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The NCJA Podcast

Produced with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the NCJA Podcast series chronicles discussions with a variety of guests about promising criminal justice practices and programs, including interesting ideas from around the country on a variety of important and timely topics. Listeners can tune in for new ideas, lively discussions and/or to determine how to adjust or adapt a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program for improved success. 


We hope that you will share these podcasts with others that may find them valuable. Podcasts will be released on a regular basis.


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Episode 35: Beyond Words: The Importance of Equity in Language Access

In this episode of The NCJA Podcast, learn from a true trailblazer in the field of language access, Dr. Omara Rivera-Vázquez. Listen as she shares impactful insights with NCJA Program Manager Demaxia Wray about the importance and power of language access, the creation of language access plans, the necessity of centering equity in this work, and the power of reframing language and language accessibility using the framework of language justice.  

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Episode 34: Traumatic Brain Injuries and Criminal Justice: The Colorado Brain Injury Model

In episode 34, Program Manager Amanda Blasko speaks with Dr. Kimberly Gorgens from the University of Denver about the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in criminal justice, how having a TBI affects an individual’s success in the system and beyond, and how the Colorado Brain Injury Model, which has been adapted by other states, came to fruition.

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Episode 33: Public Safety Priorities and Trends in the 2024 Governors' State of the State Speeches

In this episode, learn about the pressing public safety priorities and criminal justice trends highlighted by governors in their annual state of the state speeches. Join National Governors’ Association (NGA) Program Director Ken Hardy and NCJA Program Manager Amanda Blasko as they chart the importance of the state of the state speeches, especially for the public safety community, and discuss how these public safety priorities and trends have evolved over the last several years.

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Episode 32: Beyond Violence: Strenghtening Communities Through CVI

Are you interested in knowing what participating in Community Violence Intervention (CVI) work is really like?Tune in to episode 32 of The NCJA Podcast and hear from NCJA Program Managers Demaxia Wray and Anica Stieve as they describe their unique expertise from the field and discuss the role of collaboration, the meaning of success in this work, the significance of shared language, and the importance of designing and implementing CVI programs that holistically respond to violence, including the systemic and social factors that drive crime.

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Episode 31: Program Evaluation: Getting Started and What to Expect

Interested in learning more about evaluating one of your funded programs? NCJA Center for Justice Planning Director Allison Badger and Program Manager Elisa Nicoletti discuss the basics of program evaluation, including how to balance equity concerns, common misconceptions about evaluation, how to support evaluation from a State Administering Agency (SAA) perspective and what to expect when undergoing a program evaluation. 

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Episode 30: Automated Facial Recognition in Policing: Balancing Effectiveness and Equity  

In this episode, Dr. Thaddeus Johnson and Dr. Natasha Johnson professors at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, speak with NCJA Program Manager Amanda Blasko about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology, or FRT. This engaging discussion begins with an overview of the use of FRT by law enforcement across the country, then delves into specific findings from the duo’s landmark study investigating FRT use and its impact on racial disparities in arrests. Learn about the dangers of FRT use as well as the potential public safety benefits and listen as Thad and Natasha describe the research still needed in this space, and what can and must be done to achieve equitable outcomes with this technology.

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Episode 29: Leveraging Faith-Based Leaders for Gun Violence Prevention: A Conversation with Pastor Monrose 

In this episode of the NCJA Podcast, we discuss the importance of involving faith-based leaders in gun violence prevention efforts. Join Program Manager Demaxia Wray as she speaks with Pastor Gilford T. Monrose, who, among other accomplishments, founded NYC-based gun violence prevention program the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, or “the GodSquad,” and organized Clergy for Safe Cities, a national coalition supporting clergy-based gun violence prevention efforts. This conversation covers the services provided by the GodSquad, the strong relationships faith-based leaders already have in their communities, and what effective collaboration between state agencies and faith-based leaders should look like.  

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Episode 28: Engaging Stakeholders Using a Relationship-Based Approach

In episode 28 of the NCJA Podcast, learn about the creation of Safe Night. Safe Night works with police departments, local and state enforcement agencies, economic development partners, business improvement districts, private businesses, and community groups and leverages public/private partnerships to improve the safety and vibrancy of communities. Listen as Program Manager Jessica Grisler speaks to co-founders Dimitrios (Jim) and Molly Mastoras about how they utilized their unique areas of expertise to create the Proactive Alliance relationship-based approach training. This approach, which is adapted from evidence-based psychological counseling therapy, teaches individuals how to create and maintain strong relationships with all relevant parties to solve complex public safety issues.

