1 Chapter 1: The Importance of Research Methods and Becoming an Informed Consumer of Research

CASE STUDY: Student Apprehension Regarding Research Methods

Research Study

Understanding and Measuring Student Apprehension in Criminal Justice Research Methods Courses1

Research Question

How do we measure disinterest, relevance argumentation, and math anxiety experienced by students enrolled in research methods courses?


It is said that “misery loves company,” so you are not alone in your apprehension and anxiety regarding your research methods course. The problem of student apprehension and anxiety related to taking a research methods course is not new and has been studied for over 25 years. Previously, such apprehension and anxiety appeared to be caused by math anxiety, especially as it applies to statistics. The authors of this article believe that student apprehension goes beyond math anxiety; that math anxiety is too simplistic of an explanation of student fear of research methods courses. Besides math anxiety, the researchers think that apprehension is caused by student indifference to the subject matter and irrelevance of the course because it does not apply to the “real world.” They state that student apprehension in research methods and statistics courses is due to three main factors:

Disinterest (D.);

Relevance Argumentation (RA.), and;

Math Anxiety (MA.).

Taken together, the reconceptualization is known as D.RA.MA., and the combination of these three factors constitutes the D.RA.MA. scale for research methods and statistics courses.

The researchers developed the D.RA.MA. scale by constructing survey questions to measure each factor in the scale (i.e., disinterest, relevance argumentation, and math anxiety). After they developed the survey, they tested it by distributing the survey to three criminal justice classes, totaling 80 students, from a midsized regional comprehensive university in the southern region of the United States. Higher scale scores demonstrate more disinterest, more relevance argumentation, or more math anxiety.


The D.RA.MA. scale consists of 20 survey questions. Ten questions were borrowed from an existing Math Anxiety scale developed by Betz2. The researchers then created five items to assess Disinterest and five items intended to measure Relevance Argumentation. The items for the D.RA.MA. scale are illustrated below.

Math Anxiety3

I usually have been at ease in math classes.

Math does not scare me at all.

I am no good at math.

I don’t think that I could do advanced math.

Generally, I have been secure about attempting math.

For some reason, even though I study, math seems unusually hard for me.

Math has been my worst subject.

My mind goes blank and I am unable to think clearly when working in mathematics.

I think I could handle more difficult math.

I am not the type to do well in mathematics.

Relevance Argumentation4

I will need research methods for my future work.

I view research methods as a subject that I will rarely use.

Research methods is not really useful for students who intend to work in Criminal Justice.

Knowing research methods will help me earn a living.

Research methods does not reflect the “real world.”

Research Disinterest5

I am excited about taking research methods.

It would not bother me at all to take more research methods courses.

I expect a research methods class to be boring.

I don’t expect to learn much in research methods.

I really don’t care if I learn anything in research methods, as long as I get the requirement completed.

The Math Anxiety Scale responses for the 80 students ranged from 0 to 30 with a mean of 14, demonstrating a moderate level of math anxiety among the study participants. The responses for Relevance Argumentation ranged from 0 to 12 with a mean of 5.4 while those for Disinterest ranged from 1 to 15 with a mean of 7.0, demonstrating a moderate level of disinterest and relevance argumentation among students regarding research methods. Based on these findings, the study demonstrated that student apprehension regarding research methods courses goes beyond math anxiety and includes two additional factors; disinterest in the subject matter and irrelevance of research methods to the “real world.”

Limitations with the Study Procedure

This research study was designed to develop a broader measure of student apprehension in criminal justice research methods courses. Moving beyond just math anxiety, the researchers accomplished their objective by developing the D.RA.MA. scale; adding disinterest and relevance argumentation to the understanding of student apprehension regarding research methods. As is true for all research, this study is not without limitations. The biggest limitation of this study is the limited sample size. Only 80 students completed the survey. Although this is certainly a good start, similar research (i.e., replication) needs to be completed with larger student samples in different locations throughout the country before the actual quality of the D.RA.MA. scale can be determined.

Impact on Criminal Justice

The D.RA.MA. scale developed in this study identifies disinterest and relevance argumentation, in addition to math anxiety, as part of student apprehension and resistance to research methods. A variety of instructional strategies can be inferred from the D.RA.MA. survey. However, it is important for professors to recognize that no single approach will reduce research methods resistance and apprehension for all students. For example, discussing research methods in a popular culture framework may resonate with students and lead to engaged students who are more interested in the subject matter and identify with the relevance of research methods to criminal justice in general and the future careers of students, in particular. This approach may provide an effective means for combating student disinterest and relevance argumentation in criminal justice research methods courses. At a minimum, it is critical for professors to explain the relevance of research methods to the policies and practices of police, courts, and corrections. Students need to realize that research methods are essential tools for assessing agency policies and practices. Professors will always have D.RA.MA.-plagued students, but recognizing the problem and then developing effective strategies to connect with these students is the challenge all professors face. Experimenting with a multitude of teaching strategies to alleviate the math anxiety, relevance argumentation, and disinterest of criminal justice research methods students will result in more effective teaching and learning.

In This Chapter You Will Learn

What research is and why it is important to be an informed consumer of research

The sources of knowledge development and problems with each

How research methods can dispel myths about crime and the criminal justice system

The steps in the research process

How research has impacted criminal justice operations


As noted in the chapter opening case study, it is expected that you have some anxiety and apprehension about taking this criminal justice research methods course. But, you have taken a significant step toward success in this course by opening up your research methods book, so congratulations are in order. You might have opened this book for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is the first day of class and you are ready to get started on the course material. Perhaps you have a quiz or exam soon. Perhaps the book has been gathering dust on your shelf since the first day of class and you are not doing well in your research methods class and are looking for the book to help with course improvement. Perhaps you are taking a research methods class in the future and are seeing if all the chatter among students is true.

No matter how you got here, two things are probably true. First, you are taking this research methods course because it is a requirement for your major. The bottom line is that most of the students who read this text are required to take a research methods course. While you may think studying research methods is irrelevant to your career goals, unnecessary, overly academic, or perhaps even intimidating, you probably must finish this course in order to graduate. Second, you have heard negative comments about this course. The negative comments mention the difficulty of the course and the relevance of the course (e.g., “I am going to be a police officer, so why do I need to take a research methods course?”). If you are like most students we have experienced in our research methods courses in the past, you are not initially interested in this course and are concerned about whether you will do well in it.

If you are concerned about the course, realize that you are not alone because most students are anxious about taking a research methods course. Also realize that your professor is well aware of student anxiety and apprehension regarding research methods. So, relax and do not think about the entire course and the entire book. Take the course content one chapter, one week at a time. One of the advantages of taking a research methods course is that you learn about the process of research methods. Each chapter builds upon the previous chapters, illustrating and discussing more about the research process. This is certainly an advantage, but it is also critical that you understand the initial chapters in this book so you are not confused with the content discussed in later chapters. In addition to anxiety and apprehension over the course material, research methods can be boring if you only read and learn about it with no particular purpose in mind. Although examples are prevalent throughout the book, as you read this material, it is recommended that you think about the relevancy and application of the topics covered in this book to your specific criminal justice interests. As you continue to read the book, think about how you might use the information you are reading in your current position or your intended profession.

The goal of this research methods book is to develop you into an informed consumer of research. Most, if not all, of your fellow classmates will never conduct their own research studies. However, every one of you will be exposed to research findings in your professional and personal lives for the remainder of your lives. You are exposed to research findings in the media (e.g., television, newspapers, and online), in personal interaction with others (e.g., friends and family, doctors, and professors), as well as in class. You should challenge yourself for this semester to keep a journal and document exposure to research in your daily life outside of college whether through the nightly news, newspapers, magazine articles, Internet, personal conversations, or other means. At the end of the semester, you will be amazed at the amount of research you are exposed to in a short period of time. This book is focused on research exposure and assisting you to become an educated consumer of research by providing you the skills necessary to differentiate between good and not so good research. Why should you believe research findings if the study is faulty? Without being an educated consumer of research, you will not be able to differentiate between useful and not useful research. This book is designed to remedy this problem.

This book was written to make your first encounter with research methods relevant and successful while providing you the tools necessary to become an educated consumer of research. Therefore, this book is written with the assumption that students have not had a prior class on research methods. In addition, this book assumes that practical and evaluative knowledge of research methods is more useful than theoretical knowledge of the development of research methods and the relationship between theory and research. Since the focus of this book is on consumerism, not researcher training, practical and evaluative knowledge is more useful than theoretical knowledge.

It is also important to understand that the professors who design academic programs in criminal justice at the associate and bachelor level believe that an understanding of research methods is important for students. That is why, more than likely, this research methods course is a required course in your degree program. These professors understand that a solid understanding of research methods will enrich the qualifications of students for employment and performance in their criminal justice careers.

As previously stated, the basic goal of this book is to make students, as future and possibly even current practitioners in the criminal justice system, better informed and more capable consumers of the results of criminal justice research. This goal is based on the belief that an understanding of research methods allows criminal justice practitioners to be better able to make use of the results of research as it applies to their work-related duties. In fact, thousands of research questions are asked and answered each year in research involving criminal justice and criminological topics. In addition, thousands of articles are published, papers presented at conferences, and reports prepared that provide answers to these questions. The ability to understand research gives practitioners knowledge of the most current information in their respective fields and the ability to use this knowledge to improve the effectiveness of criminal justice agencies.

How Do We Know What We Know? Sources of Knowledge

The reality is the understanding of crime and criminal justice system operations by the public is frequently the product of misguided assumptions, distorted interpretations, outright myths, and hardened ideological positions.6 This is a bold statement that basically contends that most people’s knowledge of crime and criminal justice is inaccurate. But, how do these inaccuracies occur? Most people have learned what they know about crime and criminal justice system operations through some other means besides scientific research results and findings. Some of that knowledge is based on personal experience and common sense. Much of it is based on the information and images supported by politicians, governmental agencies, and especially the media. This section will discuss the mechanisms used to understand crime and criminal justice operations by the public. It is important to note that although this section will focus on the failings of these knowledge sources, they each can be, and certainly are, accurate at times, and thus are valuable sources of knowledge.

