Making a Difference through Research

Article excerpt

As chief of the Office of Research and Evaluation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Gerald Gaes has conducted and provided leadership toward many advances in correctional research. Gaes, who started his career with BOP in 1980, oversees the operations of program evaluation, statistical reports, management information and policy analysis. He has held his present position since 1988 and has been involved in a variety of policy implications, including population projections and prison impact, and research in the areas of inmate classification, inmate gangs, post-release employment and residential drug treatment programs.

"Any time you are spending billions of dollars on what essentially is an intervention of some kind, you should know how to do it in a smart, rational fashion," says Gaes. "Whether the interventions you propose or what you do actually is beneficial for public safety or public policy, or is cost-effective, research is one of the few ways you can establish this."

Gaes has been working on inmate classification research since he started his BOP career. Always looking for ways to improve the classification system, his work involves constant analysis of the relationship between classification indicators and inmates. Gaes says this research is important because it reduces the risk imposed on inmates and staff and also provides savings to the public.

Population projection is another area in which Gaes has been involved since the beginning of his career. During the mid-1980s, the Sentencing Commission was interested in understanding the impact that sentencing guidelines had on BOP's population. Gaes began working with the Sentencing Commission on a model that would simulate the criminal justice processes as well as the impact of the guidelines. During this project, Congress passed mandatory minimum sentencing laws, therefore, Gaes had to simulate the impact of the laws and developed a program that mimicked all the processes together. The program uses several data files of sentencing information and models the impact of changes in time served and changes of inmate population over time. "It allows us to give a fairly precise estimate of what changes in policy will do," says Gaes. …