Policy makers need valid, reliable, and timely information on the outcomes of criminal justice programs to help them decide how to set criminal justice funding priorities. In view of previously reported problems with selected outcome evaluations managed by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), GAO assessed the methodological quality of a sample of completed and ongoing NIJ outcome evaluation grants.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Justice||1. The Attorney General should instruct the Director of NIJ to conduct a review of its ongoing outcome evaluation grants--including those discussed in this report--and develop appropriate strategies and corrective measures to ensure that methodological design and implementation problems are overcome so the evaluations can produce more conclusive results. Such a review should consider the design and implementation issues we identified in our assessment in order to decide whether and what type of intervention may be appropriate. If, based on NIJ's review, it appears that the methodological problems cannot be overcome, NIJ should consider refocusing the studies' objectives and/or limiting funding.|
|Department of Justice||2. The Attorney General should instruct the Director of NIJ to continue efforts to respond to our March 2002 recommendation that NIJ assess its evaluation process with the purpose of developing approaches to ensure that future outcome evaluation studies are funded only when they are effectively designed and implemented. The assessment could consider the feasibility of such steps as obtaining more information about the availability of outcome data prior to developing a solicitation for research; requiring that outcome evaluation proposals contain more detailed design specifications before funding decisions are made regarding these proposals; and more carefully calibrating NIJ monitoring procedures to the cost of the grant, the risks inherent in the proposed methodology, and the extent of knowledge in the area under investigation.|