Knowledge from Authority

We gain knowledge from parents, teachers, experts, and others who are in positions of authority in our lives. When we accept something as being correct and true just because someone in a position of authority says it is true, we are using what is referred to as authority knowledge as a means of knowing. Authorities often expend significant time and effort to learn something, and we can benefit from their experience and work.

However, relying on authority as a means of knowing has limitations. It is easy to overestimate the expertise of other people. A person’s expertise is typically limited to a few core areas of significant knowledge; a person is not an expert in all areas. More specifically, criminal justice professors are not experts on all topics related to criminal justice. One professor may be an expert on corrections but know little about policing. If this professor discusses topics in policing in which he is not an expert, we may still assume he is right when he may be wrong. Authority figures may speak on fields they know little about. They can be completely wrong but we may believe them because of their status as an expert. Furthermore, an expert in one area may try to use his authority in an unrelated area. Other times, we have no idea of how the experts arrived at their knowledge. We just know they are experts in the topic area.

As I am writing this, I recall an example of authority knowledge that was wrong during my police academy training in the late 1980s. My academy training was about four years after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tennessee v. Garner.7 In this case, the Court limited the use of deadly force by police to defense of life situations and incidents where the suspect committed a violent offense. Prior to the decision, the police in several states could use deadly force on any fleeing suspect accused of a felony offense. One day, the academy class was practicing mock traffic stops. During one of my mock traffic stops, I received information that the vehicle I stopped was stolen. The driver and passenger exited the vehicle and fled on foot. I did not use deadly force (this was a training exercise so was not real) against the suspects and was chastised by my instructor who insisted that I should have shot the suspects as they were fleeing. Training instructors, just like professors, convey authority knowledge but, in this case, the instructor was wrong. I was not legally authorized to use deadly force in the traffic stop scenario despite the insistence of my instructor to the contrary.

Politicians are sometimes taken as a source of authority knowledge about the law, crime, and criminal justice issues. Since they enact laws that directly impact the operations of the criminal justice system, we may assume they are an authority on crime and criminal justice. More specifically, we may assume that politicians know best about how to reduce crime and increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. However, history is rife with laws that sounded good on paper but had no impact on crime. For example, there is little evidence that sex offender registration protects the public from sexual predators or acts as a deterrent to repeat sex offenders even though every state has a law requiring convicted sex offenders to register with local authorities. Perhaps politicians are not the criminal justice experts some perceive them to be.

History is also full of criminal justice authorities that we now see as being misinformed. For example, Cesare Lombroso is the father of the positivist school of criminology. He is most readily recognized for his idea that some individuals are born criminal. He stated that criminals have certain unique biological characteristics, including large protruding jaws, high foreheads, flattened noses, and asymmetrical faces, to name a few.8 These characteristics were similar to those found in primitive humans. Therefore, Lombroso argued that some individuals were genetic “throwbacks” to a more primitive time and were less evolved than other people and thus, were more likely to be criminals. Lombroso’s research has been discredited because he failed to compare criminals with noncriminals. By studying only criminals, he found characteristics that were common to criminals. However, if Lombroso had studied a group of noncriminals, he would have discovered that these biological characteristics are just as prevalent among noncriminals. This example involves authority knowledge that is supported by research but the research methods used were flawed. The errors of Lombroso seem obvious now, but what do we know today through authority knowledge that is inaccurate or will be proven wrong in the future?

Knowledge from Tradition

In addition to authority knowledge, people often rely on tradition for knowledge. Tradition knowledge relies on the knowledge of the past. Individuals accept something as true because that is the way things have always been so it must be right. A good example of tradition knowledge is preventive/random patrol. Ever since vehicles were brought into the police patrol function, police administrators assumed that having patrol officers drive around randomly in the communities they serve, while they are not answering calls for service, would prevent crime. If you were a patrol officer in the early 1970s and asked your supervisor, “Why do I drive around randomly throughout my assigned area when I am not answering a call for service?” the answer would have been, “That is the way we have always done patrol and random patrol reduces crime through deterrence.” The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment challenged the tradition knowledge that preventive/random patrol reduces crime. The results of the study made it clear that the traditional practice of preventive/random patrol had little to no impact on reducing crime. This allowed police departments to develop other patrol deployment strategies such as directed patrol and “hot spots” policing since preventive patrol was seen as ineffective. The development of effective patrol deployment strategies continues today.

Knowledge from Common Sense

We frequently rely on common sense knowledge for what we know about crime and the criminal justice system because it “just makes sense.” For example, it “just makes sense” that if we send juvenile delinquents on a field trip to prison where they will see first hand the prison environment as well as be yelled at by actual prisoners, they will refrain from future delinquency. That is exactly what the program Scared Straight, originally developed in the 1970s, is designed to do. Scared Straight programs are still in existence today and are even the premise for the television show Beyond Scared Straight on the A&E television network. As originally created, the program was designed to decrease juvenile delinquency by bringing at-risk and delinquent juveniles into prison where they would be “scared straight” by inmates serving life sentences. Participants in the program were talked to and yelled at by the inmates in an effort to scare them. It was believed that the fear felt by the participants would lead to a discontinuation of their delinquent behavior so that they would not end up in prison themselves. This sounds like a good idea. It makes sense, and the program was initially touted as a success due to anecdotal evidence based on a few delinquents who turned their lives around after participation in the program.

However, evaluations of the program and others like it showed that the program was in fact unsuccessful. In the initial evaluation of the Scared Straight program, Finckenauer used a classic experimental design (discussed in Chapter 5), to evaluate the original “Lifer’s Program” at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey where the program was initially developed.13 Juveniles were randomly assigned to an experimental group that attended the Scared Straight program and a control group that did not participate in the program. Results of the evaluation were not positive. Post-test measures revealed that juveniles who were assigned to the experimental group and participated in the program were actually more seriously delinquent afterwards than those who did not participate in the program. Also using an experimental design with random assignment, Yarborough evaluated the “Juvenile Offenders Learn Truth” (JOLT) program at the State Prison of Southern Michigan at Jackson.14 This program was similar to that of the “Lifer’s Program,” only with fewer obscenities used by inmates. Post-test measurements were taken at two intervals, three and six months after program completion. Again, results were not positive. Findings revealed no significant differences in delinquency between those juveniles who attended the program and those who did not. Other experiments conducted on Scared Straight-type programs further revealed their inability to deter juveniles from further delinquency.15 Despite the common sense popularity of these programs, the evaluations showed that Scared Straight programs do not reduce delinquency and, in some instances, may actually increase delinquency. The programs may actually do more harm than good. I guess that begs the question, “Why do we still do these types of programs?”

Scared Straight programs and other widely held common sense beliefs about crime and the criminal justice system are questionable, based on the available research evidence. Common sense is important in our daily lives and is frequently correct, but, at times, it also contains inaccuracies, misinformation, and even prejudice.


Is It Safe to Put Felons on Probation?

Research Study9

In the mid-1970s, the number of offenders on probation began to significantly increase. By the mid-1980s, probation was the most frequently used sentence in most states and its use was becoming more common for felons, whereas previously, probation was typically limited to misdemeanor crimes and offenses committed by juveniles. Increasing numbers of felony offenders were being placed on probation because judges had no other alternative forms of punishment. Prisons were already operating above capacity due to rising crime rates. Despite the increase in the use of probation in the 1980s, few empirical studies of probation (particularly its use with felony offenders) had been published. In the early 1980s, the Rand Corporation conducted an extensive study of probation to learn more about the offenders sentenced to probation and the effectiveness of probation as a criminal sanction. At the time the study began, over one-third of California’s probation population were convicted felons.10 This was the first large-scale study of felony probation.

Research Question

Is it safe to put felons on probation?


Data for the study were obtained from the California Board of Prison Terms (CBPT). The Board had been collecting comprehensive data on all offenders sentenced to prison since 1978 and on a sample of adult males from 17 counties who received probation. From these two data sources, researchers selected a sample of male offenders who had been convicted of the following crimes: robbery, assault, burglary, theft, forgery, and drug offenses. These crimes were selected because an offender could receive either prison or probation if convicted. Approximately 16,500 male felony offenders were included in the study. For each offender, researchers had access to their personal characteristics, information on their crimes, court proceedings, and disposition.


Two main research questions were answered in this study. First, what were the recidivism rates for felony offenders who received probation? When assessing recidivism rates, the study found that the majority of offenders sentenced to probation recidivated during the follow-up period, which averaged 31 months. Overall, 65% of the sample of probationers were re-arrested and 51 % were charged with and convicted of another offense. A total of 18% were convicted of a violent crime.

The second research question asked, what were the characteristics of the probationers who recidivated? Property offenders were more likely to recidivate compared to violent or drug offenders. Researchers also discovered that probationers tended to recidivate by committing the same crime that placed them on probation. Rand researchers included time to recidivism in their analysis and found that property and violent offenders recidivated sooner than drug offenders. The median time to the first filed charge was five months for property offenders and eight months for violent offenders.

Limitations with the Study Procedure

The issue of whether or not the findings would generalize to other counties in California and to other states was raised. Data for the study came from probation and prison records from two counties in California. These two counties were not randomly selected, but were chosen because of their large probation populations and the willingness of departments to provide information. Further, the probation departments in these counties had experienced significant budget cuts. Supervision may have become compromised as a result and this could have explained why these counties had high rates of recidivism. Studies of probation recidivism in other states have found recidivism rates to be much lower, suggesting the Rand results may not have applied elsewhere.11 Several studies examining the effectiveness of probation and the factors correlated with probation outcomes were published after 1985. Much of this research failed to produce results consistent with the Rand study.

Impact on Criminal Justice

The Rand study of felony probation received a considerable amount of attention within the field of corrections. According to one scholar, the study was acclaimed as “the most important criminological research to be reported since World War II.”12 The National Institute of Justice disseminated the report to criminal justice agencies across the country and even highlighted the study in their monthly newsletter. Today, the study remains one of the most highly cited pieces of corrections research.

According to Rand researchers, these findings raised serious doubts about the effectiveness of probation for felony offenders. Most of the felons sentenced to probation recidivated and researchers were unable to develop an accurate prediction model to improve the courts’ decision-making. The continued use of probation as a sanction for felony offenders appeared to be putting the public at risk. However, without adequate prison space, the courts had no other alternatives besides probation when sentencing offenders.

