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DOJ Spending $7M to Study 'Correctional Culture and Climate'

The Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) will spend $7 million for research on "correctional culture and climate." The grant program follows a partnership between NIJ and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to "examine all facets of the use of restrictive housing in federal facilities." Restrictive housing encompasses solitary confinement. The correctional culture program was announced Tuesday by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta at NIJ's revived research conference, which had not been held in 12 years. The meeting is being held in Arlington, Va. "We know that strategies to retain correctional officers can benefit from improvements in workplace culture and climate," Gupta said. She added, "BJA is seeking a provider to support agencies’ efforts to create safer and more humane environments for people who work, visit, and are confined" in federal prisons. Gupta vowed that these and other DOJ programs will be rigorously evaluated. President Biden ran on a pledge to end most solitary confinement in federal facilities and issued an executive order a year ago to overhaul the practice, but NBC News found its use increasing in the subsequent months. A Justice Department report in February said a task force of federal prison officials was examining the use of restrictive housing and "actively investigating" why the number of prisoners being held in restrictive housing has surged in recent years, NBC said..

In a panel discussion at the conference, Grant Duwe, research director of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, said that "warehousing" of prisoners at facilities around the U.S. is not only "criminogenic" but it reduces inmates' job opportunities after their release and hastens their deaths. "When we warehouse people, it makes things worse," Duwe said. Addressing the beginning of the three-day conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said DOJ grantees "have conducted essential research related to understanding, and preventing, mass shootings. This includes the development of a mass attack defense toolkit. That toolkit is an evidence-informed guide to deterring, detecting, and stopping plots to commit mass shootings and other mass attacks." Garland added, 'Researchers studying the tragedy of mass shootings in schools have identified the impact of measures like threat assessments, tip lines, and safe storage of firearms in reducing the risk of those shootings."


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