Thank you, Nancy. And good morning, everyone. I am so excited to welcome all of you to the first NIJ Research Conference in more than a decade!
It is thrilling to have so many of our nation’s leading criminal justice researchers and scientists gathered in one place, sharing information and exchanging ideas with our foremost public safety experts. And I’m pleased to welcome graduate students, budding criminologists, practitioners and policymakers, and others new to the field and eager to build knowledge and translate evidence into action.
I want to extend a special thanks to our very distinguished speaker, Attorney General Merrick Garland. As you just heard, Attorney General Garland is a champion of science and a strong supporter of the National Institute of Justice, and his presence here signals a commitment to this work from the highest levels of the Department of Justice.
And of course, we are here, for the first time in 12 years, thanks to the vision and leadership of our NIJ Director, Dr. Nancy La Vigne. Among many other priorities, Nancy made it her mission to bring back the NIJ conference as a forum for sharing knowledge and for bridging research and practice, something that has animated her entire career. She is backed by an exceptional team of scientists, program managers, and talented NIJ professionals who work hard, every day, to advance the science mission of the Department of Justice.
Now I’m a little partial to NIJ, I will admit. As some of you know, I spent three years - early in my career - at NIJ. I was a junior staffer – starry-eyed about working for government – and it was one of the best jobs I ever had. During those years in the late 1990s, under the leadership of Jeremy Travis, NIJ served as the think tank of the Department of Justice – a place of big ideas and a lot of knowledge building.
It was during those years that I met Nancy. Even then, she was a rockstar, heading up the Crime Mapping Research Center that she’d founded, full of vision and new analytic techniques which she put into play around the country. Those early investments, and Nancy’s leadership, significantly influenced the national landscape and planted the seeds for so much of the work being done today.
All to say, as an avid research consumer, I am so looking forward to the program Nancy and her team have put together. Over these three days, we will hear from the brightest minds in the field – scientists who are exploring innovative solutions to an array of public safety challenges, researchers who are conducting rigorous evaluations of criminal and juvenile justice programs, policymakers who are designing strategies based on these findings, and practitioners who are putting evidence into action.
This is a packed agenda that reflects the most urgent and important crime and justice issues of our time – from gun violence to hate crimes, from drugs and gangs to domestic radicalism, from the latest developments in forensic science to the benefits and challenges of artificial intelligence, and from women in policing and officer safety to the health of our nation’s corrections culture.
You’ll see a sharp focus, not only on how this knowledge can be applied, but on how research can – and should – be informed by those closest to the issues. Nancy’s push for inclusive research mirrors the work we’re doing across the Office of Justice Programs to bring in people with lived experience – those who have worked in or themselves been involved in the justice system. Their perspectives enrich and enlighten our work and their insights will deepen our knowledge.
Also on display at this conference is a commitment to science from across OJP and throughout the Department. We were, of course, honored to be joined by the Attorney General this morning, and we will have the pleasure of welcoming the Department’s third-ranking official, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, later this afternoon. Their presence and participation send a clear message that investing in science is a priority for the Department.
It's also well worth noting that science permeates all our work at OJP. Our program offices are led by science-minded professionals. The Director of our Bureau of Justice Statistics, Alex Piquero, is one of the world’s top criminologists. And the heads of our other program offices all have extensive track records working with researchers and deploying data and evidence to tackle the justice system and victim service challenges faced by our communities. I look forward to leading a discussion with these dynamo Directors this afternoon about the ways we invest in science – and they rely on science – to inform our work.
I hope you can see that this Administration, and this Department of Justice, are committed to strong science – and this commitment could not come at a more opportune moment. There are so many urgent challenges in front of us, and so many questions about how to meet those challenges. The foundation of evidence that many of you have helped to lay is a strong one, and we hope to build on it, leaning on the expertise of everyone in this room.
I am very excited about these three days of networking and knowledge sharing, and I am looking forward to working with all of you in the months ahead as we double down on our commitment to science as a key investment in creating safe and just communities.