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Episode 27: Leadership in Criminal Justice and the Impact of the NCJA Leadership Academy  

In this episode, join NCJA Executive Director Chris Asplen as he talks with longtime friend and criminal justice leader Jane Wiseman about leadership in the criminal justice space through the lens of the NCJA Leadership Academy⁠, a multi-month program for senior criminal justice leaders and State Administering Agencies (SAAs). Jane Wiseman is an Innovations in Government Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the leader of the Institute for Excellence in Government. This conversation touches on leadership gaps and needs in the criminal justice space, leading in difficult times, and reflections on Chris’ and Jane’s personal leadership journeys, including the leadership lessons they book took away from their time with former Attorney General Janet Reno and former National Institute of Justice Director Jeremy Travis.  


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Episode 26: Capacity Building for CBOs: Illinois’ Institute 2 Innovate

In episode 26 of the NCJA Podcast, listeners will learn about what capacity building really means and its crucial importance in larger discussions of equity within the criminal justice system. Join Program Manager Amanda Blasko as she talks with Delrice Adams, the executive director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), about the Institute 2 Innovate, ICJIA’s capacity building project for community-based organizations. The conversation also includes discussions about the workings and development of the Institute 2 Innovate, and advice and takeaways for other agencies hoping to build a similar program. 

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Episode 25: Veterans' Treatment Courts: Sharing the Success in Adams County, Colorado

 In this episode, Colorado Municipal Court Judge Brian Bowen joins Allison Badger, director of the NCJA Center for Justice Planning to discuss the creation of the Adams County Court for Veterans. Judge Bowen, who presided over the court for eight years, shares best practice models and resources, how to obtain necessary buy-in from various stakeholders and criminal justice system partners, and highlights key successes.  


Key Resources: 

Adams County Court for Veterans: A Probation Alternative for Those Who Served,” Bowen and O'Hair, November 2019, Colorado Lawyer, Vol. 48., No 10. 

All Rise (formerly the National Association of Drug Court Professionals) trainings. 

Drug Court Ten Key Components to Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards Crosswalk,” National Drug Court Resource Center.  

The Surprising Connection Between Brain Injuries and Crime,” Dr. Kim Gorgens, Ph.D., University of Denver School of Professional Psychology, June 2018, Mile High TEDTalk  

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Episode 24: An Overview of Restorative Justice Principles

This episode of the NCJA Podcast examines the ways in which restorative justice practices and models represent a paradigm shift in justice making. Listen as NCJA Program Manager Amanda Blasko speaks with Dr. Lindsey Pointer, an assistant professor at the Vermont Law and Graduate School and the principal investigator of the National Center on Restorative Justice. They discuss the benefits and importance of restorative justice practices, the key pillars and principles and how restorative justice models and practices fit in to larger discussion of equity within the criminal justice system.

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Episode 23: Engaging Tribal Communities: A New Mexico Perspective

This episode of The NCJA Podcast focuses on how to meaningfully engage with tribes, how to build trust, and other important components for consideration in working with tribal nations. As tribes are all diverse, and not monoliths, the main intention of the episode is not to generalize too broadly but rather to serve as a starting point for individuals who want to intentionally engage with tribes. Join Program Manager Amanda Blasko, Melody Delmar, special projects coordinator for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department and Interim Chair for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives task force and Reycita Billie, PSAP supervisor for the Navajo Police Department and temporary MMIP Liaison for this engaging conversation. 

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Episode 22: Oklahoma's Youth Mobiles Crisis Response System: A Promising Model of Crisis Intervention

In Episode 22 of The NCJA Podcast, NCJA Senior Program Manager Simone Greene speaks with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services' Senior Program Manager Terrence Spain and Kelly Perry, Senior Manager of Child and Adolescent Crisis Services. Learn about Oklahoma’s youth mobile crisis response system: how it started, how it functions, and how the state responds, even in rural counties, within one hour. Additionally, Kelly and Terrence discuss how the youth mobile crisis system feeds into the larger network of Oklahoma Systems of Care and provide advice on where to start in the creation of a crisis response and stabilization system of this scale.

