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Virginia criminal justice research wins award for report on prescription drug, heroin abuse

The Justice Research and Statistics Association has presented Virginia’s Criminal Justice Research Center in the Department of Criminal Justice Services with the Doug Yearwood National Publication Award for Excellence in Research/Policy Analysis.

virginiaThe award was announced on Aug. 1 at the National Criminal Justice Association National Forum on Criminal Justice in Long Beach, California. The Criminal Justice Research Center received the award for its publication “Report of the Health and Criminal Justice Data Committee.”

The report describes the findings of data analysts of the Health and Criminal Justice Data Committee, a collaboration of multiple agencies within the secretariats of Public Safety and Homeland Security and Health and Human Resources.

“I am proud to see Virginia’s hard-working researchers be recognized as leaders in their field,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Research and analysis are critical components to developing strategies as we combat the tragic opioid epidemic sweeping our Commonwealth and nation.  The report produced by the Criminal Justice Research Center will provide a sound basis for policy-making going forward as we work to understand and respond to this epidemic.”

Virginia’s Health and Criminal Justice Data Committee was created when the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse recognized the need for a multidisciplinary approach to reduce harm from prescription drug and heroin abuse. The Task Force recognized that drug abuse is both a criminal justice problem and a public health problem. Accordingly, Virginia’s secretariats of Public Safety and Homeland Security and Health and Human Resources jointly staffed the Health and Criminal Justice Data Committee with experienced data analysts from multiple agencies. Its first charge was to study data to better understand how criminal justice and public health issues intersect to address increases in prescription drug and heroin abuse.


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“Data-driven decision making has proven to be the most effective method when developing solutions for critical security issues facing the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “This report and the work of the Committee are excellent examples of the value of that approach.”

This report combines data trends from sources including drug overdose fatalities and hospitalizations, drug seizures by law enforcement, court case filings, reported crimes, jail populations, drug testing for probationers, drug prescribing practices, and more. These trends are compared over time and across regions of Virginia to provide a comprehensive view of how prescription drug and heroin abuse is affecting Virginia citizens, and to inform policy and practices to combat it.

Fran Ecker the Director of DCJS added, “The Administration and DCJS are committed to applying evidence based analysis to our work.  We’re very pleased that the JRSA has recognized the value of this report in furthering that approach.”

The Justice Research and Statistics Association is a national organization dedicated to the use of nonpartisan research and analysis to inform criminal and juvenile justice decision making. The Douglas Yearwood Award recognizes outstanding efforts by state Statistical Analysis Centers to apply empirical analysis to criminal justice policy making in the states.

Going forward, the Health and Criminal Justice Data Committee will provide annual reports to the secretariats of Public Safety and Homeland Security and Health and Human Resources to keep them apprised on important issues that span both criminal justice and health agencies in Virginia.

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