Archive for the ‘National Institute of Justice’ Category

Social Media and Police Leadership: Lessons From Boston

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Social Media and Police Leadership: Lessons From Boston (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

The Boston Police Department (BPD) has long embraced both community policing and the use of social media. The department put its experience to good and highly visible use in April 2013 during the dramatic, rapidly developing investigation that followed the deadly explosion of two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. BPD successfully used Twitter to keep the public informed about the status of the investigation, to calm nerves and request assistance, to correct mistaken information reported by the press, and to ask for public restraint in the tweeting of information from police scanners. This demonstrated the level of trust and interaction that a department and a community can attain online. In the aftermath of the investigation, BPD was “applauded for leading an honest conversation with the public during a time of crisis in a way that no police department has done before.”

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GPS Monitoring: An Effective, Cost-Saving Option

February 20, 2014 Comments off

GPS Monitoring: An Effective, Cost-Saving Option (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

The researchers analyzed information from the state’s data management system and examined official arrest records, parole supervision records, GPS monitoring data and state cost information. In addition, they conducted a survey of roughly 1,000 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) parole officers. The survey included questions about the GPS monitoring system, caseloads, program staffing and screening of high-risk sex offender parolees.

The results showed that GPS monitoring was more effective than traditional parole in reducing recidivism and was also more cost-effective. Parolees in the traditional group — those not placed on GPS monitoring — committed new crimes and had their parole revoked more often than parolees in the GPS group. The traditional group’s recidivism rate was 38 percent higher than that of the GPS group.

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs, 2012-Myths vs. Reality

January 14, 2014 Comments off

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs, 2012-Myths vs. Reality (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

This special report provides an update on the status of DNA backlogs in the United States, as last reported in Making Sense of DNA Backlogs, 2010 — Myths vs. Reality (NCJ 232197). When the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published that report, there was no standard definition of “backlog.” Laboratories defined the term in various ways before 2011. To clarify the meaning and introduce a uniform definition, NIJ required laboratories that received federal funds to define a backlogged case as one that had not been closed by a final report within 30 days after receipt of the evidence in the laboratory. NIJ further required laboratories to define a backlogged DNA database sample from convicted offenders and arrestees as one that had not been tested and uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) within 30 days of receipt of the sample in the laboratory. The data in this report use this standard definition.

This update shows that:

  • Laboratory capacity continues to grow due to increasing automation, hiring of more personnel, use of overtime and improved testing procedures and methods. The federal government supports these activities through NIJ’s DNA Backlog Reduction Program.
  • Laboratories processed 10 percent more forensic DNA cases in 2011 than in 2009.
  • DNA backlogs nevertheless continued to increase because the demand for forensic DNA casework services in 2011 increased by 16.4 percent over 2009 demands, which continues to outpace the nation’s capacity to work DNA cases.
  • Although 52.2 percent fewer database samples from convicted offenders and arrestees were completed in 2011 than in 2009, new demand to test and upload database samples dropped 51.2 percent, so the overall workload decreased 46.3 percent from 2009 levels.
  • Hiring additional DNA analysts, retaining trained personnel, automating work processes, implementing new technologies and altering business practices offer potential solutions to reducing DNA backlogs.

Study of Victim Experiences of Wrongful Conviction

December 16, 2013 Comments off

Study of Victim Experiences of Wrongful Conviction (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Over the past three decades, the rate of exonerations has more than doubled, growing from an average of 24 per year from 1989 through 1999 to an average of 52 per year from 2000 through 2010 (Gross & Shaffer, 2012). While significant strides have been made to identify and assist wrongfully convicted individuals in gaining their freedom and transitioning to life after exoneration, little is known about the experiences of victims during this process. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice funded ICF International to conduct an exploratory study examining victim experiences in cases of wrongful conviction in order to begin to fill this gap in knowledge. This report documents the methodolo gy and findings from the study, and examines the implications for practice and policy.

Preventing Revictimization in Teen Dating Relationships

December 12, 2013 Comments off

Preventing Revictimization in Teen Dating Relationships (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Revictimization refers to the occurrence of two or more instances of violence and poses an enormous criminal justice problem . Adolescent girls in the child welfare system are at high risk of revictimization in adolescence. Most interventions with teens have focused on primary prevention (that is, prevention in teens not previously exposed to violence) of physical (usually not sexual) violence. In addition, interventions have frequently targeted youth in school settings, though youth in the child welfare system experience frequent transitions in housing/care that disrupt regular attendance at a single school. Thus, child welfare youth at high risk of revictimization may not receive preve ntion programming as consistently as their peers. Thus, the current study compared two active interventions designed to decrease revictimization in a diverse sample of adolescent girls in the child welfare system. The interventions targeted theoretically distinct risk factors for revictimization. The social learning/feminist (SL/F) intervention focused on concepts derived from social le arning and feminist models of risk, such as sexism and beliefs about relationships. The risk detection/executive function (RD/EF) intervention focused on potential disruptions in the ability to detect and respond to risky situations/people due to problems in executive function.

