WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Rep. Madeleine Dean introduced legislation to create a Science Advisory Board (the Board) at the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) within the Department of Justice. The Board will be responsible for integrating scientific knowledge into crime-reduction efforts, as well as for using research, data, and evidence to guide the OJP’s grants, programs, and activities. The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Dwight Evans (PA-03), Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), and Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04). A companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Sens. Schatz (HI), Markey (MA), and Booker (NJ).
“Our criminal justice system – like every aspect of government – needs to be guided by the very best research and evidence available,” said Rep. Dean. “Scientific research helps us figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve. It’s an indispensable element of good governance.”
“We have an obligation to ensure that our justice system is both accessible and fair,” said Rep. Scanlon. “This bill is a great step towards making our justice system more evidence based and in turn more equitable.”
“We need to restore this tool in the toolbox to help reduce crime and increase trust between communities and police,” said Rep. Evans. “This is an especially crucial time for rebuilding trust between Philadelphians and the police officers whose duty is to protect and serve.”
“In my home city of Chicago, there is often distrust between the police force and the communities it serves,” said Rep. Garcia. “The federal government should help cities understand best practices, but the guidance should be informed by the best scientific data available on what works and what doesn’t. Until it was disbanded by the Trump administration last year, the Justice Department’s scientific advisory board (SAB) was doing this research. I am proud to co-sponsor the Improving Justice through Science Act, which re-establishes the SAB and brings experts back to the criminal justice reform effort.”
The Board was originally chartered by the Obama Administration in 2010 and provided OJP with guidance in a number of proactive criminal justice reform efforts, including:
- the importance of trauma-informed care,
- procedural justice and building trust between police and communities, and
- youth brain development and implications for juvenile justice programs.
The Board also made numerous contributions to the public safety investments of OJP, including guidelines for implementing and evaluating place-based crime reduction interventions and a tool for police departments to enhance communications with communities about their operations and successes.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration did not convene the Board for over a year until finally disbanding it in December, 2018.
Rep. Dean’s legislation will establish a Science Advisory Board comprised of 26 criminologists and criminal justice researchers appointed by the Attorney General for terms of four years. The Board will:
- Meet on a regular basis to discuss the relationship between science, research, and ongoing criminal and juvenile justice departmental activities;
- Coordinate with other Federal, State, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners.
- Advise the Assistant Attorney General on policy development, program implementation, and evaluation; identify research needs and opportunities and make policy recommendations.
Rep. Madeleine Dean is a mother, grandmother, attorney, professor, former four-term member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and U.S. Representative for the Fourth District of Pennsylvania.
CONTACT: Matt Bieber, 202-251-5643