The researchers made several recommendations to address the limitations of using probation for felony offenders. First, it was recommended that states formally acknowledge that the purpose of probation had changed. Probation was originally used as a means of furthering the goal of rehabilitation in the correctional system. As the United States moved away from that goal in the late 1960s, the expectations of probation changed. Probation was now used as a way to exercise “restrictive supervision” over more serious offenders. Second, probation departments needed to redefine the responsibilities of their probation officers. Probation officers were now expected to be surveillance officers instead of treatment personnel, which required specialized training. In addition, states needed to explore the possibility of broadening the legal authority of its probation officers by allowing them to act as law enforcement officers if necessary. Third, states were advised to adopt a formal client management system that included risk/need assessments of every client. Such a system would help establish uniform, consistent treatment of those on probation and would also help departments allocate their resources efficiently and effectively. Fourth, researchers encouraged states to develop alternative forms of community punishment that offered more public protection than regular probation, which led to the development and use of intensive supervision probation, house arrest, electronic monitoring, day reporting centers, and other intermediate punishments.

Knowledge from Personal Experience

If you personally see something or if it actually happens to you, then you are likely to accept it as true and gain knowledge from the experience. Gaining knowledge through actual experiences is known as personal experience knowledge, and it has a powerful and lasting impact on everyone. Personal experiences are essential building blocks of knowledge and of what we believe to be true. The problem with knowledge gained from personal experiences is that personal experiences can be unique and unreliable, which can distort reality and lead us to believe things that are actually false.

How can events that someone personally experienced be wrong? The events are not wrong. Instead, the knowledge gained from the experience is wrong. For example, the research consistently shows that a person’s demeanor significantly impacts the decision-making of police officers. During a traffic stop, if a person is rude, disrespectful, and uncooperative to the officer, then the driver is more likely to receive a traffic citation than a warning. That is what the research on police discretion shows. However, if a person was rude and uncooperative to a police officer during a traffic stop and was let go without a citation, the person will gain knowledge from this personal experience. The knowledge gained may include that being disrespectful during future traffic stops will get this person out of future tickets. Not likely. The event is not wrong. Instead, the knowledge gained from the experience is wrong because being disrespectful to the police usually leads to more enforcement action taken by the police, not less.

As a student in criminal justice, you have probably experienced something similar in interaction with friends, relatives, and neighbors. Your knowledge of criminal justice that you have developed in your criminal justice classes is trumped by one experience your friend, relative, or neighbor had with the criminal justice system. They believe they are right because they experienced it. However, there are four errors that occur in the knowledge gained from personal experiences: overgeneralization, selective observation, illogical reasoning, and resistance to change.

Overgeneralization happens when people conclude that what they have observed in one or a few cases is true for all cases. For example, you may see that a wealthy businesswomen in your community is acquitted of bribery and may conclude that “wealthy people, especially women, are never convicted in our criminal justice system,” which is an overgeneralization. It is common to draw conclusions about people and society from our personal interactions, but, in reality, our experiences are limited because we interact with just a small percentage of people in society.

The same is true for practitioners in the criminal justice system. Practitioners have a tendency to believe that because something was done a particular way in their agency, it is done that way in all agencies. That may not be true. Although there are certainly operational similarities across criminal justice agencies, there are also nuances that exist across the over 50,000 criminal justice agencies in the United States. Believing that just because it was that way in your agency, it must be that way in all agencies leads to overgeneralization.

Selective observation is choosing, either consciously or unconsciously, to pay attention to and remember events that support our personal preferences and beliefs. In fact, with selective observation, we will seek out evidence that confirms what we believe to be true and ignore the events that provide contradictory evidence. We are more likely to notice pieces of evidence that reinforce and support our ideology. As applied to the criminal justice system, when we are inclined to be critical of the criminal justice system, it is pretty easy to notice its every failing and ignore its successes. For example, if someone believes the police commonly use excessive force, the person is more likely to pay attention to and remember a police brutality allegation on the nightly news than a police pursuit that led to the apprehension of the suspect without incident on the same nightly news. As another example, if you believe treatment efforts on sex offenders are futile, you will pay attention to and remember each sex offender you hear about that recidivates but will pay little attention to any successes. It is easy to find instances that confirm our beliefs, but with selective observation, the complete picture is not being viewed. Therefore, if we only acknowledge the events that confirm our beliefs and ignore those that challenge them, we are falling victim to selective observation.

Besides selective observation, some of our observations may simply be wrong. Consider eyewitness identification. It is a common practice in the criminal justice system, but research has consistently demonstrated inaccuracies in eyewitness identification. The witness feels certain that the person viewed is the person who committed the offense, but sometimes the witness is wrong. Even when our senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell are fully operational, our minds have to interpret what we have sensed, which may lead to an inaccurate observation.


When Your Criminal Past Isn’t Yours16

The business of background checks on prospective employees is increasing significantly. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, since the events of September 11, 2001, the percentage of companies that conduct criminal history checks during the hiring process has risen past 90%. Employers spend at least $2 billion a year to look into the pasts of their prospective employees. Problems with the business of background checks were identified through research that included a review of thousands of pages of court filings and interviews with dozens of court officials, data providers, lawyers, victims, and regulators.

The business of background checks is a system weakened by the conversion to digital files and compromised by the significant number of private companies that profit by amassing public records and selling them to employers. The private companies create a system in which a computer program scrapes the public files of court systems around the country to retrieve personal data. Basically, these are automated data-mining programs. Today, half the courts in the United States put criminal records on their public websites. So, the data are there for the taking, but the records that are retrieved typically are not checked for errors—errors that would be obvious to human eyes.

The errors can start with a mistake entered into the logs of a law enforcement agency or a court file. The biggest culprits, though, are companies that compile databases using public information. In some instances, their automated formulas misinterpret the information provided them. Other times, records wind up assigned to the wrong people with a common name. Furthermore, when a government agency erases a criminal conviction after a designated period of good behavior, many of the commercial databases don’t perform the updates required to purge offenses that have been removed from public record. It is clear that these errors can have substantial ramifications, including damaged reputations and loss of job opportunities.

Illogical reasoning occurs when someone jumps to premature conclusions or presents an argument that is based on invalid assumptions. Premature conclusions occur when we feel we have the answer based on a few pieces of evidence and do not need to seek additional information that may invalidate our conclusion. Think of a detective who, after examining only a few pieces of evidence, quickly narrows in on a murder suspect. It is common for a detective to assess the initial evidence and make an initial determination of who committed the murder. However, it is hoped that the detective will continue to sort through all the evidence for confirmation or rejection of his original conclusion regarding the murder suspect. Illogical reasoning by jumping to premature conclusions is common in everyday life. We look for evidence to confirm or reject our beliefs and stop when a small amount of evidence is present; we jump to conclusions. If a person states, “I know four people who have dropped out of high school, and each one of them ended up addicted to drugs, so all dropouts abuse drugs,” the person is jumping to conclusions.

Illogical reasoning also occurs when an argument, based on invalid assumptions, is presented. Let’s revisit the Scared Straight example previously discussed. Program developers assumed that brief exposure to the harsh realities of prison would deter juveniles from future delinquency. The Scared Straight program is an example of illogical reasoning. Four hours of exposure to prison life is not going to counteract years of delinquency and turn a delinquent into a nondelinquent. The program is based on a false assumption and fails to recognize the substantial risk factors present in the lives of most delinquents that must be mediated before the juvenile can live a crime-free lifestyle. A fear of prison, developed through brief exposure, is not enough to counteract the risk factors present in the lives of most delinquents. Although the Scared Straight program sounds good, it is illogical to assume that a brief experience with prison life will have a stronger impact on the decisions made by delinquents than peer support for delinquency, drug abuse, lack of education, poor parental supervision, and other factors that influence delinquency.

Resistance to change is the reluctance to change our beliefs in light of new, accurate, and valid information to the contrary. Resistance to change is common and it occurs for several reasons. First, even though our personal experience may be counter to our belief system, it is hard to admit we were wrong after we have taken a position on an issue. Even when the research evidence shows otherwise, people who work within programs may still believe they are effective. As previously stated, even though the research evidence shows otherwise, Scared Straight programs still exist and there is even a television show devoted to the program. Second, too much devotion to tradition and the argument that this is the way it has always been done inhibits change and hinders our ability to accept new directions and develop new knowledge. Third, uncritical agreement with authority inhibits change. Although authority knowledge is certainly an important means of gaining knowledge, we must critically evaluate the ideas, beliefs, and statements of those in positions of authority and be willing to challenge those statements where necessary. However, people often accept the beliefs of those in positions of authority without question, which hinders change.

Knowledge from Media Portrayals

Television shows, movies, websites, newspapers, and magazine articles are important sources of information. This is especially true for information about crime and the criminal justice system since most people have not had much contact with criminals or the criminal justice system. Instead of gaining knowledge about the criminal justice system through personal experience, most people learn about crime and the operations of the criminal justice system through media outlets. Since the primary goal of many of these media outlets is to entertain, they may not accurately reflect the reality of crime and criminal justice. Despite their inaccuracies, the media has a substantial impact on what people know about crime and the criminal justice system. Most people know what they know about crime and criminal justice through the media, and this knowledge even has an impact on criminal justice system operations.

An example of the potential impact of the media on the actual operations of the criminal justice system involves the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation television shows. The shows have been criticized for their unrealistic portrayal of the role of forensic science in solving criminal cases. Critics claim that CSI viewers accept what they see on the show as an accurate representation of how forensic science works. When summoned for jury duty, they bring with them unrealistic expectations of the forensic evidence they will see in trial. When the expected sophisticated forensic evidence is not presented in the real trial, the juror is more likely to vote to acquit the defendant. This phenomenon is known as the CSI Effect. Has the research shown that the CSI Effect exists and is impacting the criminal justice system? Most of the research shows that the CSI Effect does not exist and thus does not impact juror decision-making, but other research has shown that viewers of CSI have higher expectations related to evidence presented at trial.17

There are several instances in which media attention on a particular topic created the idea that a major problem existed when it did not. An example is Halloween sadism. Halloween sadism is the practice of giving contaminated treats to children during trick or treating.18 In 1985, Joel Best wrote an article entitled, “The Myth of the Halloween Sadist.”19 His article reviewed press coverage of Halloween sadism in the leading papers in the three largest metropolitan areas (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune) from 1958–1984. Although the belief in Halloween sadism is widespread, Best found few reported incidents and few reports of children being injured by Halloween sadism. Follow-ups on these reported incidents led to the conclusion that most of these reports were hoaxes. Best concluded, “I have been unable to find a substantiated report of a child being killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick or treating.”20 Since 1985, Best has kept his research up to date and has come to the same conclusion. Halloween sadism is an urban legend; it is a story that is told as true, even though there is little or no evidence that the events in the story ever occurred.

