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.
"Our mission is to advance public safety by shaping and enhancing correctional policies and practices through leadership, learning, and innovation."
The outcomes of NIC's activities contribute significantly to the achievement of state, local, and federal correctional goals and priorities:
Effectively managed prisons, jails, and community corrections programs and facilities
We will provide services in effective planning, management, and operations strategies that provide constitutional, ethical, humane, safe, and cost-effective prisons, jails, and community corrections programs and facilities.
Enhanced organizational and professional performance in corrections
We will provide education and training opportunities in management, leadership, and specialized areas based on value-centered principles and best practices that will continually enhance organizational and professional performance.
Community, staff, and offender safety
We will promote correctional practices and procedures that maximize the safety of the community, staff, and offenders; hold offenders accountable; and improve the likelihood of offenders choosing responsible, law-abiding behavior.
Improved correctional practices through the exploration of trends and public policy issues
We will promote the exploration of critical issues and shaping public policies that improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and humane quality of practices that impact corrections.
Enhanced services through improved organizational and staff effectiveness
We will provide opportunities for organizational and professional growth that enhance our services. We will implement a strategic management process that leads to improved organizational structure, management practices, and program planning that support the mission and vision, consistent with available resources.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau survey for State and Local Employment and Payroll Data, local governments employ 269,269 workers in corrections and state governments employ 449,555 workers in corrections. 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:
- Providing technical assistance to state and local corrections to address their specific needs;
- Awarding cooperative agreements that result in partnerships between NIC and the awardee;
- Providing critical training otherwise unavailable to corrections practitioners at all organizational levels;
- Providing networks for sharing information and solutions through jails, prisons, and community corrections;
- Providing the only national corrections-specific information clearinghouse that is able to quickly survey the field for urgent answers;
- Developing partnerships that are cost effective and lead to increased level of service;
- Providing research and evaluation guidance and data collection.
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 issues 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 through a variety of delivery strategies including classroom, blended, webinar, virtual instructor led training and live internet broadcasts. 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.
The National Institute of Correction's library contains over 5,000 cataloged documents, dozens of 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 located at the National Corrections Academy, along with the NIC’s Training Center and the Federal Bureau of Prison's Management and Specialty Training Center, providing to national support to training and services. Over 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.