About the National Institute of Justice

Meet Our New Director

Portrait of David Muhlhausen, NIJ Director, and Alan Hanson, Acting Assistant Attorney General

Welcome to our new Director, David B. Muhlhausen. Pictured here with Alan Hanson, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs. 

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Mission of the National Institute of Justice

NIJ — the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice — is dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. NIJ provides objective an​d independent knowledge and tools to inform the decision-making of the criminal justice community to reduce crime and advance justice, particularly at the state and local levels. 

NIJ's pursuit of this mission is guided by the following principles:

  • Research can make a difference in individual lives, in the safety of communities and in creating a more effective and fair justice system.
  • Government-funded research must adhere to processes of fair and open competition guided by rigorous peer review.
  • NIJ's research agenda must respond to the real world needs of victims, communities and criminal justice professionals.
  • NIJ must encourage and support innovative and rigorous research methods that can provide answers to basic research questions as well as practical, applied solutions to crime.
  • Partnerships with other agencies and organizations, public and private, are essential to NIJ's success.

Strategic Goals of the National Institute of Justice

The National Institute of Justice is committed to being a transformative force in the criminal justice field by meeting five strategic challenges:

  1. Fostering science-based criminal justice practice — supporting rigorous scientific research to ensure the safety of families, neighborhoods and communities.
  2. Translating knowledge to practice — disseminating rigorous scientific research to criminal justice professionals to advance what works best in preventing and reducing crime.
  3. Advancing technology — building a more effective, fair and efficient criminal justice system through technology.
  4. Working across disciplines — connecting the physical, forensic and social sciences to reduce crime and promote justice.
  5. Bolstering the research infrastructure — supporting young scholars, encouraging researchers from a broad array of disciplines to apply their work to criminal justice, and increasing the availability of research findings and data.
  6. Adopting a global perspective — understanding crime in its social context within the U.S. and globally.

Learn about our Research Agenda and Goals.

Areas of Interest to the National Institute of Justice

NIJ supports research, evaluation and development projects in the following broad areas:

  • Causes and correlates of crime.
  • Crime prevention and control.
  • Prevention of violence and victimization.
  • Forensic sciences.
  • Corrections practice and policy, including community corrections.
  • Law enforcement effectiveness, legitimacy, accountability and safety.
  • Courts and adjudication.

NIJ’s research agenda and priories shift with the needs of the field as new challenges arise. We also look for and support innovative ideas that could transform the criminal justice system.

In 2016, priority areas include:

  • Policing
  • Institutional corrections
  • Sentinel events
  • Safety technologies
  • Wellness and safety
  • Advancing forensic sciences
  • School safety

To support our strategic and overarching research goals, we have developed a series of strategic research plans on topics within crime and justice that span our three science offices. These plans build off of existing research knowledge; input about research needs gathered from practitioners, policymakers and researchers; and the priorities of Congress and the Administration.

Learn more about NIJ's strategic research plans.

Major Activities of the National Institute of Justice

NIJ’s major activities include research and development, the administration of assistance and capacity enhancement programs, and the development of equipment standards and related conformity assessment programs. 

Read on to learn more about each and find links to more detailed information.

Research and Development. NIJ funds external projects, conducts intramural research and disseminates the findings. The vast majority of our research, development, testing and evaluation projects are funded under competitive solicitations — more than 85 percent in fiscal year 2015. Of the non-competitive awards, most are continuations of awards that were made under past competitive solicitations. (See our Guidelines Regarding Non-Competitive Awards.)

NIJ’s established research and development process helps ensure that projects are relevant to the field and produce valid, actionable results. The process includes:

  1. Identifying needs.
  2. Developing a research agenda.
  3. Implementing research.
  4. Monitoring ongoing awards.
  5. Evaluating research results.
  6. Disseminating to the field.

Learn more about our research and development process.

External projects are funded primarily through competitive solicitations that result in grants and cooperative agreements. A smaller percentage of projects are also funded through challenges, agreements with other federal agencies, and contracts. External projects include competitive and non-competitive research, development, testing and evaluation projects. They also include assistance and capacity enhancement programs.

NIJ’s intramural research program supplements the extramural research program and helps ensure the continuous and efficient fulfillment of our mission. It also complements, advances and informs extramural research efforts and helps improve criminal justice policy and practice. Learn about our Intramural Research Initiative.

NIJ disseminates the results of both external and intramural projects to build a collective body of knowledge to inform future research and to aid practitioners and policymakers in the adoption of evidence-based practice and policy.

Reports, articles and other publications resulting from our supported projects are included in the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) library and abstracts database and made available on NIJ.gov (see Publications and Multimedia). NCJRS is the repository of knowledge generated by the agencies within the Office of Justice Programs and provides a variety of information transfer and dissemination services in addition to the abstracts database and library.

Datasets from NIJ projects are made available for further analysis at the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. Access data from NIJ along with data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

In addition to disseminating the direct results of our research, NIJ also funds and operates CrimeSolutions.gov, which uses research to rate the effectiveness of programs and practices in achieving criminal justice-related outcomes.

Assistance and Capacity Enhancement Programs. NIJ funds assistance and capacity enhancement programs through both competitive and formula processes. These include reducing the backlog of DNA evidence, providing funding to jurisdictions to defray the costs associated with postconviction DNA testing, helping to solve cold cases and find missing persons, and helping to improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science and medical examiner services through the Coverdell Forensic Sciences Improvement Grants Program.

The National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers serve to (1) help inform NIJ’s technology research activities (including in the area of forensic science) and (2) support the transfer and adoption of new or existing tools into practice with criminal justice agencies. See the Justice Technology Information Center​ Exit Notice​ for more information.

Equipment Standards and Conformity Assessment. NIJ also administers an equipment standards and conformity assessment program through which we develop and publish equipment standards that specifically address the needs of law enforcement, corrections and other criminal justice agencies.

Date Modified: February 10, 2017