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NORC’s research explores the causes of, responses to, and attitudes about public safety and the American legal system.

The impacts of the justice system reach beyond public safety, affecting the economic well-being and sustainability of communities, formal and informal systems of trust, and racial and ethnic disparities. Governments need evidence-based solutions for equitable public safety and effective legal system policies and practices, including data on the needs and experiences of the communities they serve.  

NORC has assembled an interdisciplinary group of talented researchers whose areas of expertise include law enforcement, crime prevention, gun policy, indigent defense, human trafficking, courts and sentencing, diversion and prisoner reentry and teen dating violence. Our researchers have conducted policy analysis on police use of force and racial disparities in jail and prison, evaluated the impact of programs to re-integrate the formerly incarcerated into society, surveyed law enforcement agencies and prosecutors about their policies and practices and community members to understand their interactions with law enforcement, and examined the dynamics of methamphetamine markets, among many other initiatives. Additionally, NORC continues to be a pioneer in public opinion polling by innovating methods for capturing accurate and timely information related to the criminal justice system, policing, and public safety.

As part of our portfolio with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a NORC team developed an innovative software package that systematically transforms outdated state criminal history records into nationally standardized codes.

Since 1972, NORC’s General Social Survey has been one of the nation’s most rigorous and widely used sources of data on the attitudes, behaviors, and attributes of the American public. The General Social Survey provides a wealth of data on American attitudes toward the law and law enforcement, and NORC has created a public use database from the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data to establish a research agenda to understand the social, economic, and educational factors that influence recidivism rates.

NORC has successfully conducted a randomized, controlled trial of a novel support program for formerly incarcerated persons to test whether an intentionally scalable model effectively reduces recidivism and improves well-being. 

In partnership with a foundation partner, NORC led a two-year project with a panel of national experts to design a blueprint to improve the US firearms data infrastructure. 

In 2021, NORC partnered with The Data Foundation to conduct the Policing in America Survey, which collected data about how the American people view the criminal justice system and police forces in select cities across the country.

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Public Safety & Justice Experts

Highlighted Projects

A National Survey of Police Officer-Involved Firearm Shootings

A nationally representative survey of law enforcement on use of force and officer-involved shootings


The National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research

Developing a National Database on Police Use of Force

The nation’s first police database that combines police data across multiple cities


Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights