In recent decades, calls for evidence-based policy in crime and criminal justice have become commonplace. But there is a disconnect between those calls and an understanding of what evidence-based policy encompasses. A new book showcases much of what is accurate with evidence-based crime and justice policy and confronts the challenges that such policy faces today and likely in the coming years.
The book, The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-Based Crime and Justice Policy, was edited by researchers at Northeastern University/Harvard Medical School and Florida State University (FSU).
“Our handbook promotes new and productive ways to think about evidence-based policy, including programs, law, and practices,” explains Daniel P. Mears, professor of criminology and criminal justice at FSU, who co-edited the book. “It shows how research can guide evidence-based policy in critical areas, including juvenile justice, criminal justice, and alternatives to ineffective system responses.” Mears is an expert whose work is promoted by the NCJA Crime and Justice Research Alliance, which is funded by the National Criminal Justice Association.
Contributors to the book include leading scholars and researchers in criminology, criminal justice, sociology, psychology, education, public health, public policy and administration, economics, and the law. Written in accessible language, the volume is intended to serve as an authoritative and scholarly source on research and experience on evidence-based policy as it applies to a wide range of pressing crime and justice topics—including gun violence, mass incarceration, re-entry services for offenders, proactive policing, early childhood interventions, juvenile drug courts, and racial disparities in sentencing—in the United States and across the Western world.
“The need for improved policy in this area is acute,” notes Brandon Welsh, professor of criminology at Northeastern University and visiting professor at Harvard Medical School and lead editor of the book. “An evidence-based approach can encourage the use of the best available research to inform decisions that affect the public good and ensure research evidence is at the center of political and policy decisions.”
The book is divided into five parts:
- Part I examines how to think about evidence-based policy. Chapters address core concepts, research methods, and critical perspectives.
- Parts II and III are organized around the two major systems in which research evidence is being used to inform policy: juvenile justice and criminal justice, respectively. Chapters focus on key stages of processing and leading programs and practices.
- Part IV examines how research evidence is being used to inform policy alternatives to more punitive system responses. It includes chapters on micro-level and macro-level efforts taking place outside the system and that respond to the needs of neglected groups (e.g., crime victims, racial and ethnic minorities, marginalized young people).
- Part V profiles efforts to promote greater use of evidence-based policy and ways to improve evidence-based policymaking, especially in critical underdeveloped areas. “Awareness of what goes into research, as well as what makes it complicated, is essential for guiding and evaluating research,” says Steven Zane, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at FSU, who co-edited the book. “It is essential for increasing the likelihood that evidence-based policy will be used appropriately. One of the book’s strengths is its attention to explaining the complexity of research and the relevance of this complexity for informing policy.”
Summarized from The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-Based Crime and Justice Policy, by Welsh, BC (Northeastern University/Harvard Medical School), Zane, SN (Florida State University), and Mears, DP (Florida State University). Copyright 2024 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.