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­­Episode 21: Setting Priorities for Strategic Planning

In this episode of the NCJA podcast, Program Manager Amanda Blasko discusses priority setting with Allison Badger, Director of the Center for Justice Planning. This conversation highlights the importance of setting priorities within the strategic planning process, pinpoints the integral components of stakeholder engagement and data, and provides advice on navigating board and stakeholder dynamics and the impact of long-term grantees on this stage of the strategic planning process.

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­­Episode 20: Community Engagement: A Guide to Meaningful Relationship Building

NCJA Program Managers Amanda Blasko and Amir Chapel discuss community engagement: what this phrase really means, and how to engage individuals and organizations meaningfully. Topics covered in this episode include challenges and barriers to engaging the community in terms of process and thinking outside the standard box of practices, how to engage with individuals and/or organizations from marginalized communities who have been historically shut out of grant and government processes or were not engaged in a productive way and engaging those with lived experience. 

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Episode 19: New York's Project Rise with Joseph Popcun

In this episode, Joseph Popcun, Executive Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services discusses the state of New York’s new violence reduction initiative Project Rise: Respond, Invest, Sustain and Empower.

Project Rise is a $28 million statewide community violence prevention and community empowerment program to reach the people and places most impacted by the increase in pandemic-era violence. A unique program and funding model, Project Rise brings together community stakeholders to respond to gun violence, invest in solutions, sustain positive programming, and empower communities. Project RISE is meant to be a “grassroots” or “bottom-up” strategy to listen, learn from, and lift up the communities by directing resources where they are most needed.

To provide context, this episode also discusses the history of violence prevention and reduction efforts in New York as well as how Project Rise fits into the larger scope of work to help communities build capacity to implement and sustain programming to address the underlying factors contributing to violence in the community and enhance responses to violence within the community through increased community partnerships and programming with a healing and equity lens.

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Episode 18: Trauma Recovery Centers: A Comprehensive Response for Victims of Violent Crime 

In this episode, NCJA Program Manager Gillian Caplan speaks with Shakyra Diaz, Chief of Federal Advocacy for the Alliance for Safety and Justice and Stephen Massey, Director of the CitiLookout Trauma Recovery Center in Springfield, Ohio about the innovative and life-changing work of Trauma Recovery Centers and how they are providing critical resources to victims of violent crime. 


Trauma Recovery Centers (TRCs) are a transformational model of care for survivors of violent crime that removes barriers to health and stability in order to heal communities as well as interrupt cycles of violence and connect underserved and vulnerable populations to needed services and resources quickly and efficiently. The TRC model is specifically designed to reach those who have fallen through the cracks of traditional support services.

By the spring of 2020, 35 TRCs were implemented nationwide from California to Georgia and this episode discusses the different components and strategies to building the centers to better support victims of violent crime.

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Episode 17: Equity in Grants Administration with Latrina Kelly-James

In this episode, NCJA Program Manager Gillian Caplan speaks with equity subject matter expert Latrina Kelly-James, Principal at Oya Strategies, about foundational principles funding agencies should consider when incorporating equity into their agencies’ practices.

Building off NCJA’s “An Introduction to Equity in Grants Administration” one-pager, this episode helps to define what NCJA means when discussing “equity” and walks through 6 different recommendations for implementing trust based grantmaking practices  based on the model by Trust Based Philanthropy Thinking. Additionally, Latrina introduces the concept “Perspectives over Perceptions”, specifically when it comes to practicing equitable grantmaking, and the importance of centering this idea when state administering agencies and other funding agencies consider their funding allocations and their relationship to sub awardees.

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Episode 16: A Conversation with BJA - Program Areas and the Byrne JAG Solicitation

Following the release of the Byrne JAG Solicitation, NCJA Program Director Allison Badger speaks with Tarasa Napolitano from the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) about the Byrne JAG areas of emphasis and priority areas for this administration and how these should be considered by SAAs as they develop their Byrne JAG strategic plans and applications for potential subawards. This episode will provide insight into the development of the solicitation as well as helpful information on new areas of criminal justice states can explore as they conduct their strategic planning process. Finally, this episode will discuss new requirements to the application process and resources for states as well as additional funding and projects SAAs can engage in through BJA such as Project Safe Neighborhoods and the National Public Safety Partnership in an effort to encourage and promote braided and blended funding.

