The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) is the only federal agency with a legislative mandate (Public Law 93-41 5) to provide specialized services to corrections from a national perspective. NIC is recognized by other federal agencies for its unique role and quality services. Its leadership is evidenced by the numerous partnerships and interagency agreements targeted to provide correctional services and training.
NIC is unique because it provides direct service rather than financial assistance as the primary means of carrying out its mission. It responds directly to needs identified by practitioners working in state and local adult corrections, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Justice, other federal agencies, and the United States Congress. NIC staff provides leadership to influence correctional policies, practices, and operations nationwide in areas of emerging interest and concern to correctional executives and practitioners, as well as public policymakers.
NIC provides practical assistance in planning and implementing improvements at the federal, state and local levels. These efforts contribute to cost efficiency and effectiveness in such areas as planning, design, and operation of new jails, prisons, and community corrections programs, offender workforce development programs, and offender classification and risk assessment.
NIC is acclaimed by the corrections community as a focused, customer-oriented, apolitical, professional agency that continues to make a significant difference. It is credited with raising the standard of performance for corrections agencies nationwide.
"We are a center of correctional learning and experience. We advance and shape effective correctional practice and public policy that respond to the needs of corrections through collaboration and leadership and by providing assistance, information, education, and training."
The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Institute is led by a Director appointed by the U.S. Attorney General.
In September 1971, a major riot at New York's Attica prison focused national attention on corrections and the practice of imprisonment in the United States. In response to public concern and recognizing the problems in corrections facilities and programs at the state and local levels, Attorney General John N. Mitchell convened a National Conference on Corrections in Williamsburg, Virginia, in December 1971. Recommendations of this conference resulted in the creation of the National Institute of Corrections in 1974 and funding in 1977 as a line item in the Federal Bureau of Prisons budget.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the correctional workforce for all government agencies is over 700,000. To remain responsive to the field NIC continuously monitors the needs of correctional practitioners. This is done through various formal and informal strategies. Among these are online needs assessments, surveys, environmental scans, plus general and topical hearings. Monitoring NIC's online forums, the proceedings from network meetings, and feedback through training and technical assistance evaluations is another source of assessment information.
Most staff at NIC are former directors of departments of corrections, wardens, deputy wardens, jail administrators, and probation chiefs, which equates to a wealth of corrections experience and knowledge under the umbrella of one agency. NIC serves its customers by:
Technical assistance is provided in response to requests from sheriffs, jail administrators, directors of state correctional departments, judges, chiefs of probation and parole, and county administrators among others. On-site, technical assistance uses experts from the field and NIC staff. It often results in the identification of gaps in policy and practice, the development of strategic plans with emphasis on organizational and system-wide alignment, and includes working with all involved stakeholders. Assistance is designed uniquely for requesting jurisdictions and requests are fulfilled in a timely fashion.
NIC has provided technical assistance and worked collaboratively with many states and the BOP on female offender issue,s including those related to programming, operations, and mental health and addressing the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Additionally, NIC has provided assistance to the U.S Probation and Pretrial Services with its implementation of evidence-based policy and practice, and to state and local jurisdictions.
NIC uses cooperative agreements to conduct much of the planning, development, and implementation of its strategic plan. Through cooperative agreements, we award funds to support our program initiatives. These often have utility well beyond a single agency.
Training is a primary vehicle through which NIC delivers its products, programs, and services to the field of corrections. NIC is known for quality leadership training for prisons, probation, parole and jail leadership. For more information including number of training participants, please refer to the NIC Report to the Nation.
NIC is the only agency that regularly convenes leaders from similar correctional functions for the purpose of shared learning and information exchange. The primary objective of networking is to make opportunities available for informed discussion among members by providing places, time and staff support for meetings. The target audience for networks includes correctional executives from the state, local and federal levels.
Over 25,000 correctional professionals have joined NIC's online communities to share information on topics such as pre-trial services, cognitive behaviors change, mental health services, working effectively with women offenders, managing offender behavior, jail and prison administration and reentry. All of these resources are available to the BOP.
The National Institute of Correction's library contains over 18,000 cataloged documents, 250 serials (journals, professional publications, etc.) and online e-books and databases. The library is a repository for NIC publications and resource for NIC projects and training, as well as research for correctional practitioners who contact the Information Center staff.
Information Center staff are available to help correctional personnel identify appropriate resources related to their topics of inquiry (e.g. how to manage jail overcrowding, how to validate a risk and need assessment instrument), and to link them to other resources.
The Information Center also generates annual publications dealing with topical issues of interest to the field of corrections. The NIC Information Center is now co-located with the Federal Bureau of Prison's Management and Specialty Training Center, providing more potential to support BOP training and services. Approximately 8,000 individual requests for research assistance and correctional resources are processed by the Center each year.
