NIJ Journal 273: New on

'Sentinel Events' and Criminal Justice System Errors

When bad things happen in a complex system, the cause is rarely a single act or a lone "bad apple." More often, an error — or "sentinel event" — actually signals a systemwide problem.

In criminal justice, a sentinel event could be a wrongful conviction or even a "near miss" that could have led to a bad outcome if it had not been caught.

NIJ supports research on reducing criminal justice errors and improving the administration of justice, including using a forward-thinking, nonblaming, all-stakeholders approach; examining wrongful convictions; and improving eyewitness identification.

Learn more about NIJ's Sentinel Events Initiative.

From Juvenile Delinquency to Young Adult Offending

Scholars and laypeople alike debate what causes young people to commit crimes. Most states mark the legal transition from adolescence to adulthood at age 18, but researchers question whether the human brain is fully mature at this age.

As part of NIJ's Study Group on the Transitions Between Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Crime, scholars examined differences between juveniles who continue to offend and those who stop. They also looked at offending in early adulthood and the costs and benefits of interventions.

Learn more about research related to young adults.

Watch an interview with Yale Law School's Tracey Meares about deterrence and legitimacy.

Information for DNA Backlog Reduction Program Grantees

Applicants and grantees under NIJ's DNA Backlog Reduction Program can now find recommended documents, guidance, quick guides and answers to frequently asked questions online. Topics covered include applications, budgets, progress reports and performance measures, federal financial reports, grant adjustment notices, program income, and closeouts.

Read more about NIJ's DNA Backlog Reduction Program.

Sharing Data to Improve Science

Secondary data analysis allows researchers to build on existing findings, replicate results and conduct new analyses. Through NIJ's Data Resources Program, data collected as a part of NIJ research are archived and made available to support new research aimed at reproducing original findings, replicating results and testing new hypotheses.

When an NIJ-funded study ends, researchers submit their data to the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, which has been collecting data since 1978.

Recent data sets added to the National Archive include:
  • Alternative Sentencing Policies for Drug Offenders: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Kansas Senate Bill 123, 2001-2010
  • Dynamics of Retail Methamphetamine Markets in New York City, 2007-2009
  • Evaluation of SAFEChildren, a Family-Focused Prevention Program in Chicago, Illinois, 2006-2010
  • Habeas Corpus Litigation in United States District Courts: An Empirical Study, 2000-2006
  • Investigating the Role of Context, Meaning, and Method in Violence Against Women in Atlanta, Georgia, 2000-2002
  • Process Evaluation of the Demonstration Project to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Atlanta-Fulton County, Georgia, United States, 2006-2009
  • Situational Crime Prevention at Specific Locations in Community Context: Place and Neighborhood Effects in Cincinnati, Ohio, 2005-2008
  • Systematic Review of School-Based Programs to Reduce Bullying and Victimization, 1983-2009

Learn about accessing and using research data from NIJ studies.

Research Updates

The following NIJ Web pages have been updated with additional research findings:

  • Teen dating violence: Teen dating violence includes physical, psychological or sexual abuse; harassment; or stalking of any person age 12 to 18 in the context of a past or present romantic or other consensual relationship. Building on a long history of research on intimate partner violence, NIJ is now looking to adolescent relationships to understand the factors that put individuals at risk for involvement in abusive romantic relationships as adults. Read the updated pages.
  • Predictive policing: NIJ awarded grants to Rutgers University and the Police Foundation to conduct studies on using geospatial strategies to improve policing. Read more about the predictive policing grants.
  • Body armor: Body armor is critical safety equipment for law enforcement and corrections officers. NIJ establishes and updates voluntary minimum performance standards for body armor, conducts testing to ensure that body armor complies with these standards, and sponsors research to improve body armor. Visit the updated pages.

Second Chance Act: What Have We Learned About Re-Entry Programs So Far?

Offender re-entry into the community continues to be a pressing social problem: The number of inmates released every year from U.S. prisons increased fourfold over the past three decades.

Since the passage of the Second Chance Act (SCA) in 2008, more than $250 million has been awarded to government agencies and nonprofits for programs to help offenders successfully re-enter society. In this interview, NIJ grantee Ron D'Amico of Social Policy Research Associates discusses the implementation of SCA programs and their impact on offender re-entry.

Watch the interview.

Research for the Real World: Why Is the United States the Most Homicidal Nation in the Affluent World?

Since World War II, the homicide rate in the U.S. has been three to 10 times higher than the rate in Canada, Western Europe or Japan. However, this has not always been the case. What caused the dramatic change?

In this Research for the Real World seminar, Randy Roth discusses how and why homicide rates have varied across time and space over the past 450 years, including an examination of the murder of children by parents or caregivers, intimate partner violence, and homicides among unrelated adults.

Watch and listen to Roth's seminar.

Research for the Real World: Consequences of a Prison Record for Employment: How Do Race, Ethnicity and Gender Factor In?

Scott Decker and his colleagues recently completed an in-depth examination of the roles of race, gender and education in one of the greatest social challenges facing our nation today: employment for criminal offenders returning to the community. Based on the results of this three-year study, Decker makes recommendations that could be critically important as decision-makers craft pre- and post-release policies and strategies to help the more than 600,000 criminal offenders who return to the community every year, particularly in this increasingly online world.

Watch and listen to Decker's seminar.