NIJ's Corrections Technology Center of Excellence: Addressing Cutting-Edge Corrections Technology Issues

By Higgins, Brian R. | Corrections Today, October 2011 | Go to article overview

NIJ's Corrections Technology Center of Excellence: Addressing Cutting-Edge Corrections Technology Issues


Higgins, Brian R., Corrections Today


The National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) Corrections Technology Center of Excellence (CoE) helps corrections professionals transition into using new technology that can make their operations safer and more effective. According to CoE Director Joe Russo, "Our mission is driven by practitioner needs."

The NLECTC System

The establishment of the Corrections Technology CoE is just one aspect of the reorganization of the National Law Enforcement Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) system. The system was formerly organized into a national center and regional centers along arbitrary geographic lines. The reorganization still includes a national center (which serves as the hub of the system and administers NIJ's equipment compliance testing program) and three regional centers, but now also includes technology centers of excellence aligned with NIJ's technology investment portfolios.

The regional centers are organized to support agencies with similar jurisdictional and regional issues. The first regional center focuses on state, major city and county criminal justice agencies (those with 50 or more sworn officers). A second regional center focuses on small, rural, tribal and border agencies. A third center focuses on the needs of agencies in Alaska. This reorganization allows the new centers to more clearly focus on a single set of similar issues shared by the agencies in their region, rather than the old structure that sought to support agencies with disparate needs.

The topic-specific centers of excellence conduct research, development, testing and evaluation efforts. The CoEs are: Corrections Technology; Communications Technology; Criminal Justice Electronic Crime Technology; Forensic Technology; Information and Geospatial Technologies; Sensors, Surveillance and Biometric Technologies; and Weapons and Protective Systems Technology.

The Corrections Technology CoE

The Corrections Technology CoE supports NIJ's research, development, testing and evaluation by:

* Developing evidence-based performance standards;

* Conducting tests and evaluations of new technologies;

* Coordinating technology working groups (TWGs) for institutional and community corrections to help identify practitioner technology needs and requirements;

* Introducing new technologies to practitioners, providing practitioner requirements to developers and assisting developers in commercialization;

* Developing and promulgating guidelines to help correctional agencies select and implement new equipment and technology; and

* Conducting relevant, focused studies about programs and technologies.

The following are key elements of the CoE's research agenda:

* Improve the safety of the public, staff, offenders and visitors within correctional facilities;

* Improve the safety and efficacy in community corrections through enhanced offender reentry;

* Improve the allocation of resources within correctional agencies to reduce costs, enhance staff management, and reduce injuries to staff, offenders and visitors; and

* Improve the collaboration between federal, state, local and tribal correctional agencies and other criminal justice agencies through the integration of technology information.

Current CoE Research Efforts

Develop a standard for offender tracking technologies. Many states have passed laws that require monitoring of an offender's whereabouts, and more categories of offenders (e.g., sex offenders, domestic violence offenders and gang members) are being monitored. The length of time an offender must be tracked varies by type of offender; in some cases, sex offenders are tracked for life. Many jurisdictions now consider offender tracking to be an important option in the collection of alternatives to incarceration. As a result, corrections professionals believe more types of tracking technologies will become available. …

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