Sex Offender Risk, Recidivism, and Policy

sharp-objects

Kristi L. Greenberg University of New Haven

Sex offenders and their rates of recidivism are often at the center of media and legislators’ attention, in efforts to maintain public safety from what are perceived by many to be the most heinous of offenders. As a result, sex offender management, civil confinement, community notification, and registration laws have been enacted in many jurisdictions across the globe. These policies stem from “good intentions to enhance public safety, [but] current punitive-oriented policies targeting sex offenders have been shown to yield null effects on sex offender recidivism” (Manchak and Fisher, 2017, p. 2). This, coupled with the myriad of challenges registered sex offenders (RSOs) face because of their public label, amounts to a disservice for offenders and victims. Socia (2014) highlights this by noting that “criminal justice scholars have been skeptical of the utility of residence restrictions for some time because study after study has suggested that these policies are ineffective and may be resulting in collateral consequences for both RSOs and community members” (p. 179). It therefore becomes imperative to examine what is known about sex offender recidivism, risk assessment, and the factors influencing sex offender policies.

This paper discusses the employment and housing barriers faced by RSOs, and how those barriers impact public safety. Current research that examines RSO risk levels, how they are obtained, and how they are managed is reviewed. The position that research indicates current sex offender policy, albeit effective at identifying high-risk individuals, is highly ineffective at aiding successful reintegration is supported. These policy gaps create unsafe communities and force some RSOs to commit non-sexual crimes to survive their new environments.

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Reentry Courts: A Critique of Implementation and Theoretical Design

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Jacob Hasson University of New Haven

The United States’ criminal justice system is in the process of rebounding from punitive policies, known as the “get tough movement,” which led to unprecedented growth in prison populations and associated fiscal costs. As of 2015, 2.2 million people were housed in US prisons and jails (The Sentencing Project, 2015). With the average inmate costing approximately $31,000 per year, states are looking to relieve themselves of these excessive costs and are attempting to find cost-effective alternatives to incarceration (Vera Institute of Justice, 2012).

One such approach garnering much attention by researchers and practitioners alike is the utilization of reentry courts for inmates returning to the community after incarceration. Reentry courts began in 1999, through funding by the US Department of Justice and were modeled after drug courts. Their purpose is to reduce recidivism and technical violations by providing oversight and assistance to inmates as they transition into the community (Ndrecka et al., 2017). If implemented correctly, reentry courts can work with clients and mitigate their risk of recidivism during a time when they are at the highest risk of reoffending. This, in turn, could decrease recidivism rates and overall prison populations.

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Employment and Recidivism

fox-training

Tianyin Yu, University of New Haven

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 67.8% of released state prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years, and 76.7% were arrested within five years (Durose, Cooper, & Snyder, 2014). Reducing recidivism not only protects society at large, but also improves the life quality of individual ex-prisoners. Employment has long been recognized as having a negative correlation with crime (Uggen, 1999; Uggen et al., 2005). However, ex-prisoners face tremendous difficulties in obtaining employment opportunities post-release. Such a disadvantaged situation may be attributable to multiple reasons. First, most of the offenders may simply lack the necessary job skills for specific positions, keeping them from those usually higher paid and more stable jobs. Second, many employers are reluctant to hire these people due to the stigma imposed by their previous criminal records.

This review aims to explore the general effect of employment on recidivism, the gender effect of employment on recidivism, and the role of job characteristics play in deterring crime, as well as to examine how incarceration may affect ex-prisoners in their pursuit of jobs. Policy implications based on the extant research and future research directions also will be discussed.

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Youth Mentoring: Integrating Theory, Research, and Practice

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David L. Myers, PhD University of New Haven

In recent decades, youth mentoring has experienced tremendous growth throughout the United States. Available estimates place the current number of youth mentoring programs at more than 5,000 nationwide, with approximately 3 million children and adolescents receiving services (DuBois, Portillo, Rhodes, Silverthorn, & Valentine, 2011; Miller, Barnes, Miller, & McKinnon, 2013; Stewart & Openshaw, 2014; Tolan, Henry, Schoeny, Lovegrove, & Nichols, 2014). Political and public support have contributed to approximately 1 in 3 adults reporting they have participated in some form of mentoring, and around $100 million per year in federal funds are dedicated to youth mentoring programs and research (Stewart & Openshaw, 2014; Tolan et al., 2014). Overall, youth mentoring is perhaps the most widely implemented and financially supported prevention and intervention strategy for at-risk youth in America. 

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The Use of Gay & Straight Alliances in Reducing Illicit Drug Use and Prescription Drug Misuse among LGBT Adolescents

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Tim Daty University of New Haven

Gay & Straight Alliances (GSA) are school sanctioned student organizations that incorporate heterosexual students, homosexual students and adult participation. These organizations potentially ease the hardships that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender) youth encounter, change negative perceptions surrounding homosexuality, and support these youths in their pursuit of positive outcomes. Research consistently suggests that social connectedness and positive support are at the root of drug abuse among LGBT youth (Hatzenbuehler, Jun, Corliss, & Austin, 2015; Heck et al., 2014; Kecojevic et al., 2012; Bird, Kuhns, & Garofalo, 2012). In the absence of social support and positive relationships, LGBT youth seek coping mechanisms such as illicit and prescription drugs as a way of alleviating this stress. However, schools with a GSA have reported better personal and health outcomes among their LGBT populations. More specifically, the incidence of illicit drug use and prescription drug misuse among gay adolescents is lower among these schools. Gay & Straight Alliances (GSA) seek to offer positive reinforcement to gay youth, reduce strain and make students less likely to seek coping mechanisms such as illicit drug use and prescription drug misuse. 

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Focused Deterrence Interventions: A Critical Review

focused-deterrence

Joseph Dule University of New Haven

Boston pioneered a focused deterrence strategy in the 1990s, to reduce high rates of youth and gang violence. Initially, Boston’s “Operation Ceasefire” working group conducted problem analysis. This research revealed approximately 60% of Boston homicides were gang related, and that both the perpetrators and victims of violence were highly criminal—i.e., they possessed criminal records and were typically known (often by-name) by the Boston Police Department (BPD).  Accordingly, the intervention aimed to “communicate incentives and disincentives directly to known high risk chronic offenders” (Corsaro & Engel, 2015).  To accomplish this, BPD conducted “call in” sessions with chronic offenders—often those who were out on parole—to make them aware that violence would not be tolerated (Kennedy et al., 2001).  The BPD message was simple: if you commit violence, then every legal lever possible will be pulled to ensure that you will be held accountable.  Further, not only will violence not be tolerated, but if one person in the group commits violence, then “heat” from the BPD will be brought on to the entire group (Kennedy, 2011). 

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Examining Dog-Training Programs in Prison: Success Found Among Confounding Factors

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Kevin Earl University of New Haven

Dogs have great therapeutic power. It is easy to think of anecdotal evidence of this being true. In day-to-day life, dog owners are able to decompress after a long day at work or are simply able to feel unconditional love from them. Dogs are able to provide services for disabled individuals. Dogs can become certified specifically to help individuals cope with loss or depression. Dogs can even predict ill health and help individuals recover from ill health (Sachs-Ericsson, Hansen, and Fitzgerald; Wells, 2007). In consideration of all the benefits of having a dog in one’s life, the question one must ask is: can prisoners benefit from dogs as well?

This paper examines dog-training programs in the prison setting with regard to their ability to achieve their goals and objectives related to recidivism. Dog-training programs (DTPs) are the most common type of prison-based animal program, with 290 facilities across all 50 states having implemented them (Cooke and Farrington, 2016). The goals and objectives of DTPs vary slightly from program-to-program; however, the main focuses are recidivism and behavior in prison. DTPs teach prisoners to be dog trainers as a means of providing a source of rehabilitation to combat recidivism. Through this examination, the author concludes that DTPs are successful in that they achieve desired results. Criminological theories as well as limitations of evaluations performed on these programs that explain this success are discussed.

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What Does It Mean to Become a Certified Evidence Based Practitioner (CEBP) Or, Giving Up Your “Guy in a Diner” Card

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What Does It Mean to Become a Certified Evidence Based Practitioner (CEBP) Or,

Giving Up Your “Guy in a Diner” Card

Mark M. Lowis, LMSW, MINT, CEBP, Joyfields Institute for Evidence-Based Professionals

If you get the chance to go to your local family style restaurant and observe, you will notice there is always one table where a few distinguished men of retirement age (a recent accomplishment for me) sit together and visit.  Their conversation often turns to politics, social problems, world affairs, and family members worthy of discussion.  In other words, they are using their collective experiences, intuition and opinions to solve the problems of the universe.  Often, they include science in their conversation, which sounds a bit like this: “And that’s proved!” Or, “Everyone knows that.”  “Scientists have proven that!” “It happened to my cousin!”  “I read it in the paper!”  All of course are intended to give weight to their observations and ideas.  Practitioners most resemble a guy in a diner when they operate in clinically driven situations from their opinion, intuition or assumptions.  Like the guy in a diner, the clinical examination and consideration of deeper issues, and the corresponding approach or intervention, cannot be effectively developed.  The end result is that the guy in a diner belief, which is rarely helpful and may contribute to treatment failures, informs the practitioner’s future with that person. 

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Police Use of Force Policy and Excessive Force

vol2 no2 police use of force res

Evin Carmack, University of New Haven

This paper seeks to examine use of force policy and its impact on instances of excessive force.  Use of force policy has been an ongoing national issue, as high-profile cases of officer-involved shootings are being increasingly reported.  As police departments have become more formalized, so have their rules and regulations.  Use of force policy was seen as a strategy to regulate the amount of force officers used when attempting to subdue an unwilling subject.  The research on this subject has been mixed and has shown some training techniques to be more effective than others.  Research findings also suggest that it is the encounter characteristics of the interaction that are most likely correlated with use of force decisions.  Therefore, future research should focus on encounter characteristics and on training officers in dealing with those different encounter characteristics.

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The Efficacy of Drug Courts

efficacy of drug courts

Meredith Emigh, University of New Haven

Drug courts were designed to divert drug-involved offenders with less serious charges into treatment instead of prison. It is estimated that 78% of property crimes and 77% of public order offenses are related to drug or alcohol abuse, which costs the United States $74 billion a year (CASA, 2010). This includes the cost of police, court, prison, probation and parole services. Substance-involved offenders are more likely to recidivate than their sober peers (CASA, 2010). Proponents of the drug court model claim that it prevents recidivism while also saving a considerable amount of money. However, evaluation research is necessary to determine whether drug courts are truly effective.

There have been many evaluation studies of drug courts in the last two decades, most of which suggest that drug courts are at least somewhat effective. Unfortunately, these studies relied on methodology that does not provide the most scientifically rigorous results, including quasi-experimental and retrospective designs. This paper will review the current research on drug court effectiveness to determine whether these courts meet the dual goals of saving money while lowering rates of recidivism and substance use.

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