Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Criminology & Public Policy

One of the reasons my latest career move has brought me to OK and corrections is the DOC director here, Justin Jones. This isn't just suck-up. Justin is someone who believes that data and research can and should inform correctional policy. And he doesn't just talk the talk. He's the co-author of a popular book on the work of P&P officers published by the American Probation and Parole Association. (I say "popular" in a relative sense, like this blog, although you may have seen the movie adaptation, with Rachel Griffiths, Rachel Leigh Cook, Evan Rachel Ward, and Jennifer Aniston.)

One of the first things Justin did when I got here was lend me his latest copy of Criminology & Social Policy. That's right, his copy. It was the May 2006 issue which features articles and commentaries on aftercare for boot camp participants (vital, do it) and on the impact of the Project Greenlight Reentry Project (too unfocused, didn't succeed, here's why). The lead articles and comments deal with the actual impact of our incarceration increases on later crime rates.

One article digs deeper than the national aggregate studies (that find small inverse relationships for imprisonment and crime---> first goes up, second goes down) and state level studies (which don't tend to confirm the national results). The authors look at statistical history of FL counties and find little relationship between crime rates and incarceration at that level, leading the authors to recommend that policymakers consider alternatives. The other article is one of those national level things, again finding an inverse link between prison and crime. But these authors document that the strongest links come early in the incarceration increases, with large diminishing returns thereafter. This confirms other work, such as that by the Washington State Institute on Public Policy, that sweeping up the really bad guys first, then being left with lesser (fewer tendencies, more treatable) fish becomes very cost-ineffective over time. The subsequent commentaries pull points together and add to the value and insights.

So, being a scholar and a suck-up, I subscribed to Criminology & Social Policy and just got my very own copy of May 2006, plus they kindly sent along the February 2006 volume. (Could they just have been cleaning out storage closets?) That, too, had some great articles and comments, if you're interested, including evaluations of the practical and ethical effects of electronic monitoring, dealing with HIV in prison, and the problems with female offender-specific policies in Canadian prisons (self-mutilation, in this case). The lead articles and commentaries focused on the way OR's punishment system adjusted to Measure 11 (1994) mandating penalties for a range of crimes beyond the state's guidelines requirements. The measure failed to have all the predicted negative impact because court practitioners gamed the new rules to get more historical results, which left more power with state prosecutors (shocker, there). These studies of system dynamics are key to understanding the potential of any new policies.

We'll try from time to time to give you a heads-up on journals with articles you may find interesting. Certainly a quick paragraph or two are insufficient, but publications like Crim & Soc Policy are easy to get. Spreading the word and increasing readership will help us all, so, if you see articles, journals, or books we need to let people know about, please get them to us.

And, if you see my boss and want to mention . . . .

CORRECTION: Thanks to Ruth Parlin for pointing out to me that the journal I am lauding so heavily here is mistitled in the post. It's Criminology & Public Policy, which has been changed in the post title but not in the text. I did this once in a book review for a journal, and, when the book's second edition came out, the author had changed the name to something completely different. Please don't do that, Crim & Pub Policy folks. It's just a guy who clearly doesn't learn well from mistakes. But we do appreciate the readers who alert us to these things (and frankly just who read us).

No comments: