Research - Data and Resources

Departmental Research Committee

Q1. What sources of information does the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) have that are of interest to researchers?

DPSCS has three sources of information that are useful to researchers.

  1. Official criminal history record information (aka "RAP Sheet"), which is the fingerprint-supported, chronological record of "reportable events" that comprise an individual's involvement with Maryland's criminal justice system. This data is maintained by the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) Central Repository, which is administered by the Information Technology and Communications Division in DPSCS.
  2. Correctional management and demographic data about individuals under DPSCS's jurisdiction. These data are collected for sentenced inmates in the Division of Correction and Patuxent Institution, detainees housed by the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, and individuals under supervision by the Division of Parole and Probation.
  3. Human subjects themselves: inmates, detainees, individuals under supervision, and departmental employees.

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Q2. Under what circumstances does DPSCS disseminate data in support of research?

DPSCS provides data for research under two circumstances.

  1. If a research project requires data that is public information, DPSCS provides it under the terms of the Public Information Act (State Government Article, § 10-611 et seq.). Individuals, researchers, and media representatives requesting public information under the Public Information Act may submit their requests directly to: Mark Vernarelli, Director of Public Information, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, 300 East Joppa Road, Suite 1000, Towson, Maryland 21286; tel: 410-339-5081; fax: 410-339-4240; email: mvernarelli@dpscs.state.md.us.
  2. If a research project requires data that does not exist as part of a public record, or contains personal information that is not otherwise publicly available, DPSCS has discretion in supplying the data for the stated purpose, whether pursuant to State Government Article, § 10-624(e), or applicable regulation (COMAR 12.15.01.12B). Under whichever authority, the dissemination of this data must be governed by a formal agreement that complies with State requirements to ensure confidentiality by the researcher. The process of review and approval of a project requiring departmental data or information begins with submission of a Research Application (see Q13 below).

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Q3. What are the limitations in DPSCS's data?

As of March, 2011, the Department continues to be temporarily unable to support the portion of any new Research Application which requires historical or current correctional data about sentenced inmates, due to staffing limitations.  The Departmental Research Committee retains discretion to determine if a Research Application that requests other kinds of departmental support (e.g., employee interviews, other types of data, etc.) or that can be supported through the provision of public information, should be approved on such limited basis. The Department cannot anticipate how soon staffing levels will permit resumption of the provision of correctional data for research purposes. NOTE: This restriction does not apply to Research Applications requesting data about persons under supervision by the Division of Parole and Probation, or criminal history record information from the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS).

DPSCS's systems do not maintain a complete universe of data, and data links and retrievability vary depending on the system that contains the data. Because researchers often make assumptions about the nature and availability of both criminal history (CJIS) and departmental data about inmates, detainees, and supervisees, DPSCS staff must talk with researchers to verify assumptions and clarify research objectives before research requests are approved. Data that is not maintained in automated systems may sometimes be available in case files, but labor-intensive investigations of that sort, which may only be performed by departmental personnel, are often cost-prohibitive.

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Q4. What inputs can be used to match criminal history or correctional data against a population being studied?

  1. Names, dates-of-birth, and social security numbers are common identifiers. However, many criminals use aliases, false dates-of-birth, and false social security numbers, so that these kinds of input may result in an inaccurate match to the subject, or many matches to subject "John Brown". When these are the only inputs available for a subject population, DPSCS staff can work with researchers to identify ways to maximize valid matches.
  2. A better input is Maryland's fingerprint-supported State Identification (SID) number. An SID number is assigned to every individual who is arrested or otherwise acquires a criminal history record in Maryland, and is also used as an identifier in the DPSCS management information systems.

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Q5. What is needed if a research project involves human subject research?

As of March, 2011, the Department continues to be temporarily unable to support the portion of any new Research Application whose methodology includes interviews (surveys) of inmates held in a departmental facility (Division of Correction, Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, or Patuxent Institution), because of the costs incurred to provide security for such interviews. The Department may not accept monies from researchers to compensate its staff for this purpose, and cannot anticipate when it will be able to permit this type of research in the future. The Departmental Research Committee will consider research proposals involving inmate interviews (surveys) conducted by mail. However, researchers should note that inmate mail, both incoming and outgoing, is subject to inspection, and security requirements prohibit researchers from supplying self-addressed stamped envelopes (SASEs) to encourage responses. The Departmental Research Committee retains discretion to determine if a Research Application that requests other kinds of departmental support (e.g., data, employee interviews, etc.), in addition to inmate interviews, should be approved on such limited basis.

DPSCS cooperation with all approved projects involving human subject research requires a formal agreement that specifies the researcher's responsibilities for adhering to accepted standards for human subject research, including Informed Consent protocol(s) and Institutional Review Board (IRB) standards and requirements. (NOTE: DPSCS does not participate in research that depends on the use of inmates or detainees in medical or cosmetics experiments, or for pharmaceutical testing.) As with other kinds of research, the process of review and approval of human subject research begins with submission of a Research Application (see Q13 below).

