Criminology as a scientific enterprise has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. The level of participation at the annual meetings of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) is high, the number of academic journals concerned with crime and justice is increasing, and the university demand for PhDs in criminology is strong. Also notable is the number of significant theoretical and empirical contributions being made by criminologists. In this regard, consider that citation counts for several criminology journals compare favorably with many high profile journals from such disciplines as sociology and political science. Moreover, the first Stockholm Prize in Criminology will be awarded in June 2006. Consistent with Edwin Sutherland’s conception of criminology proffered eight decades ago, the prize will honor individuals whose work has improved knowledge of the etiology of crime, and recognize those contributions resulting in more effective and humane public policies dealing with crime and justice and improvement in the human condition.
Notwithstanding these major developments in scientific criminology, the nexus between criminological research and public policy remains fragmented, uneven, and discontinuous. Policy-makers responsible for governmental action aimed at preventing crime, assisting crime victims, punishing and reforming offenders, and reintegrating ex-inmates are frequently moved by motives unrelated to scientific research findings. Far too often, criminologists themselves consider public policy questions to be secondary concerns, at best, and include only obligatory acknowledgement of policy-related issues in their research publications.
Since the establishment of Criminology & Public Policy (CPP) in 2001, however, the potential for criminological research to inform public policy has been substantially elevated. With support from the National Institute of Justice, CPP’s founding editor, Todd Clear, has successfully disseminated policy-oriented, criminological research to large public policy audiences. In the short span of four years, CPP has become a valuable and prestigious journal in both the fields of criminology and the policy sciences. Still more needs to be done in the continuing effort to advance the role of criminological research in public policy. Prominent among the challenges is to continue to build awareness of the importance of research-based “objective” or empirical evidence versus the more “philosophical” or ideological concerns that typically guide and shape public policy. It is through the promotion of such awareness that more can be done to effectively move meaningful research into the public policy process. Politics and processes consistent with Daniel Boorstin’s “illusions of knowledge” have historically shaped and determined crime related public policies. However, we cannot assume that by merely adding published research into the crime policy-making process that politics and competing knowledge illusions will disappear. Instead, continued dialogue, experiments, associated outcomes, and learning from all these interrelated efforts are essential if we are to build greater consensus. CPP is and should continue to be the major publication outlet for development in the area of criminology and public policy activity.
In our efforts to address these issues and build upon CPP’s success, we will publish high quality research articles and reaction essays. We will continue to better define and develop a linear relationship between the research articles and reaction essays. We will work with authors to produce research articles that include theoretically relevant and important policy related research questions with methodologically sound and compelling findings and logical public policy recommendations. We will then focus the reaction essays upon ‘what is next?’ in moving the research articles’ public policy recommendations into actionable steps. The reaction essays may address the necessity to conduct additional research, establish new public policies, or to change and/or eliminate existing public policies. In addition, we will accomplish the following:
- Develop thematic issues on timely criminal justice policy questions and debates that provide focused research findings, public policy recommendations, and subsequent actionable steps.
- Proactively disseminate research results and public policy recommendations and actionable steps. The dissemination will include developing a Website that enables Internet search engines to connect to the journal. Additionally, we will distribute the journal and descriptive journal flyers at specific public policy related professional conferences, including the National Mayors Association, the National Governors Association, the National Attorney Generals Association, the American Correctional Association, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, the National Chiefs of Police Conference, and the Annual Meeting of Juvenile Court Judges. We also will seek collaboration with such groups as the Washington, D.C., based American Youth Policy Forum to assist in connecting CPP with key groups, congressional leaders, and congressional staff for regular presentations and special initiatives.
- Collaborate with ASC on CPP marketing and press releases and news conferences related to research findings, public policy recommendations, actionable steps, and appropriate presenters of different thematic issues and particular research articles and reaction essays.
- Regularly organize a major panel for ASC’s Annual Meetings that addresses the progress, challenges, and emerging new strategies for CPP in its efforts to continuously advance the linkage between criminological research and policy.
- Work with a group of distinguished associate editors with well-established backgrounds in research and public policy. We will employ a larger Editorial Board than was used previously by CPP. The larger Editorial Board will facilitate speedy and helpful reviews and dissemination of the journal’s findings on pressing policy and program issues. Moreover, we will continue CPP’s practice of not using revise-and-resubmit but rather rejection or acceptance with specific required revisions.
- Work with the publishers of CPP to increase the number of sources through which the journal is abstracted and indexed.
CPP’s success, to date, demonstrates that a growing number of criminologists believe in the importance of successfully linking criminological research to public policy. But there remain challenges in the continuing quest to advance criminology’s research and public policy role. We must acknowledge that there is still considerable disagreement among members of the criminological community over the appropriate role for criminologists related to public policy. Some of our colleagues, for example, contend that we know far too little about crime and policy to contribute to the public policy debate. Still others argue that criminology is an applied field of study, and establishing a research-policy link is an integral part of the criminologist’s professional role and responsibility. Through its sponsorship of CPP, ASC has worked to strengthen the role of criminological research in the policy-making process. With this sustained institutional backing, we must continue to promote methodologically rigorous and theoretically-driven policy research throughout the criminological community. To do so, it is essential that criminologists and public policy experts communicate with each other and carry out joint efforts aimed at using research findings to guide public policy and practice. I hope, as editor of CPP, I will be able to effectively continue this important effort.