIJ staff pushed around carts laden with red, three-ring binders as we reviewed grant applications and made decisions about funding research projects. Now, of course, the review and approval process involves routing electrons — but the phrase to describe this busy time at NIJ seems to have outlived the binders.

As I write this column, I am still feeling some of the intellectual afterglow generated from our NIJ Conference in June. If you were not among the 1,200 criminal justice researchers and practitioners, policymakers and students who were able to attend, you can see some highlights on NIJ.gov. Read the full entry.

Posted May 1, 2012

Strengthening Science to Promote Justice and Public Safety
Director Laub gave the Presidential Plenary Address at the 2012 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) 2012 Annual Meeting.

Thank you for that kind introduction, Lisa [Melissa Hickman Barlow]. I am pleased to be here, especially in New York City!

The first time in my professional career that I presented a paper at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences [ACJS] was in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 25, 1982. The title of the paper was "Applications of the Oral History Technique in Criminology and Criminal Justice." I am sure many of you remember that paper. Over the years, ACJS has treated me very well. For instance, in 1995 my colleague, Rob Sampson, and I were awarded the Outstanding Book Award for Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life. Then 10 years later, Rob and I were honored again with the Outstanding Book Award in 2005 for Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70. So I am glad to be here among so many old friends and colleagues. Read the full entry.

Posted March 30, 2012

Alastair Ross, Director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences, and NIJ Director Laub 

Alastair Ross and John H. Laub

NIJ photo (see reuse policy).

Australians and NIJ to Collaborate on Forensics

Recently, I traveled to the Australian Embassy here in D.C. to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Australia-New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA). The agreement provides for more than just knowledge-sharing on how the forensic sciences are used in criminal justice. Read the full entry.


Posted March 9, 2012

Dr. Laub Discusses Translational Criminology

Dr. Laub discusses fusing NIJ's dual mission through translational criminology, questions that guide NIJ's approach to translational criminology and the role of 'trust' in translational criminology.

Watch "Translational Criminology" (05:04)


NIJ signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Dutch

Posted December 1, 2011

NIJ and the Dutch Agree to Work Together to Improve the Use of Forensic Sciences

Recently, I was able to turn words into deeds: Since I came to NIJ, I have argued that partnerships are crucial for the advancement of science.

On November 15, 2011, NIJ formally launched a new partnership with the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and the Netherlands Forensics Institute. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between our two countries at the Dutch Ambassador's residence in Washington, DC. Read the full entry.

Posted November 16, 2011

The Challenges of Deficit-Driven Budgets

I was honored to participate at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) in Washington, DC, on November 2 and 3. Along with several other leaders in the social sciences, I served on a panel titled "Challenges for Social/Behavioral Sciences in the Deficit Driven Federal Budget Climate."

The government is currently operating under what is called a "continuing resolution." That means all federal agencies, like NIJ, must operate at last year's budgetary levels. Because we do not have a new, full fiscal-year budget, we are conducting business on mission-critical activities, but not starting any new projects. Read the full entry.

Posted October 11, 2011

Stockholm Prize: Conversation with John Laub and Rob Sampson

As some of you may know, my long-time research partner, Rob Sampson, and I received the 2011 Stockholm Prize in Criminology for our work on how and why criminals stop offending. A few days after we accepted the award (from Sweden's Queen Silvia!), Rob and I sat down during the NIJ Conference to talk about our work.

As you will see in this 20-minute video, it all started in 1986 when I was doing research on the lives and the work of Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, two criminologists at the Harvard Law School. One day, I asked a little white-haired archivist in the Harvard Law School Library what ever happened to the Gluecks' data. Read the full entry and watch the video.

Posted October 3, 2011

Reorganization of NIJ
One of my priorities this past year has been to strengthen the science mission of NIJ. We have manifested this in several ways and one new step I am taking is a restructuring of the Institute to support strengthening our science mission. Here are the highlights of the plan, which went into effect September 12 when I held an all staff meeting to present the plan and engage in a question and answer session. Read the full entry.

Posted August 30, 2011

Feedback from the Field: How Your Colleagues Are Using NIJ's Work
We frequently receive feedback from the field about how our research and training tools are being used. Let me share a few anecdotes that have come in recently.

A prosecutor in California wrote that, a few years ago, he worked on a death-penalty case with DNA evidence. Like most lawyers, he said, he did not have a biology background, so he was worried about presenting this highly technical evidence to a jury. But he found NIJ's free online training, DNA for Officers of the Court, and, as he said, "I learned by doing all of the modules (numerous times)." Read the full entry.

Posted July 12, 2011

My Post-NIJ Conference Guest Appearance on the Diane Rehm Show
I'm pleased to report that there were some marvelous moments at NIJ's recent annual conference (June 20-22) — and we will be featuring highlights over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, though, I wanted to share an interesting experience I had the day after the conference: I was a guest on the Diane Rehm radio show.

It was an interesting discussion (led by the BBC's Katty Kay, who was filling in for Diane Rehm) on a provocative topic, genetics and criminal behavior. Read the full entry.