Dispelling Myths: The Power of Research Methods

In the prior section, sources of knowledge were discussed along with the limitations of each. A researcher (e.g., criminologist), ideally, takes no knowledge claim for granted, but instead relies on research methods to discover the truth. In the attempt to generate new knowledge, a researcher is skeptical of knowledge that is generated by the sources discussed in the prior section, and this skepticism leads to the questioning of conventional thinking. Through this process, existing knowledge claims are discredited, modified, or substantiated. Research methods provide the researcher with the tools necessary to test current knowledge and discover new knowledge.

Although knowledge developed through research methods is by no means perfect and infallible, it is definitely a more systematic, structured, precise, and evidence-based process than the knowledge sources previously discussed. However, researchers should not dismiss all knowledge from the prior sources discussed, because, as mentioned, these sources of knowledge are sometimes accurate and certainly have their place in the development of knowledge. Researchers should guard against an elitist mind-set in which all knowledge, unless it is research-based knowledge, is dismissed.

To further discuss the importance of research methods in the development of knowledge, this section will discuss myths about crime and criminal justice. Myths are beliefs that are based on emotion rather than rigorous analysis. Take the myth of the Halloween sadist previously discussed. Many believe that there are real examples of children being harmed by razor blades, poison, or other nefarious objects placed in Halloween candy. This belief has changed the practices of many parents on Halloween; not allowing their children to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood and forbidding them from going to the doors of strangers. After careful analysis by Best, there is not a single, known example of children being seriously injured or killed by contaminated candy given by strangers. The Halloween sadist is a myth but it is still perpetuated today, and as the definition states, it is a belief based upon emotion rather than rigorous analysis. People accept myths as accurate knowledge of reality when, in fact, the knowledge is false.

The power of research is the ability to dispel myths. If someone were to assess the research literature on a myth or do their own research, she would find that the knowledge based on the myth is wrong. Perceived reality is contradicted by the facts developed through research. But that does not mean that the myth still doesn’t exist. It is important to keep in mind that the perpetuation and acceptance of myths by the public, politicians, and criminal justice personnel has contributed to the failure of criminal justice practices and policies designed to reduce crime and improve the operations of the criminal justice system. In this section, a detailed example of a myth about crime, police, courts, and corrections will be presented to demonstrate how the myth has been dispelled through research. In addition, several additional myths about crime, police, courts, and corrections will be briefly presented.


The Health Benefits of Alcohol Consumption21

The press release from Oregon State University is titled “Beer Compound Shows Potent Promise in Prostate Cancer Battle.” The press release leads to several newspaper articles throughout the country written on the preventative nature of drinking beer on prostate cancer development with titles such as “Beer Protects Your Prostate” and “Beer May Help Men Ward Off Prostate Cancer.” By the titles alone, this sounds great; one of the main ingredients in beer appears to thwart prostate cancer.

The study that generated these headlines was conducted by a group of researchers at Oregon State University using cultured cells with purified compounds in a laboratory setting. The research showed that xanthohumol, a compound found in hops, slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells and also the growth of cells that cause enlarged prostates. But you would have to drink more than 17 pints of beer to consume a medically effective dose of xanthohumol, which is almost a case of beer. In addition, although the research is promising, further study is necessary to determine xanthohumol’s true impact on prostate cancer.

These are the types of headlines that people pay attention to and want to believe as true, even if disproven by later research. People want to believe that there are health benefits to alcohol consumption. You have probably heard about the health benefits of drinking red wine, but here is something you should consider. Recently, the University of Connecticut released a statement describing an extensive research misconduct investigation involving a member of its faculty. The investigation was sparked by an anonymous allegation of research irregularities. The comprehensive report of the investigation, which totals approximately 60,000 pages, concludes that the professor is guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data. The professor had gained international notoriety for his research into the beneficial properties of resveratrol, which is found in red wine, especially its impact on aging. Obviously, this throws his research conclusions, that red wine has a beneficial impact on the aging process, into question.

Myths about Crime—Drug Users Are Violent

The myth of drug users as violent offenders continues to be perpetuated by media accounts of violent drug users. The public sees drug users as violent offenders who commit violent crimes to get money for drugs or who commit violent crimes while under the intoxicating properties of drugs. The public also recognizes the violent nature of the drug business with gangs and cartels using violence to protect their turf. In May 2012, extensive media attention was given to the case of the Miami man who ate the face of a homeless man for an agonizing 18 minutes until police shot and killed the suspect. The police believed that the suspect was high on the street drug known as “bath salts.” This horrific case definitely leaves the image in the public’s mind about the relationship between violence and drug use.

In recent years, media reports have focused on the relationship between methamphetamine use and violence; before then it was crack cocaine use and violence.32 However, media portrayals regarding the violent tendencies of drug users date back to the 1930s and the release of Reefer Madness. In 1985, Goldstein suggested that drugs and violence could be related in three different ways:

1. violence could be the direct result of drug ingestion;

2. violence could be a product of the instability of drug market activity; and

3. violence could be the consequence of people having a compulsive need for drugs or money for drugs.33

So, what does the research show? Studies have found that homicides related to crack cocaine were usually the product of the instability of drug market activity (i.e., buying and selling drugs can be a violent activity) and rarely the result of drug ingestion.34 After an extensive review of research studies on alcohol, drugs, and violence, Parker and Auerhahn concluded, “Despite a number of published statements to the contrary, we find no significant evidence suggesting that drug use is associated with violence. There is substantial evidence to suggest that alcohol use is significantly associated with violence of all kinds.”35 The reality is not everyone who uses drugs becomes violent and users who do become violent do not do so every time they use drugs; therefore, the relationship between violence and drug use is a myth.


Some additional myths about crime that research does not support include:

•Crime statistics accurately show what crimes are being committed and what crimes are most harmful.22

•Most criminals—especially the dangerous ones—are mentally ill.23

•White-collar crime is only about financial loss and does not hurt anyone.24

•Serial murderers are middle-aged, white males.25

•Criminals are significantly different from noncriminals.26

•People are more likely to be a victim of violent crime committed by a stranger than by someone they know.27

•Older adults are more likely to be victimized than people in any other age group.28

•Sex offender registration protects the public from sexual predators.29

•Juvenile crime rates are significantly increasing.30

•Only the most violent juveniles are tried as adults.31

Myths about Police—Female Police Officers Do Not Perform as Well as Males

Female police officers still face the myth that they cannot perform as well as male police officers. Throughout history, females have faced significant difficulties even becoming police officers. In the past, it was common for police agencies to require all police applicants to meet a minimum height requirement to be considered for employment. The minimum height requirement was 5′8″ for most agencies, which limited the ability of females to successfully meet the minimum standards to become a police officer. Even if women could meet the minimum height requirements, they were typically faced with a physical-abilities test that emphasized upper body strength (e.g., push-ups and bench presses). Women failed these tests more often than men, and thus were not eligible to be police officers. Minimum height requirements are no longer used in law enforcement, but the perception that female police officers are not as good as males still exists. Today, the myth that women cannot be effective police officers is based largely on the belief that the need to demonstrate superior physical strength is a daily, common occurrence in law enforcement along with the belief that police work is routinely dangerous, violent, and crime-related.

So, what does the research show? On occasion, it is useful for police officers to be able to overpower suspects by demonstrating superior physical strength, but those types of activities are rare in law enforcement. In addition, it is fairly rare for a police officer to have to deal with a dangerous and violent encounter or even an incident involving a crime. The Police Services Study conducted in the 1970s analyzed 26,418 calls for service in three metropolitan areas and found that only 19% of calls for service involve crime and only 2% of the total calls for service involve violent crime.43 This research study was among the first to assess the types of calls for service received by police agencies.

Despite the belief that women do not make good police officers, consistent research findings show that women are extremely capable as police officers, and in some respects, outperform their male counterparts.44 Research has demonstrated several advantages to the hiring, retention, and promotion of women in law enforcement. First, female officers are as competent as their male counterparts. Research does not show any consistent differences in how male and female patrol officers perform their duties. Second, female officers are less likely to use excessive force. Research has shown that female patrol officers are less likely to be involved in high-speed pursuits, incidents of deadly force, and the use of excessive force. Female officers are more capable at calming potentially violent situations through communication and also demonstrate heightened levels of caution. Third, female officers can help implement community-oriented policing. Studies have shown that female officers are more supportive of the community-policing philosophy than are their male counterparts. Fourth, female officers can improve law enforcement’s response to violence against women. Studies have shown that female officers are more patient and understanding in handling domestic violence calls, and female victims of domestic violence are more likely to provide positive evaluations of female officers than their male counterparts.52


Some additional myths about the police that research does not support include:

•Police target minorities for traffic stops and arrests.36

•Most crimes are solved through forensic science.37

•COMPSTAT reduces crime.38

•Intensive law enforcement efforts at the street level will lead to the control of illicit drug use and abuse.39

•Police work primarily entails responding to crimes in progress or crimes that have just occurred.40

•Police presence reduces crime.41

•Detectives are most responsible for solving crimes and arresting offenders.42

Myths about Courts—The Death Penalty Is Administered Fairly

According to a recent Gallup poll, 52% of Americans say the death penalty is applied fairly in the United States, the lowest mark in almost 40 years.53 The issue of fairness and the death penalty typically concerns whether the punishment is equally imposed on offenders who are equally deserving based on legal factors (i.e., similar offense, similar prior criminal history, similar aggravating circumstances, and similar mitigating circumstances).54 Unfairness can be shown if similarly situated offenders are more or less likely to receive death sentences based on age, gender, and race.