NIC engages in partnerships and interagency agreements with national organizations and federal agencies to share expertise, avoid duplication and provide expanded services in a cost effective manner.
As an example, a Memorandum Of Understanding (between BJA , OJJDP, OJP, NIC, CMHS, CSAT and SAMSHA) was established to "provide a framework for the federal agencies to plan, coordinate, and share the design and implementation of interagency efforts to improve the response to people with substance abuse disorders, mental health disorders, or co-occurring disorders who are involved or at risk of involvement with the criminal and juvenile justice system." To carry out this work, NIC engaged in a multi-year cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments.
NIC collects meaningful data and indicators and uses formalized assessment tools at the organizational, staff and offender levels. NIC has developed tools to help in the complex implementation of evidence based principles (e.g., implementation checklist, quality assurance manual, core papers on the risk reduction research aimed at various stakeholders, intermediate measures guidebook, outcomes measures matrix, etc.)
A critical role for NIC is to translate research for the field. The most current research is applied to actual situations in corrections. NIC also works with interested academics and researchers to understand corrections issues, enabling them to conduct research that is utilitarian and useful for the field.
The National Institute of Corrections is led by Acting Director Bob Brown, and a 16-member Advisory Board.
NIC is organized so that each primary constituent group in adult corrections-jails, prisons, and community corrections-is represented and served by a distinct division. These include: the Academy Division, the Community Corrections Division, the Prisons Division, the Jails Division, the Offender Workforce Development Division, the Research and Evaluation Division, and the Information Center.
The Academy Division coordinates most of the Institute's training activities for practitioners working in state and local adult corrections throughout the U.S. and its commonwealths and territories. It also provides training for juvenile justice, the federal prison system, and military corrections practitioners through interagency agreements. Training programs are offered in the areas of correctional leadership, jail management, prison management, offender management, and training for trainers.
The Prisons Division provides specialized training and coordinates technical assistance, and other programs related to prisons. The Division also sponsors the development of publications and materials on topics of interest to prison practitioners, and it coordinates an interdisciplinary effort to assist jurisdictions in developing a more rational, cost-effective, and coordinated system of criminal justice sanctions and punishments. It provides the only national training for new wardens, directors of corrections, and deputy directors in the country. In addition, the Division has been instrumental in providing assessment and validation of classification systems in prisons throughout the country.
The Community Services Division coordinates consulting services (technical assistance), specialized training, and other programs related to probation, parole, and other forms of community-based corrections. The Division also sponsors the development of publications and materials on topics of interest to community corrections practitioners, and it coordinates an interdisciplinary effort to assist jurisdictions in developing a more rational, cost-effective, and coordinated system of criminal justice sanctions and punishments.
The Jails Division offers training and technical assistance to requesting agencies and develops resources to assist jails in the areas of jail administration, jail standards and inspections, and jail mental health services. Program staff are former jail practitioners who have hands-on experience with jail issues in large, medium, and small agency settings.
Among programs that the Jails Division provides, are the National Sheriffs Institute for newly elected sheriffs and the Large Jail Network comprised of administrators of jails with a population exceeding 1000 inmates. In addition, the Jails Division trains jail staff throughout the country on "Inmate Behavior Management" since many jails perform poorly in this area, as evidenced by the violence and vandalism common in many jails. The division also provides assistance to jurisdictions in planning new jails through training, documents, and technical assistance.
The Research and Information Services Division serves NIC in two primary ways. Through selected projects it assists the field in designing and implementing research and evaluation strategies. It serves to build a bridge between relevant research and the day-to-day operations for corrections agencies.
Second, it is building a general model of evaluation strategies that can be applied to NIC's own projects, initiatives, training and technical assistance offerings. Combined with information from various needs assessment strategies, the findings from both these external and internal efforts guide NIC's decision making about how best to serve the field. Resources can be targeted and dispersed quickly and efficiently to the agencies and areas where they will have the greatest impact.
The Information Center assists correctional policy makers, practitioners, elected officials, and others interested in corrections issues. Corrections Specialists who have professional experience in corrections provide expert research assistance and have access to a full library. The Specialists assist with locating and, in many cases, obtaining copies of information at no charge to the requestor.
NIC is a small agency with a very limited budget yet is able to provide services which result in a significant impact to federal, state, and local corrections agencies. It embodies the best practices of both the public and private sectors by providing fast (within hours if necessary), high-quality, non-bureaucratic, customer-oriented service. Because of the wealth of experience and knowledge of NIC's staff, the activities and responsibilities should not be easily transferred to another agency.
Current information on NIC initiatives can be found on our website and in the annual Report to the Nation.
Points of view or opinions stated in this blog are those of the authors and
do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of
the U.S. Department of Justice.