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Working toward a More Just Society


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Foundations and city governments are increasingly open to new criminal justice approaches and are looking for research to inform and validate those approaches. NORC’s data collection and analytic capacity and subject matter expertise make us a stand-out partner.

John Roman, Senior Fellow
Economics, Justice, & Society

Eighty-six percent of low-income Americans who reported civil legal problems in 2017 received inadequate or no legal help.

45% of Americans have had an immediate family member incarcerated.

Of the roughly 700,000 people released from prison every year, only a small fraction get the help they need to succeed in society. These findings from NORC’s recent research demonstrate the urgent need for more effective and equitable legal policies. Through new partnerships with city governments and nonprofit organizations, we are studying existing systems and designing better alternatives for creating a more just society.

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) helps fund civil legal aid to low-income Americans. Civil legal issues include protection from abusive relationships, safe and habitable housing, access to necessary health care, and disability payments that help people live independently, among others. In 2017, LSC hired NORC to conduct the Justice Gap Measurement Survey, the first comprehensive national study to explore the difference between the level of available legal assistance and the level necessary to meet the needs of low-income Americans. The survey—a collaboration between NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, and NORC’s Public Affairs and Media Research and Public Health departments—found that 71 percent of low-income households had at least one civil legal problem.

For researchers at Cornell University, NORC conducted a survey that resulted in the report, Every Second. The study was sponsored by FWD.us, a bipartisan organization of business and technology leaders working for meaningful reform in criminal justice and immigration.

Every Second data reveal the uneven impact of incarceration on families of color.

The Concordance Academy offers people recently released from prison an innovative spectrum of services to reduce recidivism and improve life outcomes. We are conducting a two-phase evaluation of Concordance’s program to prepare Missouri prisoners for their return to greater St. Louis, a strategy that could eventually be implemented throughout Missouri and across the country.

To fill the void in data on gun crime resulting from federal limits on funding for gun research, Arnold Ventures has partnered with NORC to convene a panel of 14 independent experts to address the current gap in firearms data. Panel members will create a blueprint for an objective, sustainable firearms data infrastructure for local, state, and federal policymakers and the research community.

We’ve also launched the National Survey of Police Officer-Involved Firearm Shootings in collaboration with the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research and the Police Executive Research Forum. We are surveying national law enforcement agencies for data on the past 10 years of police officer-involved shootings, including officers shooting at civilians and officers being shot or shot at, as well as demographic, situational, agency, and community factors associated with these shootings. The goal is to reduce officer-involved shootings and to protect police officers and the public.

After a 2016 spike in violence in Chicago, the Chicago Hospital Working Group (C-HWG) was established to coordinate hospitals’ violence intervention programs and ensure that every patient with a violent injury has the best possible opportunity to avoid re-injury after their release. We are examining this new approach, called hospital-based violence intervention programs, and helping C-HWG design and implement future program evaluations. Eventually, we will conduct an evaluability assessment and formative evaluation to guide program design and data collection across hospitals.