Policy Statements

The NCJA advocates for effective criminal justice policy and funding for justice assistance programs.

NCJA Policy Statements

The National Criminal Justice Association's policy statements address major interests and concerns of the organization's membership on contemporary crime and criminal justice issues, such as fear and violence in communities, prison overcrowding, juvenile justice and the prevention of juvenile crime and delinquency, federal funding strategies, racial disparity, reentry, information sharing, mentally ill, and evidence-based programs and practices.

The term state, as used in these policy statements, includes the District of Columbia; the territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and the commonwealths of the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

The NCJA Policy Committee reviews these statements on a rotating basis. Click below to view the current policy statements. For questions about these policy statements, please contact David Steingraber, dsteingraber@ncja.org.

Policy Statement Topics:

Coordinating Criminal Justice Efforts

The criminal justice system has an interdependent structure with critical functions performed by public agencies at all levels of government and private entities. The effectiveness of the criminal justice system is significantly improved when there is planning, analysis, and coordination among these stakeholders at the local, regional and state levels and Tribal Governments. Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils or similar organizations are appropriate entities to achieve this purpose. Recognizing the value of such an undertaking, governmental and nongovernmental justice system stakeholders should support and participate in these efforts.

ADOPTED: April 25, 2012
REVISED March 26, 2015

Drugs and Substance Abuse

Public safety is increased by reducing the accessibility to and the availability of illicit drugs. Abuse of drugs and alcohol increase the community risk factors of anti-social and criminal behavior. Crime control and the use of the criminal justice system to address the misuse and abuse of drugs should be the societal response of last resort. Criminal justice policy makers and leaders from all levels and branches of government must collaborate with members of the health services community, both public and private, on effective methods to address drug and substance abuse. Public and private health care systems should be adequately funded to avoid inappropriate criminal justice system responses; however, for those offenders who suffer from drug disorders, the criminal justice system must address the offender's highest criminogenic risks and needs in conjunction with criminal sanctions and treatment. Public and private health care systems should be adequately funded to ensure that staff training on criminogenic risks and needs is provided.

ADOPTED April 26, 2007
REVISED April 14, 2010
REVISED April 24, 2013
REVISED March 30, 2016

Evidence-Based Programs and Practices

Public safety, the overarching goal of the criminal justice system, will be best served if planning, policy funding and implementation are guided by empirical knowledge about the key elements of practices that are known to have positive impacts when implemented with fidelity for appropriate populations and issues. When feasible, criminal justice system policy makers and practitioners should adopt and support evidence based and promising practices while maintaining flexibility with regard to innovative practices which have a sound basis in empirical research. Support for research, including implementation, outcome and impact evaluations as well as cost benefit analysis studies is critical if the system is to make the best use of its limited resources and to advance the body of knowledge that leads to informed decisions. Such knowledge is of limited use unless policy makers, practitioners, funders and the public at large are kept well-informed through outreach and through the creation of clearinghouses of information and linkages to technical assistance regarding best practices.

ADOPTED April 6, 2011
REVISED March 18, 2014

Fear and Violence in Communities

Violence and the fear of violence have devastating effects on communities’ quality of life. Criminal justice practitioners, community-based service providers; including mental health and behavioral health representatives, and the media must recognize the relationships between the response to violence and the treatment and prevention of future violence; and they must engage communities on how best to prevent violence, encouraging public and private collaboration at all levels. Accurate reporting of crime and analysis of actual crime trends is critical in order to enable appropriate use of crime reduction strategies. Trust and confidence in the criminal justice system is enhanced when the needs of victims of these crimes, and those in the community impacted by the trauma of these crimes, are immediately addressed with adequately funded responses and well-trained personnel. In addition to ensuring their safety and to providing treatment when necessary, victims and witnesses should be consulted and informed concerning law enforcement and prosecution efforts.