Posted July 11, 2011

Welcome to Jim Bueermann — NIJ's First Executive Fellow
On July 11, Chief Jim Bueermann will join NIJ as our first "Executive Fellow." Chief Bueermann was the police chief in Redlands, California, and recently retired after many years. Chief Bueermann has been a leading advocate among chiefs for using research to make decisions around policy and practice. He was one of the first chiefs to hire a criminologist for his police department, which demonstrated his commitment to evidence-based approaches. In other words, Chief Bueermann was practicing "translational criminology" long before I coined the term!

Chief Bueermann will be at NIJ until mid-August 2011, and he will be working with us to develop ways to institutionalize "translational criminology" at the practitioner-level.

Director Laub Announces NIJ's Response

Posted June 20, 2011

NIJ's Response to the NRC Report Strengthening the National Institute of Justice

On June 20, 2011 — the first day of NIJ's annual conference — we released our response to the National Academy of Sciences's National Research Council report, Strengthening the National Institute of Justice, the NRC made recommendations regarding:

  • Independence and governance.
  • Strengthening the science mission.
  • Research infrastructure.
  • Scientific integrity and transparency.
  • A culture of self-assessment.

In our response to the NRC report, NIJ endorses the NRC's basic principles and, indeed, in my year as director, the Institute has already put in place new policies and procedure that address many of the NRC's recommendations. Read the full entry.

Posted June 6, 2011

Partnerships: Coming Together to Study Crime & Solutions — A Message from the Director
This is the second in a series of conversations with John Laub, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute of Justice. Director Laub discusses the most recent efforts by the Institute to build stronger ties with the Bureau of Justice Statistics to solve crime problems.

Watch "Partnerships: Coming Together to Study Crime & Solutions" (02:29)


Posted March 23, 2011

Embracing a Culture of Science — A Message from the Director
This is the first in a series of conversations with John Laub, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute of Justice. Director Laub discusses the creation of a culture of science within the Institute, including the value of embracing transparency and a critical perspective.

Watch "Embracing a Culture of Science" (02:29)


Posted March 3, 2011

Translational Criminology
Remarks to the Office of Justice Programs, Washington, D.C., March 1, 2011

One of the ideas that I am emphasizing at NIJ as we move forward is "Translational Criminology." I first learned about the idea of translational research in the field of medicine from my daughter who is a pediatrician. The idea of translational criminology is simple yet powerful. If we want to prevent, reduce and manage crime, scientific discoveries must be translated into policy and practice. Read the complete remarks.

Posted February 2, 2011

A Tribute to Herman Goldstein, George Kelling and James Q. Wilson: Contributions to the Field of Criminal Justice
Harvard Executive Sessions, Boston, Mass., January 13, 2011

I am faced with an impossible task: 10 minutes to honor Herman Goldstein, George Kelling and James Q. Wilson for their contributions to the field. Gee, it would be easier to travel to Boston for a meeting in the middle of January! I am honored to be speaking about these three individuals whom I first met when I was a graduate student in the School of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Albany during the mid-1970s — not them personally, but their classic works in my graduate classes. Read the complete remarks.

Posted January 21, 2011

Second Progress Report: NIJ's Response to Strengthening the National Institute of Justice

It has been six months since I was sworn in as the Director of NIJ. From my first days, I have emphasized the importance of the National Research Council report, Strengthening the National Institute of Justice, and of a prompt and comprehensive response from NIJ to its recommendations. Even as the agency turns to face the demands — and the uncertainty — of a new fiscal year, we have not lost our focus on this important effort. Read the complete progress report. 

Posted December 9, 2010
John Laub and Robert Sampson Awarded Stockholm Prize

NIJ Director John H. Laub, Ph.D., and his long-time research partner, Robert J. Sampson, Ph.D., of Harvard University, are joint recipients of the 2011 Stockholm Prize in Criminology. They received the award for their research on how and why criminals stop offending. The award winners were announced at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in San Francisco in November 2010. Learn more about Dr. Laub's receipt of the Stockholm Prize.

Posted November 9, 2010

My Vision for NIJ

Identifying and communicating my vision for the National Institute of Justice was my top priority when I arrived in July 2010. To me, it is crucial that NIJ establish itself as the nation's leader in scientific research on crime and justice. Beyond the scientific integrity of our research, this means that our work must benefit practitioners. That may sound obvious, but NIJ is like no other federal agency: we translate science for the street. Learn more about Dr. Laub's vision for NIJ.

Posted November 7, 2010

Initial Progress Report: NIJ's Response to Strengthening the National Institute of Justice

I read the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on the National Institute of Justice when it was first released (just before I was sworn in as Director of NIJ). It is clear from the report — and fully recognized by NIJ — that the status quo is no longer acceptable. In my second week as director, I began engaging all levels of staff in discussions about the NAS report. Because I believe that a crucial component of change is "process," I want to briefly explain the process I have been going through as NIJ prepares to respond to the NAS recommendations. Read the complete initial progress report on NIJ's response to Strengthening the National Institute of Justice.

Learn more about NIJ Director Nancy Rodriguez.

Date Modified: June 15, 2015