So, what does the research show? First, has research shown that a defendant’s age influences his or her chances of being sentenced to death? A study of about 5,000 homicides, controlling for legally relevant variables, found that defendants over the age of 25 were more than twice as likely to receive the death penalty in comparison to those 25 years of age or younger.55

Second, has research shown that a defendant’s gender influences his or her chance of being sentenced to death? Capital punishment is almost exclusively reserved for male defendants. On December 31, 2010, there were 3,158 prisoners under a sentence of death in the United States: 58 were women, or 1.8%.56 However, women account for 10–12% of all murders in the United States.57 One research study found that male defendants were 2.6 times more likely than females to receive a death sentence after controlling for legally relevant factors.58

Third, has research shown that a defendant’s race influences his or her chance of being sentenced to death? Most of the research on the biased nature of the death penalty has focused on racial inequities in the sentence. Although some research has shown that a defendant’s race has an impact on the likelihood of receiving a death sentence, a significant amount of research has shown that the race of the victim has the most substantial impact on death sentences. The research evidence clearly shows that offenders who murder white victims are more likely to receive a death sentence than offenders who murder black victims.59 When assessing the race of both the victim and offender, the composition most likely to receive the death penalty is when a black offender murders a white victim.60


Some additional myths about courts that research does not support include:

•Many criminals escape justice because of the exclusionary rule.45

•Subjecting juvenile offenders to harsh punishments can reduce crime committed by juveniles.46

•Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of imprisonment and harsh punishment for offenders.47

•The death penalty brings closure and a sense of justice to the family and friends of murder victims.48

•Insanity is a common verdict in criminal courts in the United States.49

•Eyewitness identification is reliable evidence.50

•Most people who commit crimes based on hatred, bias, or discrimination face hate crime charges and longer sentencing.51

Myths about Corrections—Imprisonment Is the Most Severe Form of Punishment

It seems clear that besides the death penalty, the most severe punishment available in our criminal justice system is to lock up offenders in prison. On a continuum, it is perceived that sentence severity increases as one moves from fines, to probation, to intermediate sanctions such as boot camps, and finally, to incarceration in prison. The public and politicians support this perception as well.

So, what does the research show? What do criminals think is the most severe form of punishment? A growing body of research has assessed how convicted offenders perceive and experience the severity of sentences in our criminal justice system.61 Research suggests that alternatives to incarceration in prison (i.e., probation and intermediate sanctions) are perceived by many offenders as more severe due to a greater risk of program failure (e.g., probation revocation). In comparison, serving prison time is easier.62 

For example, one study found that about one-third of nonviolent offenders given the option of participating in an Intensive Supervision Probation (ISP) program, chose prison instead because the prospects of working every day and submitting to random drug tests was more punitive than serving time in prison.73 Prisoners also stated that they would likely be caught violating probation conditions (i.e., high risk of program failure) and be sent to prison anyway.74 In another research study involving survey responses from 415 inmates serving a brief prison sentence for a nonviolent crime, prison was considered the eighth most severe sanction, with only community service and probation seen as less punitive. Electronic monitoring (seventh), intensive supervision probation (sixth), halfway house (fifth), intermittent incarceration (fourth), day reporting (third), county jail (second), and boot camp (first) were all rated by inmates as more severe sanctions than prison.75


Some additional myths about corrections that research does not support include:

•Punishing criminals reduces crime.63

•Prisons are too lenient in their day-to-day operations (prisons as country clubs).64

•Prisons can be self-supporting if only prisoners were forced to work.65

•Private prisons are more cost effective than state-run prisons.66

•Focus of community corrections is rehabilitation rather than punishment.67

•Correctional rehabilitation does not work.68

•Drug offenders are treated leniently by the criminal justice system.69

•Most death row inmates will be executed eventually.70

•If correctional sanctions are severe enough, people will think twice about committing crimes.71

•Sexual violence against and exploitation of inmates of the same gender are primarily the result of lack of heterosexual opportunities.72

What is Research and Why is It Important to be an Informed Consumer of Research?

We probably should have started the chapter with the question “What is research?” but we wanted to initially lay a foundation for the question with a discussion of the problems with how knowledge is developed and the power of research in discovering the truth. Research methods are tools that allow criminology and criminal justice researchers to systematically study crime and the criminal justice system. The study of research methods is the study of the basic rules, appropriate techniques, and relevant procedures for conducting research. Research methods provide the tools necessary to approach issues in criminal justice from a rigorous standpoint and challenge opinions based solely on nonscientific observations and experiences. Similarly, research is the scientific investigation of an issue, problem, or subject utilizing research methods. Research is a means of knowledge development that is designed to assist in discovering answers to research questions and leads to the creation of new questions.

How Is Knowledge Development through Research Different?

Previously, sources of knowledge development were discussed, including authority, tradition, common sense, personal experience, and media portrayals. The problems generated by each knowledge source were also discussed. Research is another source of knowledge development, but it is different than those previously discussed in several ways. First, research relies on logical and systematic methods and observations to answer questions. Researchers use systematic, well-established research practices to seek answers to their questions. The methods and observations are completed in such a way that others can inspect and assess the methods and observations and offer feedback and criticism. Researchers develop, refine, and report their understanding of crime and the criminal justice system more systematically than the public does through casual observation. Those who conduct scientific research employ much more rigorous methods to gather the information/knowledge they are seeking.

Second, in order to prove that a research finding is correct, a researcher must be able to replicate the finding using the same methods. Only through replication can we have confidence in our original finding. For researchers, it may be important to replicate findings many times over so that we are assured our original finding was not a coincidence or chance occurrence. The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment is an example of this and will be discussed in detail in Chapter 5. In the experiment, the researchers found that arrests for domestic violence lead to fewer repeat incidences in comparison to separation of the people involved and mediation. Five replication studies were conducted and none were able to replicate the findings in the Minneapolis study. In fact, three of the replications found that those arrested for domestic violence had higher levels of continued domestic violence, so arrest did not have the deterrent effect found in the Minneapolis study.

Third, research is objective. Objectivity indicates a neutral and nonbiased perspective when conducting research. Although there are examples to the contrary, the researcher should not have a vested interest in what findings are discovered from the research. The researcher is expected to remain objective and report the findings of the study regardless of whether the findings support their personal opinion or agenda. In addition, research ensures objectivity by allowing others to examine and be critical of the methodology, findings, and results of research studies.

It should be clear that using research methods to answer questions about crime and the criminal justice system will greatly reduce the errors in the development of knowledge previously discussed. For example, research methods reduces the likelihood of overgeneralization by using systematic procedures for selecting individuals or groups to study that are representative of the individuals or groups that we wish to generalize. This is the topic of Chapter 3, which covers sampling procedures. In addition, research methods reduces the risk of selective observation by requiring that we measure and observe our research subjects systematically.

Being an Informed Consumer of Research

Criminal justice and criminological research is important for several reasons. First, it can provide better and more objective information. Second, it can promote better decision-making. Today, more than ever, we live in a world driven by data and in which there is an increasing dependence on the assessment of data when making decisions. As well as possible, research ensures that our decisions are based on data and not on an arbitrary or personal basis. Third, it allows for the objective assessment of programs. Fourth, it has often been the source of innovation within criminal justice agencies. Fifth, it can be directly relevant to criminal justice practice and have a significant impact on criminal justice operations.

Before we apply research results to practices in the criminal justice system, and before we even accept those research results as reasonable, we need to be able to know whether or not they are worthwhile. In other words, should we believe the results of the study? Research has its own limitations, so we need to evaluate research results and the methods used to produce them, and we do so through critical evaluation. Critical evaluation involves identifying both positive and negative aspects of the research study—both the good and the bad. Critical evaluation involves comparing the methodology used in the research with the standards established in research methods.

Through critical evaluation, consumers of research break studies down into their essential elements. What are the research questions and hypotheses? What were the independent and dependent variables? What research design was used? Was probability sampling used? What data-gathering procedures were employed? What type of data analysis was conducted and what conclusions were made? These are some of the questions that are asked by informed consumers of research. The evaluation of research ranges from the manner in which one obtains an idea to the ways in which one writes about the research results, and understanding each step in the research process is useful in our attempts to consume research conducted by others. Located between these two activities are issues concerning ethics, sampling, research design, data analyses, and interpretations.

The research design and procedures are typically the most critically evaluated aspects of research and will likewise receive the greatest amount of attention in this text. Informed consumers of research don’t just take the results of a research study at face value because the study is in an academic journal or written by someone with a Ph.D. Instead, informed consumers critically evaluate research. Taking what is learned throughout this text, critical evaluation of research is covered in Chapter 8, and upon completing this text, it is hoped that you will be an informed consumer of research and will put your research knowledge to use throughout your career.

Although many students will never undertake their own research, all will be governed by policies based upon research and exposed to research findings in their chosen professional positions. Most government agencies, including the criminal justice system, as well as private industry, routinely rely on data analysis. Criminal justice students employed with these agencies will be challenged if not prepared for quantitative tasks. Unfortunately, it is not unusual to find students as well as professionals in criminal justice who are unable to fully understand research reports and journal articles in their own field.

Beyond our criminal justice careers, we are all exposed to and use research to help us understand issues and to make personal decisions. For example, we know that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer and has other significant health impacts, so we don’t smoke. Your doctor tells you that your cholesterol is too high and you need to limit your red meat intake because research shows that consumption of red meat raises cholesterol; so, you quit eating red meat. That is why not all the examples in this text are criminal justice research examples. Some come from the medical field while others come from psychology and other disciplines. This is to remind you that you are probably exposed to much more research than you thought on day one of this class.

Overall, knowledge of research methods will allow you to more appropriately consider and consume information that is important to your career in criminal justice. It will help you better understand the process of asking and answering a question systematically and be a better consumer of the kind of information that you really need to be the best criminal justice professional you can. Once familiar with research methods, your anxiety about reviewing technical reports and research findings can be minimized. As discussed in the next section, research methods involve a process and once you understand the process, you can apply your knowledge to any research study, even those in other disciplines.

