Tag Archives: criminal justice

Criminal justice loves OR!

Last week, the National Institute of Justice Conference showered the operations research community with their affection by hosting a session on OR for the first time (special thanks to Stanley Erickson!) and having Al Blumstein give a keynote speech later the same day. In the OR session, Doug Samuelson summarized the events at the INFORMS Symposium in September 2006 (I attended this symposium, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so jazzed after a symposium). Read his article in OR/MS Today here. Dick Larson summarized his many research contributions over the years (particularly, the hypercube model). Peter Bellmio talked about his consulting work with police departments throughout the country and gave a fascinating account of what operations research needs to offer to the police.

The session was well-attended by OR- and non-OR types alike. Many of us OR types were expecting about six people in the audience, so it was a welcome reminder that people are interested in our field — we just need to engage them and demonstrate what we have to offer. In fact, the non-OR-types asked every single question in the Q&A session. Ultimately, the session ran late and everyone reluctantly left, which was amazing since the session was immediately followed by lunch.

At lunch, Al Blumstein gave the keynote speech, due to a late cancellation by Arlen Spector. He summarized his many contributions to criminal justice that span the last 40 years (The latest NIJ journal contained an article about Dr. Blumstein and the Crime Report that are worth reading). What I found most interesting was his account of what surprised him as a OR analyst the most (people commit a lot more crime than you or I can imagine) and the humble account of mistakes he made along the way (he predicted that prison populations would remain stable, but they have been skyrocketing ever since he made that prediction due to policy changes that impose stiff sentences).

Thank you NIJ for spoiling OR!

Murder and the Operations Researcher

This week, I read “An O.R. Missionary’s Visits to the Criminal Justice System” by Alfred Blumstein that appeared in the February issue of Operations Research (Read a synopsis of his article here). I remember the talk in 2005, which was an inspiration to me and a big reason why I started this blog on public policy OR. Dr. Blumstein’s contributions to the criminal justice system are nothing short of amazing–he was even awarded the 2007 Stockholm Prize in Criminology for his research on criminal careers.

What I find interesting about Dr. Blumstein’s approach to the criminal justice system is that he takes a systems-level approach and analyzes the impacts of each decision (i.e., sentencing guidelines) on the entire system to get counter-intuitive results.

You can download the podcast of an interview with Dr. Blumstein that appeared on FOCUS 580, a radio program out of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.