National Institute of Corrections

By | September 22, 2021
National Institute of Corrections

Last Updated on by Admin LB

This article titled ‘National Institute of Corrections’ is written by Nilanjana Banerjee and discusses the role, functioning etc of the NIC.

I. Introduction

The US being the home to the highest number of prisoners needs a proper administrative agency to regulate the functioning of prison authorities. This is where NIC i.e. National Institute of Corrections comes into play. It is an agency of the US government and part & parcel of the US Department of Justice. Incarceration in the US is the primary form of punishment in felony and other offences too.

Data of 2018 reveals that in the US 698 people were incarcerated per 1,00,000 persons. For the proper and smooth functioning of jail authorities, there is a need for a central authority. Earlier, the jails were dirty, vermin-infested, stinky, windowless, shabby, which adversely affected the health of prisoners. There were no legitimate safety provisions or medical emergency equipment. Situations were such that it seemed prisoners are non-human. But with time, the situation has become much better and to at least keep it this way, NIC was formulated.

Its role involves providing funds to lower jail authorities and formulating such rules which will ease the functioning of prisons. Human rights watch examines the humane conditions of the prison and in certain instances, it had reported excessive use of physical force and it was said to be inhumane. NIC works to curd such issues and makes things humane inside the prison. All the details of NIC will be discussed in this article.

II. Prisons in the United States

In the US, there are different types of correction centres and not just prisons. There are jails, immigration detention centres, juvenile detention facilities, individual confinement cells etc. The reports of Human Rights Watch suggest that there is barely tolerable physical mistreatment, excessive disciplinary action and inadequate medical facilities. There is absolutely no attention given to prisoner’s mental health.

After Russia and Rwanda, the US is the country with the highest number of incarcerated adults. In 1998, Russia and Rwanda had incarcerated more than 1.7 million people i.e. an estimated rate of incarceration was 645 per 1,00,000 people. With the ever-increasing number of prisoners, the existing prisoners have become dangerously overcrowded, there was an incident of 69 inmates being killed due to violence among them. Extortion was a commonplace thing in prisoners of the US. This can be attributed to excessive overcrowding with inadequate managing staff. This turned the jail into a very dangerous place.

To control these intimidating activities, individual segregated cells were introduced. Mostly, the violent prisoners were put into solitary confinements with super-maximum security provisions. But those isolated cells were small, stingy, windowless, vermin-infested i.e. in short, they were unhealthy to stay in.

Moreover, the guards were abusive. There have been instances that prison guards have shot the inmates. In 1998, federal authorities of the US had indicted eight officers for deliberately pitting the inmates against each other. Guard abuses mostly remain unaddressed and thus the mistreatment continues to rise.

Suggestions have been made to construct new prisons to reduce these issues, but the tight budget disallows so. This gave rise to the growth of private agencies to regulate correction homes.

Along with the aforementioned issues, sexual abuse was also practiced especially among women. Unnecessary surveillance, verbal sexual harassment also existed. What added to the plight was that several states did not have laws prohibiting sexual conduct from the prison guards. Even in men, the guards encouraged sexual attacks by prisoner co inmates. All these led to the decision of formation of NIC (National Institute of Correction)

III. What is NIC?

NIC is an agency of the US government, it forms a part of the US Department of Justice and the federal bureau of prisons. It was created by the US congress in the year 1974, based on the recommendations of the National Conference on Corrections.

This conference was convened by John N. Mitchell in 1971, as a result of the public pressure due to the 1971 riot at New York’s Attica correctional facility. It is now a maximum-security campus prison that is operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Constructed in the 1930s, it has been home to the most dangerous criminals of that time.

This prison was the site of a riot in 1971 which resulted in the death of around 43 prisoners and 33 offenders were convicted. The most astonishing thing about this riot is that out of 33 convicts, 10 were correctional officers and were civilian employees.

One of the most dangerous inmates during that time was David Berkowitz who was the son of a serial killer and had confessed to killing six people along with wounding many others. It was after this riot that NIC was formed and since then it is working under the department of justice. The US department of justice performs the task of enforcing federal laws and thereafter administering justice.

It consists of Federal laws enforcement agencies, the US Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Prison. The primary works of the Department of Justice are investigating white-collar crimes, representing the US government in Supreme Court. The modern structure of the Department of Justice as we see it today was formed in 1870 during Ulysses S. Grant Presidency. The NIC works under this Department of Justice. The history of the formation of NIC is discussed subsequently.

IV. Timeline of NIC evolution[1]

  1. September 1971- Attica prison riot. This major riot garnered the whole nation’s attention towards the practices in imprisonment.
  2. December 1971 – Attorney General’s Conference. John N. Mitchell convened a national conference in Virginia to recognise the problems in correction houses.
  3. 1974- NIC created through the act of Congress
  4. 1977- Funding created by Federal Bureau of Prisons. Funding from the federal bureau of prisons budget for creation of a new government agency i.e. NIC.
  5. 1980- The information centre of NIC was founded in Colorado.
  6. 1981- the academic division of NIC was established in Colorado.
  7. October 2017- Relaunch of NIC website for enhancing its portfolio.

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in his speech while addressing the participants of the 1971 conference had said that the training academy for the conference would focus on

  1. Development of knowledge, coordination of research, formulation of policies.
  2. Provide professional training to correct employees.
  3. A platform for exchange of ideas
  4. Bring improvement in the correction field.

Thereafter NIC was established with the mission of-

“Our Mission is to advance public safety by shaping and enhancing correctional policies and practices through leadership, learning and innovation.”[2]

V. Strategic outcomes

NIC is the only federal agency to provide specialised services to the corrections authority. It directly responds to the need and not merely provides financial assistance. It influences the correctional executives, practitioners and policymakers too. It is claimed to be a professional and apolitical agency.

 The outcomes of NIC’s activities are-

  1. Effective planning, management of policies for providing ethical, constitutional, humane, safe, cost-effective prisons.
  2. Providing proper training and education in value centred principles.
  3. Promoting such correctional practices which maximise the law-abiding and secure behaviour.
  4. Explore critical issues and find the best solutions for them.

NIC uses cooperative agreement for its efficient planning, development and implementation.

Its advisory board consists of reputable personalities and they are listed as below[3]

  1. Colette S.Peters (Chairperson, Oregon Department of Corrections)
  2. Gabriel Morgan (Vice Chairperson, Newport News Sheriff’s Office)
  3. John Baldwin (Illinois Department of Corrections)
  4. Charles R. Breyer (Ex –officio, U.S. Sentencing Commission)
  5. Barbara Broderick ( Private Sector, Maricopa County Adult Probation)
  6. Michael Carvajal ( Ex- officio, Federal Bureau of Prisons)
  7. Jeremy Fogel (Ex- officio, Federal Judicial Centre)
  8. Caren Harp ( Ex- officio Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency)
  9. Teresa May (Practitioner, Harris County TX, Community Supervision)
  10. Anne Precycthe (Practitioner, Missouri Department of corrections)
  11. Tracey Trautman (Bureau of Justice Assistance)
  12. Pat Tuthill (Payton Tuthill Foundation)


[1]The United States Department of Justice, Available Here, (Last visited September 9, 2021)

[2] The United States Department of Justice, Available Here, (Last visited September 9, 2021)

[3] The United States Department of Justice, Available Here, (last visited September 9, 2021)

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Author: Nilanjana Banerjee

National University of Study and Research in Law Ranchi

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