"Influential" BJS Statistics for the Purposes of the BJS Data Quality Guidelines
The OMB guidelines for implementing section 515 recognize that certain information must meet a higher quality standard if the information is considered by the agency to be "influential." Such data should have a sufficiently high degree of transparency about the data and methodology to facilitate the reproducibility of the information by qualified third parties.
BJS maintains approximately three dozen national statistical series designed to gather data on criminal victimizations experienced by millions of residents each year and operational data from the 50,000 agencies, offices, and institutions which compose the U.S. justice system. These data series provide the only national information to support policy formulation, program development, and assessment of the extent to which changes occur in any of the contingencies of crime and justice geographically or temporally. Such data address fundamental information needs of the public and all three branches of government.
When information is defined as influential there is usually an added level of scrutiny afforded this information, to include the need to ensure it is reproducible. At DOJ, influential information is that which is expected to have a genuinely clear and substantial impact at the national level and on major public and private policy decisions as they relate to Federal justice issues. BJS data covering crime and the major functional areas and decision-points of the justice system all adhere to an explicit set of processes for insuring the integrity and adequacy of the data collected, analyzed, and reported.
For BJS, data on crime and the administration of justice undergo rigorous scrutiny and verification prior to release and datasets used to generate statistical findings are made accessible to the public to insure the replicability of reported findings. BJS works to maintain the transparency of all of its publicly disseminated statistics in two primary ways. First, BJS staff are available to provide direct assistance in interpreting all statistical data that BJS disseminates and in explaining the methodology employed. Second, the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD) maintains over 300 BJS datasets and makes them available to researchers, journalists, scholars, and other users. The NACJD provides public access for the replication and secondary analysis of BJS statistics and findings, provides documentation for data users, and provides electronic access to BJS source data for public data users around the world.
At DOJ, the responsibility for determining if information is influential lies with the components that disseminate the information. DOJ components may designate certain classes of information as either "influential" or not in the context of their specific programs. Absent such designations, DOJ components will determine whether information is influential on a case-by-case basis, using the principles articulated in these guidelines. For BJS, each national statistical series addresses a major data need which has been established over a period of time and for which a significant audience exists. Two examples include:
- the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) provides the only measure of personal and household victimization and one of the Nation's primary indicators of criminal activity. The NCVS provides details on the contingencies of crime with detailed information on victims, offenders, circumstances under which a crime took place, the relationship between offender and victim, school crime, racial profiling, hate crime, and computer crime, among other issues.
- BJS corrections statistics provide the nation with critical information concerning the size of the population in State and Federal prisons and local jails, as well as those offenders under community supervision by probation and parole authorities. Corrections statistics describe the growth of these populations, provide estimates of prison crowding, and describe in detail the population of prisoners under sentence of death.