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Episode 15: An Overview of Pretrial Justice Programs with Spike Bradford

In this episode, NCJA Program Manager Simone Greene speaks with Spike Bradford, also a former program manager at NCJA, subject matter expertise in pretrial justice. Spike provides an overview of some of the most impactful pretrial justice program types, all of which can be funded, in whole or part, with Byrne JAG dollars.


The pretrial stage of the criminal justice process is critical because decisions about arrest, diversion, detention and more, have lasting impacts on each case and on each accused individual. Effective pretrial justice programs can help jurisdictions make more informed decisions that reduce costs and strain on their justice systems while increasing fairness and equity for accused individuals.


Organizations and initiatives referenced in this episode include Law Enforcement-Assisted DiversionAdvancing Pretrial Policy & Research, the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies and the National Legal Aid & Defenders Association.

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Episode 14: The Tennessee Family Justice Center (FJC) Statewide Initiative with Daina Moran and Heather Brack

In this episode, NCJA Program Manager Gillian Caplan speaks with Daina Moran, deputy director of Tennessee’s Office of Criminal Justice Programs, the state administering agency for Tennessee, and Heather Brack, NCJA’s Grants Accounting Manager and former Program Director of the Johnson City/Washington County (TN) FJC about the FJC programs in their state.

FJCs are multiagency, multidisciplinary centers where staff from public and private agencies provide services to victims at a single location. This reduces the number of times victims must tell their story, reduces the number of places victims must go for help, and increases access to services and support for victims, their children and families.

With the initial three years of programming funded through Byrne JAG awards, Tennessee has successfully launched 13 FJCs across the state since 2012.


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Episode 13: The 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline with Dr. Abigail Tucker and Elizabeth Pyke

In this episode, NCJA Program Manager Simone Greene speaks with Dr. Abigail Tucker and Elizabeth Pyke, NCJA’s director of government affairs about the 988, the new 3-digit phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that will roll out in 2022.


Abigail Tucker is a Denver-based psychologist whose work includes working directly with first responders, veterans, criminal and juvenile justice entities and behavioral health providers. She is a passionate advocate for eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health and substance use disorders and their treatment. Learn more about Dr. Tucker’s work. Elizabeth Pyke works tirelessly to monitor congressional developments related to criminal justice spending, ensuring that state administering agencies (SAAs) are up-to-date on, and have a voice in, relevant legislation and policy. Learn more here.


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Episode 12: Video Court and Language Impairments with Lisa Vavonese and Michele LaVigne

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many jurisdictions to create or expand the use of video court proceedings. The practice has many benefits, particularly in minimizing person-to-person contact. It also poses some fundamental challenges that must be considered before or during implementation. People with language impairments—estimated to be at least 35% of adults and 50% of youth that enter the criminal and juvenile legal systems—are already at a disadvantage in court and may fare even worse when proceedings are virtual.


In this episode, NCJA Executive Director Chris Asplen speaks with Lisa Vavonese, director of Research-Practice Strategies at the Center for Court Innovation and Michele LaVigne, emeritus distinguished clinical professor of law and former director of the Public Defender Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. These two subject matter experts discuss the pros and cons of video court and how it poses critical challenges for people with language impairments.


Learn more about Lisa Vavonese’s work.


Learn more about Michele LaVigne’s work.


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Episode 11: SAA and SAC Partnership in Strategic Planning with Mike Fargen and Kellie Rabenhorst

States’ Statistical Analysis Centers (SAC) can be valuable resources for State Administering Agencies (SAA) for incorporating data into their Byrne JAG strategic planning efforts. While the SAA understands the state and national criminal justice landscape, the SAC is an expert on data. In this episode, Matt Wade, a program manager at NCJA, talks with Mike Fargen (former SAC director in Nebraska) and Kellie Rabenhorst (former SAA in Nebraska) about how these two key positions can and should work in partnership. Both Mike and Kellie have recently joined the OVC VOCA Center at NCJA.

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Episode 10: Local CJ Planning Board Engagement Strategies in Oregon and Virginia

As State Administering Agencies across the nation look for effective approaches to include diverse stakeholder groups into their planning processes, many have found success engaging their state’s local criminal justice planning boards. In this podcast, we speak with Tom Fitzpatrick (Division Director for Programs and Services for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services) and Ian Davidson (Justice Reinvestment Manager for the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission) about each state’s history in supporting local criminal justice planning boards, the benefits of engaging such boards and advice for other states looking to provide support. 