ADOPTED May 28, 1992
REAFFIRMED June 2, 1994
AMENDED July 18, 1999
REVISED July 28, 2002
REVISED July 15, 2005
REVISED April 26, 2007
REAFFIRMED April 24, 2008
REVISED April 6, 2011
REVISED March 18, 2014

Federal Funding Strategies

For four decades, the federal justice assistance formula and discretionary grant programs have proven to be vital for improving the functioning of the criminal justice system. Through these grants, state and local governments have tested and replicated innovative, evidence- based practices which have been the catalyst for broad changes in state criminal justice policies that have reduced crime, lowered recidivism, and saved taxpayer money. The importance of the federal role grows as criminal activity becomes increasingly regional, national, and even international in reach, requiring sophistication and coordination across all levels of government in ways unheard of just a decade ago. Federal funding to assist states should continue to be flexible to allow States to address unique needs and priorities. This is best accomplished with formula funding, administered by a statewide criminal justice planning agency which also ensures coordination, transparency and accountability in the use of federal funding and which does not use these funds as penalty for non-compliance with unrelated federal mandates, distorting the strategic planning and policy prioritization process in states and localities.

ADOPTED April 26, 2007
REVISED April 14, 2010
REVISED April 24, 2013
REVISED March 30, 2016

Improving Public Safety and Ensuring Justice

The prevailing challenge in the criminal justice system is to provide both public safety and justice. This is our fundamental guiding principle. Because the dominant explicit challenge to government is to provide for the safety and security of the public, justice policy makers from all branches and levels of government must be in constant collaboration with each other, as well as the private sector and communities to ensure that providing public safety accommodates constitutional constraints. System-wide planning and information sharing, as well as constant assessments and evaluation are necessary for the effective operation of the criminal justice system. Moreover, adequate financial resources, when effectively used, are essential to attain true homeland security, public safety and justice.

ADOPTED May 28, 1992
REAFFIRMED June 2, 1994
AMENDED July 18, 1999
REVISED July 28, 2002
REVISED July 15, 2005
REVISED April 26, 2007
REAFFIRMED April 25, 2012
REVISED March 26, 2015

Information Sharing and the Justice System

On a daily basis, there is a critical need for justice agencies at all levels of government to gather, share and analyze information and communicate with each other seamlessly. However, often these agencies operate independently of one another, resulting in incomplete information, redundancies, errors and other inefficiencies, which hamper government’s ability to manage justice resources prudently, make good policy decisions and protect the public effectively. Therefore, agencies should adopt procedures and funding priorities that ensure a coordinated approach that includes stakeholders from all related communities of interest, including juvenile justice, social services, tribal justice systems and emergency management. Investments in technology should be strategic and well considered, based on enterprise-wide needs and open standards, and adhere to federal and state data and architectural standards, including those from the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (GLOBAL) and the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). Information sharing policies, procedures, and systems must ensure that constitutional and statutory privacy rights of individuals are protected and confidentiality of records collected and shared is maintained.

ADOPTED May 28, 1992
REAFFIRMED June 2, 1994
REVISED Nov. 9, 2001
REVISED Aug. 10, 2004
REVISED April 26, 2007
REVISED April 24, 2008
REVISED April 25, 2012
REVISED March 26, 2015

Juvenile Justice and the Prevention of Juvenile Crime and Delinquency

Developmental differences between children and adults must be taken into account by the justice system to minimize the prosecution of juveniles in the criminal justice system and the incarceration of juveniles in adult facilities. Juvenile crime prevention and control strategies must be based on a comprehensive and strategic approach, and include behavioral health awareness. This approach includes the continuance of research and science, and progressions in public education about reducing risk factors and enhancing protective factors to establish a system of graduated sanctions and effective treatment to control delinquency and reduce recidivism. When properly implemented, juvenile crime prevention is a continuum of services designed to strengthen juveniles and their families, including the ability of family members to help guide the juvenile’s behavior in a positive manner. This will be accomplished through the support of core social institutions, and making strategic long- term investments in evidence-based prevention, intervention, and treatment services. In order to succeed in reducing juvenile crime and the transition to adult criminal careers, adequate resources must be made available for such programs to be readily accessible to all juveniles.

