About the Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative

Initiative Goals

The fundamental goal of the high priority needs initiative is to enable innovation in the U.S. criminal justice enterprise – including law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. What innovation means for organizations falls across a wide spectrum, from incremental changes that enable agencies to do tasks they now do better, to become more efficient, and to solve current problems up to transformational changes that make it possible to do entirely new things or accomplish objectives in new ways.

Innovation often is triggered by technological changes. However, while technology often plays a part in innovation, it is not the whole story – and sometimes not even part of the story. Organizational innovation can involve:

  • New or better technologies,
  • Changes in personnel training that transform the way individuals use technologies or carry out their duties, and,
  • Changes in organizational policies and practices that shape not just how tasks are done but that can either enable or hinder innovation by how the agency is positioned to respond to new challenges or opportunities.

Though sometimes one of these is enough, innovation can (and often does) require a combination of all three. To innovate effectively today, criminal justice agencies need to know what options are available to them now to solve current problems or improve on current practices. To innovate effectively in the future, a broader community – including not just practitioner agencies but the federal government and technology providers – needs sufficient foresight to identify emerging problems and opportunities; to identify combinations of technology, training, and policy that can address them; and to identify which of those options we should pursue now so the tools the criminal justice community will need to be effective in the future will be available. The goal of this research effort is to provide this foresight for the criminal justice enterprise.

Current Initiative Efforts

The research team is currently involved in five major efforts:

  • Assessing community and institutional corrections needs. RAND and the University of Denver held a Corrections Advisory Panel in RAND's Washington Metropolitan area office on May 19-22, 2014, to identify and prioritize needs across the corrections sector. Participants included corrections professionals from more than 20 agencies from across the country.
  • Examining future technology needs in law enforcement. RAND held a Law Enforcement Futuring Workshop in RAND's Washington Metropolitan area office on June 22-25, 2014, to explore how key trends in society and technology could challenge law enforcement agencies. Participants crafted possible future scenarios and explored technology requirements under different future conditions.
  • Identifying criminal justice needs regarding digital evidence. PERF and RAND held a technology workshop in PERF's Washington, DC office on June 28-29, 2014, that focused on issues around the collection, analysis, search, and use of digital evidence. Participants identified and prioritized technology needs focused on increasing effectiveness of criminal justice agencies with respect to digital evidence and its use in court proceedings.
  • Assessing the implications of Web 3.0+ technologies for criminal justice. RAND will convene a technology workshop focused on the potential implications of Web 3.0 and future information technologies for criminal justice practice. Participants will look forward approximately five years to discuss what Web and Internet-related technologies are likely to be available (either freely or commercially) to the public, law enforcement, and criminals, and assess the potential impact of those technologies.
  • Examining technology issues in the court system. RTI International and RAND are carrying out foundational research and outreach related to identifying technology issues related to court operations and functioning. This research is intended to support a future Courts Advisory Panel to broadly identify and prioritize court technology needs.