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Episode 09: Adverse Childhood Effects (ACEs) in Maryland with Glenn Fueston

The latest episode of The NCJA Podcast highlights Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s New Executive Order to tackle the impacts of Adverse Childhood Effects (ACEs). Episode 9 specifically reviews the Handle with Care program, launched by the Governor’s Office in 2018, one of the first programs in the nation to specifically address ACEs. Also discussed is how the data from this program has assisted Governor Hogan to support additional initiatives such as Project Bounce Back. Finally, this episode discusses how the Governor’s Office has used Byrne JAG funding to launch these programs and how they plan to ensure this work is sustainable and institutionalized through exciting new initiatives.

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Episode 08: Byrne JAG Penalties with Elizabeth Pyke

This podcast episode was produced thanks to the contributions of NCJA members. To learn more about becoming an NCJA member, visit our membership page. On this episode, NCJA’s director of communications, Bethany Broida, continues her conversation about the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, with Byrne JAG expert and NCJA’s director of government affairs, Elizabeth Pyke. Elizabeth explains the scale, intent and impact of Byrne JAG penalties that are tied to the program. The topic is widely discussed and often misunderstood.

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Episode 07: Community Violence Interventions with Gillian Caplan

In April 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration announced historic investments in Community Violence Intervention (CVI) programming to combat the gun violence epidemic. In an effort to support communities seeking to implement or expand programs in this area, NCJA has released ‘An Overview: Community Violence Intervention Strategies,’ a fact sheet with tangible examples of four of the main types of CVI strategies. This resource provides Byrne JAG State Administering Agencies and other partners a foundation of understanding for supporting existing or new CVI programs. Gillian Caplan, the author of the fact sheet, discusses the four types of CVIs and how they fit into the current justice landscape.

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Episode 06: Diverting Justice-Involved Youth with San Joaquin County’s Project Navigate Constructive Change

San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office’s Project Navigate Constructive Change (PNCC) diverts justice-involved youth away from deeper system involvement and promotes thoughtful life choices with participants engaging in education, counseling, employment assistance and life skills coaching. PNCC was started in 2015 using Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds and has since relied on Byrne JAG funding to grow the program. 


In this episode, NCJA’s Gillian Caplan interviews Deputy Director Ricardo Goodridge from California’s Board of State and Community Corrections and San Joaquin County Chief Deputy District Attorneys Jeff Derman and Ken Puckett about how the program works, the importance of justice system and community partners and the upcoming introduction of a restorative justice component. 

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Episode 05: Connecticut’s WORTH Female Correctional Unit —a Promising Practice in Reentry 

In June 2018, the WORTH (Women Overcoming Recidivism Through Hard Work) unit was founded in the York Correctional Institution, Connecticut’s sole female-only prison. NCJA’s Gillian Caplan interviews Under Secretary Marc Pelka, Warden Trina Sexton and Captain Anna Lussier as they discuss the history, approach and successes of the innovative unit. 

Funded initially with Byrne JAG dollars, WORTH is a specialized housing unit within the facility that serves an adult female population with approaching release dates. The progressive curriculum was largely developed by the program’s founding members and is designed to help women acquire and maintain the necessary skills to become successful following their release. The women participating in the WORTH Unit are aged 18 to 25 and live with older incarcerated mentors. Together, they are given wide latitude to implement the program themselves.

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Episode 3

Episode 1: Byrne JAG 101 with Elizabeth Pyke

Episode 1 is an overview of Byrne JAG featuring NCJA Director of Government Affairs and resident Byrne JAG expert, Elizabeth Pyke, answering FAQs about the Byrne JAG program. She discusses the overall purposes of the grants, the role of the SAA, how awards are calculated and how the funds are used. Importantly, she highlights the flexibility states have in the kinds of programs and projects they invest in with Byrne JAG. Whether you are new to the Byrne JAG program or looking to refresh your knowledge, this podcast is a great resource.

Read the full transcript

This webpage was created with the support of Grant No. 2019-YA-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the SMART Office, and the Office for Victims of Crime. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. 

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