Automated Victim Notification: Landscape of the United States

December 9, 2013 Comments off

Automated Victim Notification: Landscape of the United States (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

This issue brief is the result of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) National Institute of Justice (NIJ ) – funded evaluation of the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (SAVIN) program administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Funded in fall 2009, the purpose of this evaluation was to explore the implementation and operation of automated victim notification ( AVN ) systems in supporting victims of crime.

This issue brief provides an overview of the characteristics of AVN systems across the United States.

See also: Automated Victim Notification: Practices Aimed at Supporting Victims (PDF)

Predicting Erroneous Convictions: A Social Science Approach to Miscarriages of Justice

December 2, 2013 Comments off

Predicting Erroneous Convictions: A Social Science Approach to Miscarriages of Justice
Source: National Institute of Justice

The last thirty years have seen an enorm ous increase not only in the exonerations of innocent defendants but also academ ic scholarship on erroneous convictions. This literature has identified a number of common factors that appear frequently in erroneous conviction cases, including forensic error, prosecutorial misconduct, false confessions, and eyewitness misidentification. However, without a comparis on or control group of cases, researchers risk labeling these factors as “causes” of erroneous convictions when th ey may be merely correlates. In fact, the only way to establish what causes an erroneous conviction is to understand which factors are exclusive to erroneous convict ions as against ot her sets of cases.

The results indicate that 10 factors—the age and criminal history of the defendant, the punitiveness of the state, Brady violations, forensic error, a weak defense and prosecution case, a family defense witness, an inadvertent misidentification, and lying by a non-eyewitness—help explain why an innocent defendant, once indicted, ends up erroneously convicted rather than released. Other factors traditionally suggested as sources of erroneous convictions, including false confessions, criminal justice official error, and race effects, appear in statistically similar rates in both sets of cases; thus, they likely increase the chance that an innocent suspect will be indicted but not the likelihoodth at the indictment will result in a conviction. Finally, our qualitative review of the cases reveals how the statistically significant factors are connected and exacerbated by tunnel vision, which prevents the sy stem from self-correct ing once an error is made. In fact, tunnel vision provides a useful framework for understanding the larger system- wide failure that separates errone ous convictions from near misses.

Among the policy implications of our findings is that increased atte ntion to the failing dynamics of the criminal justice system, rather than simply isolated errors or causes, may lead to better prevention of erroneous convictions. In a ddition, our results suggest that there should be greater emphasis at all levels and on all sides of the criminal justice system, including police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges, to analyze and learn from past mistakes before they result in serious miscarriages of justice. To this end, we encourage continued research on near misses among both practitioners and scholars.

Measuring the Effect of Defense Counsel on Homicide Case Outcomes

November 13, 2013 Comments off

Measuring the Effect of Defense Counsel on Homicide Case Outcomes (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Since 1993, every fifth murder case tried in Philadelphia, Pa., has been sequentially assigned to the Defender Association of Philadelphia. The other four cases are assigned to appointed counsel. This study sought to measure the difference a lawyer makes to the outcome of a serious criminal case. Compared to private appointed counsel, public defenders reduce the murder conviction rate by 19 percent, reduce the likelihood that their clients receive a life sentence by 62 percent, and reduce overall expected time served in prison by 24 percent. This suggests that defense counsel has an enormous effect on case outcomes.

To understand the difference in outcomes, researchers interviewed judges, appointed counsel and public defenders in Philadelphia. The results show that compared to the public defenders, appointed counsel are impeded by limited compensation, incentives created by that compensation, relative isolation, and conflicts of interest among both the appointing judges and the appointed counsel.

Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership

September 25, 2013 Comments off

Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership (PDF)
Source: Office of Justice Programs/Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Youth gang membership is a serious and persistent problem in the United States. One in three lo- cal law enforcement agencies report youth gang problems in their jurisdictions. One in four high school freshmen report gangs in their schools. Limited resources at the national, state, tribal and local levels make it more important than ever that we make full use of the best available evidence and clearly demonstrate the benefit of strategies to prevent gang-joining.

