U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Principles and Practices


The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), located within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), is the primary statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). BJS is responsible for producing and disseminating official statistics on crime and justice. BJS is one of 13 principal statistical agencies recognized by the Office of Management and Budget whose activities are predominantly the collection, compilation, processing, or analysis of information for statistical purposes.

As a federal statistical agency, BJS embraces and is guided by a well-established set of principles and practices followed by the federal statistical community. These principles and practices ensure the public has access to credible, objective, and trustworthy data and statistics on meaningful and timely criminal justice topics that are independent of undue external influence.

Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency

Federal statistical agencies are charged with providing relevant, accurate, and timely data to inform public and private decision-making. To meet this charge, statistical agencies adhere to the principles and practices articulated in the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) report, Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency, to guide their strategic planning, daily operations, and interactions with stakeholders.

CNSTAT, established in 1972 at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, provides an independent review of and develops recommendations to guide federal statistical activities. CNSTAT’s Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency provides a framework for statistical agencies to embrace a common set of professional standards and operational practices designed to ensure the quality, integrity, and credibility of their statistical activities. Actual or perceived violations of any of these principles undermine the scientific integrity of, and public confidence in, the data produced by principal statistical agencies.

By adopting and following these guiding principles and practices, BJS is well-positioned to maintain the trust of its data providers and fulfill its mandate to provide accurate, timely, relevant, and objective data for public and policy use.


Principles are fundamental and intrinsic to the concept of a federal statistical agency.  CNSTAT identified five fundamental principles, listed below, that statistical agencies are encouraged to use to guide their managerial, programmatic, and technical decisions. Readers can click on the link associated with each principle for a more detailed discussion:


Practices are the ways and means of making the basic principles operational and facilitating an agency’s adherence to them. CNSTAT identified 10 critical practices, listed below, that statistical agencies are encouraged to follow to support and promote effective and principled operations. Readers can click on the link associated with each practice for a more detailed discussion: 

  1. A Clearly Defined and Well-Accepted Mission
  2. Necessary Authority and Procedures to Protect Independence
  3. Commitment to Quality and Professional Standards of Practice
  4. Professional Advancement of Staff
  5. An Active Research Program
  6. Strong Internal and External Evaluation Processes for an Agency’s Statistical Programs
  7. Coordination and Collaboration with Other Statistical Agencies
  8. Respect for Data Providers and Protection of Their Data
  9. Dissemination of Statistical Products That Meet Users’ Needs
  10. Openness about Sources and Limitations of the Data Provided

For more information, see CNSTAT’s Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency (7th edition, 2021)

Date Modified: July 22, 2022
Date Created: May 13, 2021