The Research Process

One of the nice things about studying research methods is it is about learning a process. Research methods can be seen as a sequential process with the first step being followed by the second step, and so on. There are certainly times when the order of the steps may be modified, but researchers typically follow the same process for each research study they complete regardless of the research topic (as depicted in Figure 2.1 in Chapter 2). Very simply, a research problem or question is identified, and a methodology is selected, developed, and implemented to answer the research question. This sequential process is one of the advantages of understanding research methods, because once you understand the process, you can apply that process to any research question that interests you. In addition, research methods are the same across disciplines. So, sampling is the same in business as it is in health education and as it is in criminal justice. Certainly the use of a particular method will be more common in one discipline in comparison to another, but the protocol for implementing the method to complete the research study is the same. For example, field research (discussed in Chapter 6) is used much more frequently in anthropology than in criminal justice. However, the research protocol to implement field research is the same whether you are studying an indigenous Indian tribe in South America in anthropology or a group of heroin users in St. Louis in criminal justice.

Some authors have presented the research process as a wheel or circle, with no specific beginning or end. Typically, the research process begins with the selection of a research problem and the development of research questions or hypotheses (discussed further in Chapter 2). It is common for the results of previous research to generate new research questions and hypotheses for the researcher. This suggests that research is cyclical, a vibrant and continuous process. When a research study answers one question, the result is often the generation of additional questions, which plunges the researcher right back into the research process to complete additional research to answer these new questions.

In this section, a brief overview of the research process will be presented. The chapters that follow address various aspects of the research process, but it is critical that you keep in mind the overall research process as you read this book, which is why is it presented here. Although you will probably not be expected to conduct a research study on your own, it is important for an educated consumer of research to understand the steps in the research process. The steps are presented in chronological order and appear neatly ordered. In practice, the researcher can go back and forth between the steps in the research process.

Step 1: Select a Topic and Conduct a Literature Review

The first step in the research process is typically the identification of a problem or topic that the researcher is interested in studying. Research topics can arise from a wide variety of sources, including the findings of a current study, a question that a criminal justice agency needs to have answered, or the result of intellectual curiosity. Once the researcher has identified a particular problem or topic, the researcher assesses the current state of the literature related to the problem or topic. The researcher will often spend a considerable amount of time in determining what the existing literature has to say about the topic. Has the topic already been studied to the point that the questions in which the researcher is interested have been sufficiently answered? If so, can the researcher approach the subject from a previously unexamined perspective? Many times, research topics have been previously explored but not brought to completion. If this is the case, it is certainly reasonable to examine the topic again. It is even appropriate to replicate a previous study to determine whether the findings reported in the prior research continue to be true in different settings with different participants. This step in the research process is also discussed in Chapter 2.

Step 2: Develop a Research Question

After a topic has been identified and a comprehensive literature review has been completed on the topic, the next step is the development of a research question or questions. The research question marks the beginning of your research study and is critical to the remaining steps in the research process. The research question determines the research plan and methodology that will be employed in the study, the data that will be collected, and the data analysis that will be performed. Basically, the remaining steps in the process are completed in order to answer the research question or questions established in this step. The development of research questions is discussed in more detail in Chapter 2.

Step 3: Develop a Hypothesis

After the research questions have been established, the next step is the formulation of hypotheses, which are statements about the expected relationship between two variables. For example, a hypothesis may state that there is no relationship between heavy metal music preference and violent delinquency. The two variables stated in the hypothesis are music preference and violent delinquency. Hypothesis development is discussed in more detail in Chapter 2.

Step 4: Operationalize Concepts

Operationalization involves the process of giving the concepts in your study a working definition and determining how each concept in your study will be measured. For example, in Step 3, the variables were music preference and violent delinquency. The process of operationalization involves determining how music preference and violent delinquency will be measured. Operationalization is further discussed in Chapter 2.

Step 5: Develop the Research Plan and Methodology

The next step is to develop the methodology that will be employed to answer the research questions and test the hypotheses. The research methodology is the blueprint for the study, which outlines how the research is to be conducted. The research questions will determine the appropriate methodology for the study. The research design selected should be driven by the research questions asked. In other words, the research questions dictate the methods used to answer them. The methodology is basically a research plan on how the research questions will be answered and will detail:

1. What group, subjects, or population will be studied and selected? Sampling will be discussed in Chapter 3.

2. What research design will be used to collect data to answer the research questions? Various research designs will be covered in Chapters 4–7.

You need to have familiarity with all research designs so that you can become an educated consumer of research. A survey cannot answer all research questions, so knowing a lot about surveys but not other research designs will not serve you well as you assess research studies. There are several common designs used in criminal justice and criminology research. Brief descriptions of several common research designs are presented below, but each is discussed in detail in later chapters.

Survey research is one of the most common research designs employed in criminal justice research. It obtains data directly from research participants by asking them questions and is often conducted through self-administered questionnaires and personal interviews. For example, a professor might have her students complete a survey during class to understand the relationship between drug use and self-esteem. Survey research is discussed in Chapter 4.

Experimental designs are used when researchers are interested in determining whether a program, policy, practice, or intervention is effective. For example, a researcher may use an experimental design to determine if boot camps are effective at reducing juvenile delinquency. Experimental design is discussed in Chapter 5.

Field research involves researchers studying individuals or groups of individuals in their natural environment. The researcher is observing closely or acting as part of the group under study and is able to describe in depth not only the subject’s behaviors, but also consider the motivations that drive those behaviors. For example, if a researcher wanted to learn more about gangs and their activities, he may “hang out” with a gang in order to observe their behavior. Field research is discussed in Chapter 6.

A case study is an in-depth analysis of one or a few illustrative cases. This design allows the story behind an individual, a particular offender, to be told and then information from cases studies can be extrapolated to a larger group. Often these studies require the review and analysis of documents such as police reports and court records and interviews with the offender and others. For example, a researcher may explore the life history of a serial killer to try and understand why the offender killed. Case studies are discussed in Chapter 6.

Secondary data analysis occurs when researchers obtain and reanalyze data that was originally collected for a different purpose. This can include reanalyzing data collected from a prior research study, using criminal justice agency records to answer a research question, or historical research. For example, a researcher using secondary data analysis may analyze inmate files from a nearby prison to understand the relationship between custody level assignment and disciplinary violations inside prison. Secondary data analysis is discussed in Chapter 7.

Content analysis requires the assessment of content contained in mass communication outlets such as newspapers, television, magazines, and the like. In this research design, documents, publications, or presentations are reviewed and analyzed. For example, a researcher utilizing content analysis might review true crime books involving murder to see how the characteristics of the offender and victim in the true crime books match reality as depicted in the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Reports. Content analysis is discussed in Chapter 7.

Despite the options these designs offer, other research designs are available and will be discussed later in the text. Ultimately, the design used will depend on the nature of the study and the research questions asked.

Step 6: Execute the Research Plan and Collect Data

The next step in the research process is the collection of the data based on the research design developed. For example, if a survey is developed to study the relationship between gang membership and violent delinquency, the distribution and collection of surveys from a group of high school students would occur in this step. Data collection is discussed in several chapters throughout this text.

Step 7: Analyze Data

After the data have been collected, the next phase in the research process involves analyzing the data through various and appropriate statistical techniques. The most common means for data analysis today is through the use of a computer and statistically oriented software. Data analysis and statistics are discussed in Chapter 9.

Step 8: Report Findings, Results, and Limitations

Reporting and interpreting the results of the study make up the final step in the research process. The findings and results of the study can be communicated through reports, journals, books, or computer presentations. At this step, the results are reported and the research questions are answered. In addition, an assessment is made regarding the support or lack of support for the hypotheses tested. It is also at this stage that the researcher can pose additional research questions that may now need to be answered as a result of the research study. In addition, the limitations of the study, as well as the impact those limitations may have on the results of the study, will be described by the researcher. All research has limitations, so it is incumbent on the researcher to identify those limitations for the reader. The process of assessing the quality of research will be discussed in Chapter 8.

Research in Action: Impacting Criminal Justice Operations

Research in the criminal justice system has had significant impacts on its operations. The following sections provide an example of research that has significantly impacted each of the three main components of the criminal justice system: police, courts, and corrections. The purpose of this section is to demonstrate that research has aided the positive development and progression of the criminal justice system.

Police Research Example76

The efforts of criminal justice researchers in policing have been important and have created the initial and critical foundation necessary for the further development of effective and productive law enforcement. One seminal study asked: How important is it for the police to respond quickly when a citizen calls? The importance of rapid response was conveyed in a 1973 National Commission on Productivity Report despite the fact that there was very little empirical evidence upon which to base this assumption. In fact, the Commission stated “there is no definitive relationship between response time and deterrence, but professional judgment and logic do suggest that the two are related in a strong enough manner to make more rapid response important.”77 Basically the Commission members were stating that we don’t have any research evidence that response times are important, but we “know” that they are. Police departments allocated substantial resources to the patrol function and deployed officers in an effort to improve response time through the use of the 9-1-1 telephone number, computer-assisted dispatch, and beat assignment systems. Officers were typically assigned to a patrol beat. When the officers were not answering calls for service, they remained in their assigned beats so they could immediately respond to an emergency.

The data for the project were collected as part of a larger experiment on preventive patrol carried out in Kansas City, Missouri, between October 1972 and September 1973.78 To determine the impact of response time, researchers speculated that the following variables would be influenced by response time: 1) the outcome of the response, 2) citizen satisfaction with response time, and 3) citizen satisfaction with the responding officer. Several data sources were used in the study. First, surveys were completed after all citizen-initiated calls (excluding automobile accidents) that involved contact with a police officer. The survey instrument consisted of questions to assess the length of time to respond to a call and the outcome of the call (i.e., arrest). Over 1,100 surveys were completed. Second, a follow-up survey was mailed to citizens whom the police had contacted during their response. These surveys asked questions to assess citizen satisfaction with response time and outcome. Over 425 of these surveys were returned.

The data collected during the study showed that response time did not determine whether or not the police made an arrest or recovered stolen property. This was the most surprising finding from the study because it challenged one of the basic underlying principles of police patrol. Researchers attributed the lack of significance to the fact that most citizens waited before calling the police. Rapid response simply did not matter in situations where citizens delayed in reporting the crime.