In acknowledgment of these realities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Na- tional Institute of Justice (NIJ) formed a partnership to publish this book. It is critical that those who make decisions about resources — as well as those who work directly with youth, like teachers and police officers, community services providers and emergency department physicians — understand what the research evidence shows about how to prevent kids from joining gangs.

The NIJ-CDC partnership drew on each agency’s distinctive strengths: NIJ’s commitment to enhancing justice and increasing public safety is matched by CDC’s dedication to health promotion and prevention of violence, injury and disability. By combining perspectives, lessons and evidence from public safety and public health, NIJ and CDC provide new insights into the complex problems of gangs and gang member- ship.

Public health and public safety workers who respond to gang problems know that after-the-fact efforts are not enough. An emergency department doctor who treats gang-related gunshot wounds or a police officer who must tell a mother that her son has been killed in a drive-by shooting are likely to stress the need for prevention — and the complementary roles that public health and law enforcement must play — in stopping violence before it starts. Given our shared commitment to informing policy and practice with the best available evidence of what works, CDC and NIJ brought together some of the nation’s top public health and criminal justice researchers to present core principles for gang-membership prevention.

Understanding Elder Abuse: New Directions for Developing Theories of Elder Abuse Occurring in Domestic Settings

September 25, 2013 Comments off

Understanding Elder Abuse: New Directions for Developing Theories of Elder Abuse Occurring in Domestic Settings
Source: National Institute of Justice

Greater awareness of elder abuse is beginning to emerge, but compared to other areas of family violence, elder abuse has lagged in theory development and relied more on adapting existing theories from other fields. This Research in Brief describes findings from two NIJ studies of elder abuse in domestic settings in this context. The authors emphasize the importance of developing new theories of elder abuse and of looking critically at current theories to increase our understanding and guide future research.

Unobtrusive Suicide Warning System, Final Technical Report

September 24, 2013 Comments off

Unobtrusive Suicide Warning System, Final Technical Report (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Despite many improvements, inmate suicide remains a longstanding problem for correctional institutions. In phases I and II of this program, a prototype demonstration system was developed that can measure an inmate’s heart rate, breathing and general body motions without being attached to the inmate. Building on the success of the first two phases, a final phase is proposed to design a “hardened” system for long-term use.

Predicting Erroneous Convictions: A Social Science Approach to Miscarriages of Justice

September 11, 2013 Comments off

Predicting Erroneous Convictions: A Social Science Approach to Miscarriages of Justice (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

This study compared cases in which innocent defendants were wrongfully convicted to “near misses” – cases in which an innocent defendant was acquitted or had charges dismissed before trial. Researchers found 10 significant factors that can lead to a wrongful conviction. They include a younger defendant, a defendant with a criminal history, a weak prosecution case, a prosecution that withholds evidence, a dishonest non-eyewitness, unintentional witness misidentification, misinterpreting forensic evidence at trial, a weak defense, a family witness offered by the defendant, and a “punitive” state culture.

An Evaluation of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Michigan and Missouri

September 5, 2013 Comments off

An Evaluation of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Michigan and Missouri (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Sex offender residency restrictions are a specific form of specialized sex offender legislation which prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within a certain distance from places where children congregate, such as schools or daycare centers. R esidency restrictions were designed to enhanc e public safety by neutralizing the risk of recidivism posed by registered sex offenders released into the community (Levenson & Cotter, 2005; Sample, Evans, & Anderson, 2011; Simon, 1998; Socia, 2011). The assumption behind this legislation is that sex offenders choose their victims from the available population of the area in which they reside. Thus , attempts by the criminal justice system to increase the distance between registered sex offenders and potential targets should correspond to a decrease in recidivism among this group (Kang, 2012). Statewide residency restrictions have been adopted in some form by at least thirty states and at the municipal level in several others (Meloy, Miller, & Curtis, 2008).

While empirical research on sex offender residency restrictions has grown, most current work has centered on documenting the unintended consequences of these policies . For instance, several studies have examined the potential for residency restrictions to adversely shape the availability of housing for registered sex offenders. Socia (2011) observed that in Upstate New York the neighborhoods least restricted by residen cy restrictions – and thus the areas that registered sex offenders would be allowed to live in – were less affordable, had fewer vacancies, and were concentrated in less dense, rural areas compared to restricted neighborhoods. Additionally, researchers have documented the effect of these laws on quality of life outcomes and reintegration (Levenson & Hern, 2007; Mercado, Alvarez, & Levenson, 2008).

