National Institute of Justice Funds Research to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Justice System
WASHINGTON — The Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice today announced an investment of $2.7 million to perform rigorous research that furthers the Department of Justice’s mission to increase knowledge about the connections between race, crime, violence and the administration of justice in the United States. The W.E.B. Du Bois Program of Research on Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Justice System supports work that advances policy interventions designed to reduce disparities.
These interventions may impact policing practices, individuals’ access to defense resources, pre-trial release practices, charging decisions, access to treatment services, post-release programming or any other point at which disparity is evident. NIJ is particularly interested in identifying those interventions that have the greatest potential to positively affect an individual’s progress out of the justice system.
“The integrity of our justice system depends on our willingness to reckon with the glaring racial inequities that have, for far too long, undermined its legitimacy and impaired its effectiveness,” said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon. “The W.E.B. Du Bois Program follows the path that Du Bois himself blazed, supporting scientific exploration and looking ahead to the day when equal justice before the law is no longer just an ideal but a reality.”
The W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Program invests in training professionals from the fields of social and behavioral sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics to conduct qualitative and quantitative research. Past awards include projects examining topics such as race and gender disparities in restricted housing in prisons; race and drug arrests; and racial bias during traffic stops.
Two categories of researchers are receiving awards this year, W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars and W.E.B. Du Bois Fellows. The Scholars are experienced researchers who are advanced in their careers and will serve as mentors for emerging scientists. The Fellows are early-career researchers who will have an opportunity to elevate independently generated research and ideas to the level of national discussion.
The proposed studies address a diverse set of issues to expand the potential for reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. They are:
- The University of California Irvine will explore how state-ordered diversion programs may introduce new pathways to inequality through shadow costs (i.e., financial outlays and expenditures ordered as part of a rehabilitation or reentry treatment program), and how eliminating these costs affect racial and ethnic disparities.
- Arizona State University will study how eliminating peremptory challenges affects jury selection and racial diversity on juries.
- Ohio State University will analyze how drug courts influence racial disparities in drug sentencing outcomes.
- The RAND Corporation will look at how decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use impacts racial and ethnic differences in criminal justice outcomes.
“Throughout our history, Black and brown Americans have paid the price of an excessively punitive criminal legal system, suffering higher rates of victimization, arrest, incarceration and community surveillance,” said NIJ Director Nancy La Vigne. “These research investments through our W.E.B. Du Bois Program will deepen our knowledge of the causes and the consequences of these stubborn and pernicious disparities and advance our work to achieve a more just and equitable society.”
NIJ launched the W.E.B. Du Bois Program in 2000. It supported scholarly research until 2018, when the program was paused. It was relaunched last year. More information about the Program is available at https://nij.ojp.gov/funding/fellowships/web-du-bois-program.
Information about the National Institute of Justice is available at: nij.ojp.gov.
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.