Rapid response time was not only believed to be important in determining the outcome of a response (i.e., more likely to lead to an arrest), it was also considered an important predictor of citizen satisfaction. Data from the study showed that when the police arrived sooner than expected, citizens were more satisfied with response time. However, subsequent research has shown that citizens are also satisfied with a delayed response as long as the dispatcher sets a reasonable expectation for when the patrol officer will arrive. Response time was also the best predictor of how satisfied a citizen was with the responding officer. It was further revealed that citizens became dissatisfied with the police when they were not informed of the outcome (i.e., someone was arrested). Again, these findings indicate the need for dispatchers and patrol officers to communicate with complainants regarding when they should expect an officer to arrive and the outcome of the call.

Based on the results of the response time study, the researchers concluded that rapid response was not as important as police administrators had thought. Response time was not related to an officer’s ability to make an arrest or recover stolen property. Results from the response time study challenged traditional beliefs about the allocation of patrol in our communities. Based on tradition knowledge, as previously discussed, rapidly responding to calls for service is what the police had always done since they started using patrol vehicles. In addition, common sense, as previously discussed, played a role in the practice of rapid response to calls for service; it just made sense that if a patrol officer arrives sooner, she will be more likely to make an arrest.

Prior to the research, police departments operated under the assumption that rapid response was a crucial factor in the ability of an officer to solve a crime and an important predictor of citizen satisfaction. In response to the research on rapid response, many police departments changed the way they responded to calls for service. Many departments adopted a differential police response approach. Differential police response protocols allow police departments to prioritize calls and rapidly dispatch an officer only when an immediate response is needed (i.e., crimes in progress). For crimes in progress, rapid response is critical and may reduce the injuries sustained by the victim as well, but these emergency calls usually account for less than 2% of all 9-1-1 calls for police service. For nonemergency calls, an officer is either dispatched at a later time when the officer is available or a report is taken over the phone or through some other means. Differential police response has been shown to save departments money and give patrol officers more time to engage in community-oriented and proactive policing activities. The benefits for a department are not at the expense of the public. In fact, a study by Robert Worden found a high degree of citizen satisfaction with differential police response.79

Courts Research Example80

Research on the courts component of the criminal justice system, while far from complete, has produced direct effects on the operations of the criminal justice system. The study reviewed in this section asked the following research question: Are jurors able to understand different legal rules for establishing a defendant’s criminal responsibility? The study described below explored the issue of criminal responsibility as it applies to the insanity defense in the United States. For several years, the MNaghten rule was the legal rule applied in all courts of the United States. Under MNaghten, criminal responsibility was absent when the offender did not understand the nature of his actions due to failure to distinguish “right” from “wrong.” This is known as the “right/wrong test” for criminal responsibility. The case of Durham v. United States was heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and offered an alternative test for criminal responsibility and insanity. The legal rule emerging from Durham was that criminal responsibility was absent if the offense was a product of mental disease or defect. This ruling provided psychiatrists with a more important role at trial because of the requirement that the behavior be linked to a mental disorder that only a psychiatrist could officially determine.

At the time of Simon’s 1967 study, most courts across the country still followed the MNaghten rule. Questions arose, however, regarding whether juries differed in their understanding of MNaghten versus Durham and, in turn, whether this resulted in differences in their ability to make informed decisions regarding criminal responsibility in cases involving the insanity defense. The study was designed to determine the effect of different legal rules on jurors’ decision-making in cases where the defense was insanity. There was a question of whether there was a difference between the rules to the extent that jurors understood each rule and could capably apply it.

Simon conducted an experimental study on jury deliberations in cases where the only defense was insanity.81 Utilizing a mock jury approach, Simon took the transcripts of two actual trials with one reflecting the use of the MNaghten rule and the other the Durham rule. Both cases were renamed and the transcripts were edited to constitute a trial of 60–90 minutes in length. These edited transcripts were then recorded, with University of Chicago Law School faculty as the attorneys, judges, and witnesses involved in each case. Groups of 12 jurors listened to each trial with instruction provided at the end regarding the particular rule of law (MNaghten or Durham) for determining criminal responsibility. Each juror submitted a written statement with his or her initial decision on the case before jury deliberations, and the juries’ final decisions after deliberation were also reported.

Simon found significant differences in the verdicts across the two groups (MNaghten rule applied and Durham rule applied) even when the case was the same. For the MNaghten version of the case, the psychiatrists stated that the defendant was mentally ill yet knew right from wrong during the crime. These statements/instructions should have led to a guilty verdict on the part of the mock jury. As expected, the MNaghten juries delivered guilty verdicts in 19 of the 20 trials, with one hung jury. For the Durham version of the case, the psychiatrists stated that the crime resulted from the defendant’s mental illness, which should have lead to acquittal. However, the defendant was acquitted in only five of the 26 Durham trials. Twenty-six groups of 12 jurors were exposed to the Durham version of the trial and the case was the same each time. Simon interpreted these results as suggesting that jurors were unambiguous in their interpretations and applications of MNaghten (due to the consistency in guilty verdicts), but they were less clear on the elements of Durham and how to apply it (reflected by the mix of guilty, not guilty, and hung verdicts).82

After Simon’s study, most states rejected the Durham test. Recall her finding that the Durham rule produced inconsistent verdicts. She interpreted this finding as Durham being no better than providing no guidance to jurors on how to decide the issue of insanity. The observation helped to fuel arguments against the use of Durham, which, in turn, contributed to its demise as a legal rule. Today, only New Hampshire uses a version of the Durham rule in insanity cases.


The Punishment Cost of Being Young, Black, and Male

Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer83 hypothesized that African Americans overall were not likely to be treated more harshly than white defendants by the courts because it was only particular subgroups of minority defendants that fit with court actors’ stereotypes of “more dangerous” offenders. In particular, they argued that younger African American males not only fulfilled this stereotype more than any other age, race, and gender combination, they were also more likely to be perceived by judges as being able to handle incarceration better than other subgroups.

In order to test their hypotheses, the researchers examined sentencing data from Pennsylvania spanning four years (1989–1992). Almost 139,000 cases were examined. The sentences they examined included whether a convicted defendant was incarcerated in prison or jail, and the length of incarceration in prison or jail. The researchers found that offense severity and prior record were the most important predictors of whether a convicted defendant was incarcerated and the length of incarceration. The authors found that the highest likelihood of incarceration and the longest sentences for males were distributed to African Americans aged 18–29 years. Their analysis of females revealed that white females were much less likely than African American females to be incarcerated, regardless of the age group examined. Taken altogether, the analysis revealed that African American males aged 18–29 years maintained the highest odds of incarceration and the longest sentences relative to any other race, sex, and age group.

Overall, this research showed that judges focused primarily on legal factors (offense severity and prior record) when determining the sentences of convicted offenders. These are the factors we expect judges to consider when making sentencing decisions. However, the research also found that judges base their decisions in part on extralegal factors, particularly the interaction of a defendant’s age, race, and gender. This research expanded our knowledge beyond the impact of singular factors on sentencing to expose the interaction effects of several variables (race, gender, and age). Court personnel are aware of these interaction effects based on this study, and others that followed, as well as their personal experiences in the criminal justice system. Identification and recognition of inequities in our justice system (in this case that young, African American males are punished more severely in our justice system) is the first step in mitigating this inequity.

Corrections Research Example84

Although the research in corrections is far from complete, it has contributed greatly to the development of innovative programs and the professional development of correctional personnel. The contributions of academic and policy-oriented research can be seen across the whole range of correctional functions from pretrial services through probation, institutional corrections, and parole.

Rehabilitation remained the goal of our correctional system until the early 1970s, when the efficacy of rehabilitation was questioned. Violent crime was on the rise, and many politicians placed the blame on the criminal justice system. Some believed the system was too lenient on offenders. Interest in researching the effectiveness of correctional treatment remained low until 1974 when an article written by Robert Martinson and published in Public Interest titled “What Works? Questions and Answers about Prison Reform” generated enormous political and public attention to the effectiveness of correctional treatment.85

Over a six-month period, Martinson and his colleagues reviewed all of the existing literature on correctional treatment published in English from 1945 to 1967. Each of the articles was evaluated according to traditional standards of social science research. Only studies that utilized an experimental design, included a sufficient sample size, and could be replicated were selected for review. A total of 231 studies examining a variety of different types of treatment were chosen, including educational and vocational training, individual and group counseling, therapeutic milieus, medical treatment, differences in length and type of incarceration, and community corrections. All of the treatment studies included at least one measure of offender recidivism, such as whether or not offenders were rearrested or violated their parole. The recidivism measures were used to examine the success or failure of a program in terms of reducing crime.

After reviewing all 231 studies, Martinson reported that there was no consistent evidence that correctional treatment reduced recidivism. Specifically, he wrote, “with few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative efforts that have been reported so far have had no appreciable effect on recidivism.”86 Martinson further indicated that the lack of empirical support for correctional treatment could be a consequence of poorly implemented programs. If the quality of the programs were improved, the results may have proved more favorable, but this conclusion was for the most part ignored by the media and policy-makers.

Martinson’s report became commonly referred to as “nothing works” and was subsequently used as the definitive study detailing the failures of rehabilitation. The article had implications beyond questioning whether or not specific types of correctional treatment reduced recidivism. The entire philosophy of rehabilitation was now in doubt because of Martinson’s conclusion that “our present strategies … cannot overcome, or even appreciably reduce, the powerful tendencies of offenders to continue in criminal behavior.”87

Martinson’s article provided policy makers the evidence to justify spending cuts on rehabilitative programs. Furthermore, it allowed politicians to respond to growing concerns about crime with punitive, get-tough strategies. States began implementing strict mandatory sentences that resulted in more criminals being sent to prison and for longer periods of time. Over the next several years, Martinson’s article was used over and over to support abandoning efforts to treat offenders until rehabilitation became virtually nonexistent in our correctional system.

Chapter Summary

This chapter began with a discussion of sources of knowledge development and the problems with each. To depict the importance of research methods in knowledge development, myths about crime and the criminal justice system were reviewed along with research studies that have dispelled myths. As the introductory chapter in this text, this chapter also provided an overview of the steps in the research process from selecting a topic and conducting a literature review at the beginning of a research study to reporting findings, results, and limitations at the end of the study. Examples of actual research studies in the areas of police, courts, and corrections were also provided in this chapter to demonstrate the research process in action and to illustrate how research has significantly impacted practices within the criminal justice system. In addition, this chapter demonstrated the critical importance of becoming an informed consumer of research in both your personal and professional lives.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. What are the primary sources of knowledge development, and what are the problems with each?