To date, there has been little research on the efficacy of residency restrictions in reducing recidivism among registered sex offenders. Very few studies were identified that directly examined the impact of these laws on sex offender recidivism (Blood, Watson, and Stageberg, 2008; Kang, 2012; Nobles, Levenson, and Youstin, 2012; Socia, 2012). Kang (2012) used individual-level data to follow cohorts of sex offenders and non- sex offenders released both before and after the implementation of residency restrictions, no attempt was made to account for selection bias arising either between the sex offender and non – sex off ender cohorts. Overall, the research has not substantiated a link between residency restrictions and reduced crime; however, most of the work has examined crime rates and has not used an adequate comparison group. The goal of the current study is to build on extant research and consider the efficacy of residency restrictions enacted in Missouri and Michigan.

An Examination of the ‘Marriage Effect’ on Desistance from Crime among U.S. Immigrants

August 20, 2013 Comments off

An Examination of the ‘Marriage Effect’ on Desistance from Crime among U.S. Immigrants (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

The aim of this research is to merge separate but related bodies of work by integrating research on immigration, marriage and family, and crime to shed light on the factors that shape patterns of criminal offending among the children of immigrants as they transition to young adulthood. This research addresses three core questions: 1) are second generation immigrants (defined as individuals born in the U.S. with at least one foreign-born parent) entering into marriage at a slower pace than their first generation immigrant (defined as those born outside the U.S. with foreign-born parents) peers?; 2) what role does marriage play in understanding immigrant offending?; and 3) is the relationship between marriage and offending conditioned by immigrant generation al sta tus and/ or country/region of birth (i.e., nativity)? To situate these findings in the larger body of research, we also examine a sample of native – born youth, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, for comparison purposes.

Our findings reveal important sim ilarities and differences between immigrant generations with respect to patterns of marriage and offending. First, counter to expectations of a “ retreat ” from marriage (i.e ., a declining rate) , we find that second generation immigrants marry at rates comparable to their White , Hispanic, and first generation immigrant peers. Second, consistent with previous research, we find that marriage is negatively related to crime for both first a nd second generation immigrants. However, t his ‘marriage effect’ is parti cularly strong the second generation.

NIJ Seeks Research Proposals — Exploratory Research on the Impact of the Growing Oil Industry in the Dakotas and Montana on Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking

July 10, 2013 Comments off

Exploratory Research on the Impact of the Growing Oil Industry in the Dakotas and Montana on Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

NIJ seeks applications for funding to support exploratory, mixed-methods research, employing both quantitative and qualitative data collection, related to the impact (if any) of the oil industry on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the Dakotas and Montana. Research proposed may be focused at the Federal, State, local, and/or tribal levels.

The growing oil industry in the Dakotas and Montana has generated tremendous opportunity and economic development. However, anecdotal information from meetings with public and private service providers and community members has revealed that the oil industry camps may be impacting domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the direct and surrounding communities in which they reside. Topics of particular interest discussed at these meetings include the issue of sexual assaults and lack of available shelter or safe housing options for victims of domestic violence. NIJ, in collaboration with the Office on Violence Against Women, is interested in gathering descriptive and statistical information related to the increase in oil workers in the Dakotas and Montana to document any changes in domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking trends and related calls for service, among other indicators. In addition, if pertinent to the proposed research, information mapping the layout and location of camps and associated demographics is encouraged.

National Institute of Justice Research Report: A Review of Gun Safety Technologies

July 9, 2013 Comments off

National Institute of Justice Research Report: A Review of Gun Safety Technologies (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

This Research Report is an assessment and market survey of existing and emerging gun safety technologies. It is an unbiased summary of technologies and the availability and use of those technologies to inform any future federal research and development strategy and innovation in gun safety technology.

The study was conducted in response to one of the President’s directives to reduce gun violence, specifically item 15: “Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.”

Solving Sexual Assaults: Finding Answers Through Research

July 24, 2012 Comments off

Solving Sexual Assaults: Finding Answers Through Research (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice Journal

It has been a headline-making story for the past few years: thousands of sexual assault evidence kits — untested — in police storage. In a few jurisdictions, lawmakers have responded to the outcry from victims and victim advocates by mandating that kits in all alleged sexual assaults be DNA tested.

But what do we know, empirically, about the value of DNA testing large numbers of sexual assault kits (SAKs) that have long been held in police property rooms? And what do we know, empirically, about the crime-solving utility of testing kits in all alleged sexual assaults?

One thing we know is that the probative value of forensic evidence in any crime, including sexual assault, depends largely on the circumstances of the case — pivotal in one, less important in another. If the perpetrator is a stranger to the victim, a DNA profile can be crucial in identifying the suspect and adjudicating the case. However, at least half of sexual assault victims know the perpetrator’s identity; if he admits sexual contact but claims it was consensual, DNA evidence may be of questionable value in adjudicating the case — although it could have value in uncovering serial so-called “acquaintance” rapes. And, finally, when sexual assault is perpetrated on a child, DNA evidence is vital in determining that a crime occurred.