ADOPTED May 28, 1992
REAFFIRMED June 2, 1994
REVISED Nov. 8, 2001
REVISED Aug. 10, 2004
REVISED April 26, 2007
REVISED August 9, 2009
REVISED April 25, 2012

Managing Incarcerated Populations*

Prisons and jails are an inherent part of our criminal justice system, however, overcrowded correctional facilities create significant safety issues within these institutions, limit the effectiveness of rehabilitation programming and represent a significant monetary investment on the part of state and local governments.  States and local governments should seek to identify and implement policies to ensure that those presenting with the highest risk are in custody and that classification and treatment throughout the system are evidence based.  Evidence-based policies provide a promising approach to the challenges of an incarcerated population and provide targeted and proven sanctions for offenders based on their risk to the community.  Sentencing policies that are evidence-based also provide correctional leaders and administrators with specific tools to manage their facilities safely.

FIRST ADOPTED May 28, 1992 
REVIEWED AND REAFFIRMED June 2, 1994 
REVIEWED AND REVISED April 27, 2000 
REVIEWED AND REVISED July 22, 2003 
REVIEWED REVISED April 26, 2007 
REVIEWED AND REAFFIRMED April 24, 2008 
REVIEWED AND REVISED April 6, 2011 
REVIEWED AND REVISED April 25, 2012
REVIEWED AND RENAMED March 18, 2014* 
AMENDED AND APPROVED April 7, 2017

*This policy replaces a policy statement titled Prison Overcrowding.

Mentally Ill Persons in the Criminal Justice System

The lack of appropriate and necessary treatment for those who suffer from mental illness represents a serious public health and public safety issue. Some individuals with mental illness and co-occurring disorders become involved in the criminal justice system, either as victims or as offenders. For effective safety and justice, the system must address the challenges faced by these individuals and the communities where they live and work, even though it is often ill equipped to provide adequate treatment because of lack of resources, lack of staff, legal constraints and infrastructure limitations. Identified advances include early identification and treatment, law enforcement and correctional officer training, provision of housing, adequate discharge medication amounts, accessible and affordable treatment in jails/prisons/community, and standardized assessment and diagnostic tools. The criminal justice and mental health systems must become partners in addressing the needs of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system. Criminal justice professionals must continue to work with policymakers, law enforcement, mental health providers, community groups, and both public and private sector professionals to educate and to develop solutions to this important health and public safety issue.

ADOPTED July 22, 2003
REVISED April 26, 2007
REAFFIRMED April 24, 2008
REVISED March 18, 2014

Pretrial Justice

Pretrial justice procedures should recognize and balance an individual’s constitutionally- based liberty interests and society’s interests in public safety and the orderly process of its courts. These interests are not served by over-reliance on cash bonds or bail schedules which result in the unnecessary detention of low risk individuals and the imprudent release of high risk individuals. There should be a presumption in favor of release pending trial unless no set of conditions are adequate to ensure the individual’s appearance in court and protect public safety. In determining the appropriateness of pretrial release and the conditions of release, a validated risk assessment tool should be used to produce the best results for public safety and the individual.

ADOPTED: August 2, 2015

Prisoner Reentry

The great majority of incarcerated offenders will eventually be released to local communities. Effective reentry programs can play an important role in reducing their risk of reoffending. The goal of reentry programs is to reduce recidivism, thereby improving public safety and helping states and localities reduce their incarcerated populations. Reentry planning and services should begin when offenders are incarcerated and should incorporate a validated risk-assessment tool to guide placement into evidence-based reentry programs. Community supervision should incorporate a continuum of services that address the needs identified while the offender is incarcerated, and should focus on the supervision of higher- risk offenders to reinforce accountability and ensure recidivism reduction. When appropriate upon release, offenders should enter community-based programs created through partnerships between government, community agencies, and faith-based organizations to facilitate access to housing, jobs, family counseling, and behavior health treatments in the communities where offenders live.