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Q6. Is "informed consent" required before a researcher can obtain criminal history?

No. Authorized research using criminal history record information or related data from DPSCS's management information systems does not require informed consent by the subjects in order to obtain that data. However, informed consent is required for studies that need to obtain subject-specific health-related data, and when human subject research is planned, e.g., interviews, questionnaires, etc.

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Q7. How do I request a "letter of support" for my research project from DPSCS, if my application to a funding (grant) source or other approval authority requires one?

You should complete and submit a Research Application (see Q13 below) as far as possible in advance of the deadline for your funding (grant) application or other approval authority review. In the space provided for "Other Relevant Information", indicate your need for a "letter of support", and include the deadline for receipt of the letter. While the Departmental Research Committee will make every effort to be responsive to deadlines faced by researchers, it is not required to make special arrangements to respond to last-minute Applications, including a request for a "letter of support".

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Q8. Does DPSCS maintain any automated data concerning the health (medical, mental, etc.) or treatment (substance abuse, etc.) of inmates, detainees, or supervisees?

No. However, there is a limited amount of treatment-related data available with the permission of the Division of Parole and Probation from the HATS system, maintained by the University of Maryland Bureau of Governmental Research.

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Q9. Why is it important for a researcher to submit the Research Application (see Q13 below) well in advance of an application to a funding source?

There are two reasons.

  1. The researcher needs to know what costs associated with obtaining departmental data or involvement may be attached to the research project. Any required costs should be incorporated in an application for funding, as DPSCS is not obliged to waive its costs in providing data and other support.
  2. DPSCS is a large department, and many research proposals cross DPSCS agency lines, e.g., a study of parolees (Division of Parole and Probation) that requires obtaining criminal history (Information Technology and Communications Division), plus interviewing re-incarcerated parolees (Division of Correction). Obtaining approval and commitment from each agency that must contribute data or resources to a study requires time, and is necessary to ensure that a study can be accomplished as the researcher plans.

While DPSCS will take into account deadlines faced by applicants, it is not required to expedite responses to applications.

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Q10. Does DPSCS have more interest in research on certain topics than on others?

At this time, DPSCS is not actively soliciting research. However, from time to time DPSCS may have interest in partnering with researchers in certain areas. Of particular interest would be evaluations or analyses of how well its current departmental or agency-specific initiatives and processes are meeting the DPSCS mission "to protect the public, its employees, and the detainees and offenders under its supervision". More information about DPSCS and its constituent agencies may be found at the public website.

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Q11. What policies or criteria does DPSCS use in evaluating a research proposal?

DPSCS operates under two broad policies when reviewing research proposals:

  1. DPSCS supports criminal justice and related research that contributes to new knowledge, especially when the application of research findings will promote more efficient and effective criminal justice operations, conservation of resources, and increased public safety; and
  2. DPSCS supports research when the requirements for research do not compromise the security or operations of its facilities, programs, or information systems, or the safety, security, or privacy of its personnel or individuals under its care or supervision.
  3. In applying these policies, the following criteria are also considered:

    1. Qualifications of the applicant;
    2. Quality of the application;
    3. Adequacy of the basis of the application and methodology;
    4. Feasibility and costs of obtaining the requested data or other resources from DPSCS;
    5. Benefit of the research to DPSCS and its objectives or to criminal justice or related fields of knowledge in general; and
    6. Scope and priorities of DPSCS research interests and current DPSCS research commitments at the time an application is reviewed.

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Q12. If a request for research data is approved, what will it cost the researcher?

The cost for a standard extract of official criminal history record information from CJIS is $500 for each iteration, payable in advance of receipt of data.  Other costs, if assessed, will vary, depending on the kind of data requested, its availability in pre-programmed "standard extracts", and whether programming time or other commitment of personnel resources is required, e.g., for interviews, case file reviews, etc.

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Q13. How does a researcher begin the process to obtain approval from DPSCS for a research project requiring data, information, or human subject research?

A researcher should complete and submit a Research Application. Instructions attached to the application provide information about DPSCS's response timeframes. The Departmental Research Committee meets six times per year, and completed Research Applications must be received not later than one week before the meeting date. The last meeting in 2013 will be held on November 19th. Scheduled meetings for 2014 are as follows: January 21, March 18, May 20, July 15 and September 16.

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Q14. Whom should I contact if I have additional questions about research involving DPSCS?

Bonita Cosgrove,  Acting Director, Research and Statistics, Office of Grants, Policy and Statistics, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, 300 East Joppa Road, Suite 1000, Towson, MD 21286; tel. 410-339-5069; fax 410-339-4228; email bcosgrove@dpscs.state.md.us

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