Saturday, March 03, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, March 3, 2007


NCJ 217095
Michael P. Harrington ; Cassia Spohn
Defining Sentence Type: Further Evidence Against Use of the Total Incarceration Variable
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume:44 Issue:1 Dated:February 2007 Pages:36 to 63

The findings of the current study provide compelling evidence in support of Holleran and Spohn's contention that "separating jail sentences from prison sentences enhances our understanding of the sentencing process and the factors that affect the sentences that judges impose." The current study's findings show that the type of sentence imposed by judges reflected both legally relevant case characteristics and legally irrelevant offender characteristics. Regarding the latter effect, Black offenders were less likely than White offenders to be sentenced to probation rather than jail for similar offenses and legally relevant variables; however, Black offenders were less likely than White offenders to be sentenced to prison rather than jail. This confirms Holleran and Spohn's finding that factors affecting jail sentences were different from those that affected prison sentences, as well as their conclusion that offender characteristics such as race and ethnicity differed in their influence according to the way the sentence is defined. Further, the above finding in the current research referred only to male offenders. Female offenders of both races were more likely than male offenders of either race to receive probation, and they were less likely than males to receive jail or prison sentences. This study examined the sentencing decisions of judges in an urban county in the Midwestern United States. It applied the methods used by Holleran and Spohn in their examination of sentencing decisions in a jurisdiction with mandatory sentencing guidelines; however, the current study was conducted in a jurisdiction without sentencing guidelines. The data included information on all felony offenders bound over for trial in the county's district court in 2001. The final sample involved 1,487 cases. 4 tables, 7 notes, and 35 references

NCJ 217097
Thomas D. Stucky ; Karen Heimer ; Joseph B. Lang
Bigger Piece of the Pie?: State Corrections Spending and the Politics of Social Order
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume:44 Issue:1 Dated:February 2007 Pages:91 to 123

The dominant finding of this study was that partisan politics in a State significantly influenced the proportion of State expenditures on corrections. The study found that as the proportion of Republicans in the State legislature increased, so did the fraction of a State's budget spent on corrections. The party of the governor, however, did not affect corrections spending. There was no evidence that the ratio of liberal versus conservative ideology among the citizenry affected corrections spending. States that were more economically prosperous devoted larger shares of their budget to corrections, which parallels the findings of some research on imprisonment trends. States with budget priorities for education and public welfare had lower proportions of correctional spending. Increases in a relatively small proportion of Blacks in a State population were linked to more substantial increases in corrections spending; whereas, increases in a larger Black population showed smaller changes in a State's correctional expenditures. This suggests that as Blacks compose a larger percentage of the electorate, politicians are more responsive to their priorities. The study collected relevant data on the 49 States with bipartisan political systems from 1980 through 1998. The dependent variable was the proportion of total State expenditures devoted to corrections in each fiscal year. The independent variables measured pertained to politics and political ideology, economic prosperity, racial threat, budgetary priorities, crime rates, and imprisonment rates. Control variables focused on demographic characteristics. 2 tables, 23 notes, and 75 references

NCJ 217135
Diana Wendy M. Fitzgibbon
Risk Analysis and the New Practitioner: Myth or Reality?
Punishment & Society: the International Journal of Penology Volume:9 Issue:1 Dated:January 2007 Pages:87 to 97

Two main findings emerged from the research: (1) if risk assessment techniques are implemented under conditions of human and fiscal resource restraint, the techniques will be poorly implemented; and (2) risk assessments should be viewed as a supplement to traditional case work, not a replacement. The author argues that the shift to a risk assessment regime effectively deskilled the work of probation practitioners by substituting old casework skills with pre-formatted, standardized check-box assessment systems. The results also revealed that risk assessments were more accurate in the presence of a sustained and consistent relationship between the offender and the probation officer. In the cases under analysis, individual cases were handled by as many as five different officers. Moreover, probation officers failed to properly complete assessments, which resulted in a drift towards traditional criminal justice responses, such as incarceration. Most improperly completed assessments inflated the risk of probationers. The research involved two small pilot studies in a large metropolitan area that focused on the effectiveness of the new Offender Assessment System (OASys) currently in use in the English probation service. The analysis focused on whether the application of the OASys presupposed the casework skills the system was designed to replace and on whether deskilled practitioners working in fiscally tight times would inflate risk levels and mis-refer them to cognitive therapy programs. Three specific cases are analyzed involving: (1) an offender on probation for shoplifting and credit card offenses; (2) an offender on probation with a chronic addiction to heroin and crack cocaine; and (3) an offender on probation with severe depression and past suicide attempts. Notes, references

NCJ 217078
C. Strydom ; D. A. Louw
Prediction of Violent Behaviour: A Review of Methods, the Evaluation Process and Communication
Acta Criminologica Volume:19 Issue:3 Dated:2006 Pages:104 to 122

Currently, there is an apparent consensus among criminologists that the actuarial method (based on what has been scientifically and empirically proven) and clinical method (based on subjective observation and informal decisionmaking by experienced behavioral scientists), despite their inherent flaws, both contribute to the evaluation of violent behavior. Regarding recommended ways for communicating a person's risk of violence, the literature recommends two methods: making use of frequency scores and probability scores and using categories that vary from "low risk" to "high risk." Actuarial measuring instruments are particularly effective in predicting imminent, but less serious, violent reoffending, as well as violent behavior over the long term; however, the actuarial method of prediction is less accurate in cases of repetitive and serious sex offenses, and it cannot predict intrafamilial reoffending and the termination of reoffending. Clinical evaluations, on the other hand, are valuable in predicting behavior over the short term. A discussion of the evaluation process for predicting violent behavior addresses guidelines for the evaluation of potential perpetrators of violence and the effective communication of the results of such an evaluation. Six guidelines for evaluation pertain to information collection, the offender's insight regarding the occurrence and dynamics of his/her violent behavior, variables possibly linked to risky behavior, consultation with other professionals, development of a preventive/treatment plan, and the availability of sufficient time for a thorough evaluation. Some common errors in such evaluations are also identified. 96 references

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