ADOPTED May 28, 1992
REAFFIRMED June 2, 1994
REVISED Nov. 8, 2001
ADOPTED April 26, 2007
REVISED March 26, 2015

Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System

The American principles of equal protection and equal justice demand recognition that racial disparities exist throughout the criminal justice system. Minorities are overrepresented among victim and offender populations. Criminal justice professionals should support research and funding to address the factors contributing to these disparities and develop effective policies and best practices to counter these problems. In particular, it is important to distinguish those differences that are a consequence of actions by the criminal justice system and those deriving from factors outside the system. Criminal justice professionals at all levels should target most specifically those factors arising within the criminal justice system. Lawmakers should support these efforts through effective funding and legislation that seeks to correct such disparities.

ADOPTED July 29, 2007
REVISED April 14, 2010
REAFFIRMED April 24, 2013
REVISED March 30, 2016

Role of the State Administering Agency

The State Administering Agency (SAA) is the agency designated by the Governor to manage and administer federal criminal justice grant funds. The SAA serves as the coordinating body for state and local criminal justice issue identification, collaboration, planning, and policy development and implementation. The SAA should also conduct strategic planning, training, and information sharing to assure that the SAA functions as a primary source for best practices and promising approaches for the criminal justice system in their state. Leveraging public funds to meet ongoing, new, or emerging state and community needs and in response to the economic and social climate is a primary function of the SAA. As the main clearinghouse of criminal justice information, the SAA should be the communicator of criminal justice issues to the legislators, policy makers, and to members of Congress and serve as a leader in the development of effective criminal justice policy and responsible stewards of public funds.

ADOPTED April 26, 2007
REVISED April 14, 2010
REVISED April 24, 2013
REAFFIRMED March 30, 2016

Tribal Nations and the Criminal Justice System

Recognized tribal nations are sovereign entities with jurisdictional authority that predate the United States Constitution and have the inherent right of self-governance. It is essential to maintain strong tribal justice systems and equally essential to develop, promote and strengthen effective working relationships between tribal and non-tribal justice agencies to achieve optimal public safety outcomes for all. Each tribal nation is a unique and separate government and caution should be exercised in generalizing tribal justice issues. Tribal justice systems are in varying stages of development with wide diversity among nations. There is a strong common interest in building and maintaining effective tribal justice systems, so federal funding should be provided directly to tribal justice systems and directly to states that further or enhance tribal justice through cooperative agreements or that directly administer justice systems on Indian reservations. Finally, direct federal funding should be made available to augment efforts of tribes and states as they address the disproportionate number of Indian people present in non-Indian justice systems.

ADOPTED July 29, 2007
REVISED April 14, 2010
REVISED April 24, 2013
REAFFIRMED March 30, 2016

Victim Assistance

Government and non-governmental organizations should coordinate with each other and within communities to assure that comprehensive services are available to respond to the needs of crime victims, and to ensure that crime victims are treated with fairness, respect and dignity – free from intimidation and further harm throughout the justice process. States, tribes and the federal government should guarantee victims’ rights, including the right to privacy, to protection from intimidation, to case status information, to recovery of reasonable reparation, and to due process within justice proceedings. Justice practitioners must be prepared to address the needs of all victims, including victims with disabilities, underserved populations, non-English speaking victims, the elderly and those with other special needs. Services should also be available to victims of crime regardless of whether they have committed a crime in the past; or decline to participate in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for their victimization.  Justice professionals must be sensitive to the needs of victims and witnesses and must remain vigilant in enforcing victims’ rights to the fullest extent permitted by the law. Resources must be assured to establish and maintain services and compensation, and to assist all crime victims in overcoming the economic, physical and emotional consequences.

FIRST ADOPTED May 28, 1992  
REAFFIRMED June 2, 1994   
REVISED July 18, 1999
REVISED July 28, 2002
REVISED July 15, 2005
REVISED April 26, 2007
REAFFIRMED April 24, 2008
REVISED April 4, 2011
REVISED March 18, 2014
AMENDED April 7, 2017