In Search of a Job: Criminal Records as Barriers to Employment

July 7, 2012 Comments off

In Search of a Job: Criminal Records as Barriers to Employment
Source: National Institute of Justice

A new study shows that nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23.[ This record will keep many people from obtaining employment, even if they have paid their dues, are qualified for the job and are unlikely to reoffend. At the same time, it is the chance at a job that offers hope for people involved in the criminal justice system, as we know from research that stable employment is an important predictor of successful re-entry and desistance from crime.

Criminal records run the gamut — from one-time arrests where charges are dropped, to lengthy, serious and violent criminal histories. Most arrests are for relatively minor or nonviolent offenses. Among the nearly 14 million arrests recorded in 2009, only 4 percent were considered among the most serious violent crimes (which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault).

Another 10 percent of all arrests were for simple assault; these do not involve a weapon or aggravated injury but often include domestic violence and intimate partner violence. The remainder of the arrests in 2009 were for:

  • Property crimes, which accounted for 18 percent of arrests. These include burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, vandalism, stolen property, forgery and counterfeiting, fraud and embezzlement.
  • Drug offenses, which accounted for 12 percent of arrests. These include production, distribution or use of controlled substances.
  • Other offenses, which accounted for 56 percent of all arrests. These include disorderly conduct, drunkenness, prostitution, vagrancy, loitering, driving under the influence and weapons violations.

Although many of these “other” offenses are for behaviors that harm the community, they do not constitute the most serious violent offenses of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Furthermore, what is often forgotten is that many people who have been arrested — and, therefore, technically have a criminal record that shows up on a background check — were never convicted of a crime. This is true not only among those charged with minor crimes, but also for many individuals arrested for serious offenses. A snapshot of felony filings in the 75 largest counties, for example, showed that approximately one-third of felony arrests did not lead to conviction.

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook

May 24, 2012 Comments off

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook was developed for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) based on a recommendation from its Institutional Corrections Technology Working Group (TWG).The TWG, which consists of leaders from correctional agencies across the country, has recognized the growing importance of greening initiatives.

This guidebook provides correctional administrators with a brief, yet comprehensive and informative, view of sustainability-oriented green technologies. It reviews green technologies’ evolving role in correctional institutions and presents issues to consider when acquiring and implementing green technologies to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of resource use. It also addresses the opportunities and challenges involved in selecting and implementing green technologies in correctional settings.

The guidebook has seven chapters that provide information and insight into specific types of green tech- nologies.The authors selected these seven topical areas because they include most — although not all — of the green technologies in use in corrections in 2011. Subsections on future trends indicate possible additions and enhancements to the field.

Each chapter contains lists of specific technologies, including well-established and more traditional exam- ples, as well as emerging technologies that have proven effective in saving money and increasing the efficiency of resource use while protecting public safety and staff security.

A More Efficient Means to Collect & Process Reference DNA Samples

April 12, 2012 Comments off
Source:  National Institute of Justice
Federal funding made available by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) through the DNA Initiative helped states and local governments significantly increase the capacity of their DNA laboratories between 2005 and 2008 [2] . At the same time, the demand for DNA testing continues to rise, thus outweighing the capacity of some crime laboratories to process the increased number of samples being received. The demand is coming from two primary sources: (1) the increased amount of DNA evidence that is collected in criminal cases and (2) the expanded effort to collect DNA samples from convicted felons and arrested persons.
All states and the federal government have laws that require collecting DNA from convicted offenders. The federal government also requires collecting DNA from arrestees, a trend rapidly growing in many states. With nearly every state pursuing legislative expansion of their Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) databases, the need to implement the most efficient DNA testing methods possible is paramount. In addition, with the current economic situation affecting most every state, it is equally imperative to develop a cost effective means of performing DNA analysis on these samples. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) has proposed a research study that will provide a solution to both of these needs.
The objective of this research project was 1) to implement a new DNA buccal collection kit that is universal in use, provides a higher success rate on the first analysis attempt, all at a significant reduction in cost, and 2) develop a technique to process buccal swabs using the Identifiler® Direct amplification kit. This kit eliminates the need for the extraction step in the DNA analysis process, but is specifically designed for use on FTA® cards.

See also:  Tools for Improving the Quality of Aged, Degraded, Damaged, or Otherwise Compromised DNA Evidence (PDF)


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