Professor Nominated to Lead Bureau of Justice Statistics
Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, associate professor of Political Science, has been nominated by President George W. Bush to be the director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the U.S. Department of Justice. Sedgwick, who is on a year-long leave from his faculty post, is awaiting approval of his nomination by the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee. If the panel endorses his nomination, he must then be confirmed by the Senate.
One of the nine biggest statistical agencies within the federal government, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has a budget of nearly $46 million and 52 staff and, according to Sedgwick, “is the largest repository of criminal justice data in the U.S.” Sedgwick, who served as deputy director for data analysis at the agency in 1984, says the bureau compiles a wide array of data on virtually every aspect of the criminal justice system, including statistics on victims and crimes, offenders, law enforcement, prosecutions, courts and sentencing, and corrections. The information is an important asset to researchers and policymakers, he says.
The White House approached Sedgwick about the post in July, but he was committed to teaching his fall classes, so he postponed his move to Washington until the new year. “I’m delighted by the opportunity to come back to the agency,” says Sedgwick, whose teaching interests include public policy, policy analysis and criminal justice policy. “There are still some staff there from ’84. I had a good relationship with the career staff, and I’m looking forward to getting back to that.” Sedgwick says he’s also curious to see how the bureau has evolved in the past 22 years. “From what I’ve heard, many of the same issues are still on the table and people are still debating them.”
After Sedgwick expressed his interest in the post, a lengthy vetting process began. The FBI spent four months conducting a background check for his security clearance, he says, while the Office of Government Ethics reviewed his finances for possible conflicts of interest. Once those reviews were completed, his nomination was formally submitted to the Senate, and the Judiciary Committee launched its own background check, which includes a 14-page questionnaire. The committee can also choose to call Sedgwick to appear before the panel.
But as a political scientist, Sedgwick has a professional appreciation for the nomination process as well as the opportunity to serve in the government. “You really get an unparalleled vantage point,” he says. “You get to see the intersection of policymaking and policy implementation. It’s a fascinating interaction.”
by Daniel J. Fitzgibbons
UMass Amherst News Office
February 8, 2006