Biden Must Revitalize the Bureau of Justice Statistics

Biden Must Revitalize the Bureau of Justice Statistics


The Point

In the Trump administration, criminal justice data was hidden, manipulated, and politicized. If President Biden wants to enact meaningful criminal justice reform, he must fix—and fully fund—the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

The Bureau of Justice Statistics should be transparent, well-funded, and independent:

People invested in change have to be invested in data:

  • Data is critical to understanding whether reforms are working. As Peter Wood, chairperson of the Crime & Justice Research Alliance explained, “Your policies have to rest on something, and the outcome of your policies, the goals that you want to achieve have to be measurable. And if you have no data, how are you going to know whether what you’re doing is having an impact?”
  • What is measured also matters. Fair and Just Prosecution, a network of reform-minded elected prosecutors, recommended the Biden-Harris Administration increase funding to BJS and fix delays in its data collection and reporting because “[w]hat gets measured is often a proxy for what we value and can also inform policy, practice, and prioritization of ongoing concerns.”
  • Data drives national policy conversations. The Trump administration knew this, and BJS took heat for its flawed use of data regarding crimes committed by undocumented persons—a seeming attempt to support Trump’s anti-immigrant fearmongering. Any meaningful criminal justice reform must begin with a clear-eyed understanding of our current reality. Objective, timely, transparent data is critical to that understanding. 

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