Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
11th Annual Jerry Lee Symposium on Criminology and Public Policy
Less Prison, More Policing: A State-Federal Initiative?
Monday, May 2, 2011
Thank you, Larry. It's just great to be here, and it's wonderful to see so many friends and colleagues. And I especially want to single out Larry and Jerry Lee. The three of us go back a long time - we worked together for many years when I was at Penn - in fact, they are the reason I went to Penn!
I put both Larry and Jerry in the category of mentors and dear friends - and of course, they are giants in our field. It's wonderful to see them both.
So I was pleased when Larry asked me to come here today and do what he called a "drive-by welcome." And I have to confess to a little wistfulness whenever I come back to the Jerry Lee Symposium. In addition to the fact that I helped plan this Symposium for a lot of years, the issues it always addresses about translating evidence for criminal justice policymakers are ones that are near and dear to my heart.
In fact, when Eric Holder asked me to leave my post at Penn to come back to OJP, I was not easily persuaded. After all, Penn and Larry had given me the chance to immerse myself in the research-to-policy issues that this Symposium focuses on, and I thought returning to Washington would mean letting go of that.
At the same time, I knew coming back to OJP was a real opportunity. When President Obama said - in his very first speech as President - that we need to restore science to its rightful place, that was music to my ears - and I'm sure it was encouraging for most of you in this room. He then later named two highly respected scientists, both of whom this audience knows well, to head NIJ and BJS - John Laub, this year's Stockholm Prize winner who is here today and will be speaking to you later, and Jim Lynch.
And I knew from my experience working with Eric Holder that he shares our commitment to making research a driver of policy. And he's been true to that commitment. Last November, he appointed an 18-member Science Advisory Board chaired by Al Blumstein to guide OJP's work - the Board had its first meeting in January and will meet again in June - and he's been a strong supporter of my Evidence Integration Initiative - or E2I, as we call it - which I launched shortly after I returned to OJP.
Just last week, in announcing his top priorities for the Department of Justice for the remainder of this term, the Attorney General pledged - and these are his words - to continue "invest[ing] in scientific research to make certain that [the] Department is both tough and smart on crime." These are the words of someone who places great value on science and research.
And with tough budget times hitting state and local criminal justice practitioners - and even those of us at the federal level - the need for sound policy and programming, backed by rigorous research, has never been greater.
The program lined up for today promises the usual high-quality discussion - and, I'm sure, debate - that we expect from this Symposium. I know you'll be considering a critically important topic, the viability of shifting resources from prisons to policing.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the recent special issue of Criminology and Public Policy that focused on Dan Nagin and Steven Durlauf's paper. And I was delighted to be able to participate in the session sponsored by ASC in February on the paper. As those of you who were there know, that was a lively exchange - and judging by the quality of presenters here, I expect we'll get more of that today!
So I'm grateful to Larry and Jerry for letting me take a few minutes to welcome you all. It's a thrill to be involved here, and I wish you the very best for a wonderful Symposium.
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