2. How is knowledge developed through research methods different from other sources of knowledge?

3. What myths about crime and criminal justice have been dispelled through research? Give an example of a research study that dispelled a myth.

4. Why is it important to be an informed consumer of research?

5. What are the steps in the research process, and what activities occur at each step?

Key Terms

authority knowledge: Knowledge developed when we accept something as being correct and true just because someone in a position of authority says it is true

case study: An in-depth analysis of one or a few illustrative cases

common sense knowledge: Knowledge developed when the information “just makes sense”

content analysis: A method requiring the analyzing of content contained in mass communication outlets such as newspapers, television, magazines, and the like

CSI Effect: Due to the unrealistic portrayal of the role of forensic science in solving criminal cases in television shows, jurors are more likely to vote to acquit a defendant when the expected sophisticated forensic evidence is not presented

differential police response: Methods that allow police departments to prioritize calls and rapidly dispatch an officer only when an immediate response is needed (i.e., crimes in progress)

experimental designs: Used when researchers are interested in determining whether a program, policy, practice, or intervention is effective

field research: Research that involves researchers studying individuals or groups of individuals in their natural environment

Halloween sadism: The practice of giving contaminated treats to children during trick or treating

hypotheses: Statements about the expected relationship between two concepts

illogical reasoning: Occurs when someone jumps to premature conclusions or presents an argument that is based on invalid assumptions

myths: Beliefs that are based on emotion rather than rigorous analysis

operationalization: The process of giving a concept a working definition; determining how each concept in your study will be measured

overgeneralization: Occurs when people conclude that what they have observed in one or a few cases is true for all cases

personal experience knowledge: Knowledge developed through actual experiences

research: The scientific investigation of an issue, problem, or subject utilizing research methods

research methods: The tools that allow criminology and criminal justice researchers to systematically study crime and the criminal justice system and include the basic rules, appropriate techniques, and relevant procedures for conducting research

resistance to change: The reluctance to change our beliefs in light of new, accurate, and valid information to the contrary

secondary data analysis: Occurs when researchers obtain and reanalyze data that were originally collected for a different purpose

selective observation: Choosing, either consciously or unconsciously, to pay attention to and remember events that support our personal preferences and beliefs

survey research: Obtaining data directly from research participants by asking them questions, often conducted through self-administered questionnaires and personal interviews

tradition knowledge: Knowledge developed when we accept something as true because that is the way things have always been, so it must be right

variables: Concepts that have been given a working definition and can take on different values


1 Briggs, Lisa T., Stephen E. Brown, Robert B. Gardner, and Robert L. Davidson. (2009). “D.RA.MA: An extended conceptualization of student anxiety in criminal justice research methods courses.” Journal of Criminal Justice Education 20 (3), 217–226.

2 Betz, N. E. (1978). “Prevalence, distribution, and correlates of math anxiety in college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology 25 (5), 441–448.

3 Briggs, et al., 2009, p. 221.

4 Ibid, p. 221.

5 Ibid, p. 221.

6 Kappeler, Victor E., and Gary W. Potter. (2005). The mythology of crime and criminal justice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

7 Tennessee v. Gamer, 471 U.S. 1 (1985).

8 Lombroso-Ferrero, Gina. (1911). Criminal man, according to the classification of Cesare Lombroso. New York: Putnam.

9 This study was included in Amy B. Thistlethwaite and John D. Wooldredge. (2010). Forty studies that changed criminal justice: Explorations into the history of criminal justice research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

10 Petersilia, J., S. Turner, J. Kahan, and J. Peterson. (1985). Granting felons probation: Public risks and alternatives. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

11 Vito, G. (1986). “Felony probation and recidivism: Replication and response.” Federal Probation 50, 17–25.

12 Conrad, J. (1985). “Research and development in corrections.” Federal Probation 49, 69–71.

13 Finckenauer, James O. (1982). Scared straight! and the panacea phenomenon. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

14 Yarborough, J.C. (1979). Evaluation of JOLT (Juvenile Offenders Learn Truth) as a deterrence program. Lansing, MI: Michigan Department of Corrections.

15 Petrosino, Anthony, Carolyn Turpin-Petrosino, and James O. Finckenauer. (2000). “Well-meaning programs can have harmful effects! Lessons from experiments of programs such as Scared Straight,” Crime & Delinquency 46, 354–379.

16 Robertson, Jordan. “I’m being punished for living right”: Background check system is haunted by errors. December 20, 2011. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/ap-impact-criminal-past-isnt-182335059.html. Retrieved on December 29, 2011.

17 Shelton, D. E. (2008). “The ‘CSI Effect’: Does it really exist?” NIJ Journal 259 [NCJ 221501].

18 Best, Joel. (2011). “Halloween sadism: The evidence.” http://dspace.udel.edu:8080/dspace/bitstream/handle/19716/726/Halloween%20sadism.revised%20thru%20201l.pdf?sequence=6. Retrieved on May 7, 2012.

19 Best, Joel. (1985, November). “The myth of the Halloween sadist. Psychology Today 19 (11), p. 14.

20 Ibid.

21 “Beer compound shows potent promise in prostate cancer battle.” Press release from Oregon State University May 30, 2006. http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2006/may/beer-compound-shows-potent-promise-prostate-cancer-battle. Retrieved on January 6, 2012; Colgate, Emily C., Cristobal L. Miranda, Jan F. Stevens, Tammy M. Bray, and Emily Ho. (2007). “Xanthohumol, a prenylflavonoid derived from hops induces apoptosis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation in prostate epithelial cells,” Cancer Letters 246, 201–209; “Health benefits of red wine exaggerated” http://health.yahoo.net/articles/nutrition/health-benefits-red-wine-exaggerated. Retrieved on January 14, 2012; “Scientific journals notified following research misconduct investigation.” January 11, 2012. http://today.uconn.edu/blog/2012/01/scientific-journals-notified-following-research-misconduct-investigation/. Retrieved on January 14, 2012.

22 Pepinsky, Hal. “The myth that crime and criminality can be measured.” 3–11 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

23 Bullock, Jennifer L., and Bruce A. Arrigo. “The myth that mental illness causes crime.” 12–19 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

24 Friedrichs, David O. “The myth that white-collar crime is only about financial loss.” 20–28 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

25 Kuhns III, Joseph B., and Charisse T. M. Coston. “The myth that serial murderers are disproportionately white males.” 37–44 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

26 Longmire, Dennis R., Jacqueline Buffington-Vollum, and Scott Vollum. “The myth of positive differentiation in the classification of dangerous offenders.” 123–131 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

27 Masters, Ruth E., Lori Beth Way, Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld, Bernadette T. Muscat, Michael Hooper, John P. J. Dussich, Lester Pincu, and Candice A. Skrapec. (2013). CJ realities and challenges, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid.

32 Brownstein, Henry H. “The myth of drug users as violent offenders.” 45–53 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

33 Goldstein, P. (1985). “The drugs/violence nexus: A tripartite conceptual framework.” Journal of Drug Issues 15, 493–506.

34 Goldstein, P, H. Brownstein, and P. Ryan. (1992). “Drug-related homicide in New York City: 1984 and 1988.” Crime & Delinquency 38, 459–476.

35 Parker, R., and K. Auerhahn. (1998). “Alcohol, drugs, and violence.” Annual Review of Sociology 24, 291–311, p. 291.

36 Buerger, Michael. “The myth of racial profiling.” 97–103 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

37 Cordner, Gary, and Kathryn E. Scarborough. “The myth that science solves crimes.” 104–110 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

38 Willis, James J., Stephen D. Mastrofski, and David Weisburd. “The myth that COMPSTAT reduces crime and transforms police organizations.” 111–119 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

39 Masters, et al., 2013.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid.

43 Scott, Eric J. (1981). Calls for service: Citizen demand and initial police response. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

44 Lersch, Kim. “The myth of policewomen on patrol.” 89–96 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

45 Janikowski, Richard. “The myth that the exclusionary rule allows many criminals to escape justice.” 132–139 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

46 Bishop, Donna M. “The myth that harsh punishments reduce juvenile crime.” 140–148 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

47 Immarigeon, Russ. “The myth that public attitudes are punitive.” 149–157 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

48 Acker, James R. “The myth of closure and capital punishment.” 167–175 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

49 Masters, et al., 2013.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid.

52 Lersch, 2006.

53 Newport, Frank. “In U.S., support for death penalty falls to 39-year low.” October 13, 2011. http://www.gallup.com/poll/150089/support-death-penalty-falls-year-low.aspx. Retrieved on April 16, 2012.

54 Applegate, Brandon. “The myth that the death penalty is administered fairly.” 158–166 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

55 Williams, M. R., and J. E. Holcomb. (2001). “Racial disparity and death sentences in Ohio.” Journal of Criminal Justice 29, 207–218.

56 Snell, Tracy L. (2011, December). Capital punishment, 2010—statistical tables. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

57 Applegate, 2006.

58 Williams and Holcomb, 2001.

59 Applegate, 2006.

60 Ibid.

61 Wood, Peter B. “The myth that imprisonment is the most severe form of punishment.” 192–200 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

62 Ibid.

63 Michalowski, Raymond. “The myth that punishment reduces crime.” 179–191 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

64 McShane, Marilyn, Frank P. Williams III, and Beth Pelz. “The myth of prisons as country clubs.” 201–208 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

65 Parker, Mary. “The myth that prisons can be self-supporting.” 209–213 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

66 Blakely, Curtis, and John Ortiz Smykla. “Correctional privatization and the myth of inherent efficiency.” 214–220 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

67 Jones, G. Mark. “The myth that the focus of community corrections is rehabilitation.” 221–226 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

68 Cullen, Francis T., and Paula Smith. “The myth that correctional rehabilitation does not work.” 227–238 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

69 Masters, et al., 2013.

70 Ibid.

71 Ibid.

72 Ibid.

73 Petersilia, Joan. (1990). “When probation becomes more dreaded than prison. Federal Probation 54, 23–27.

74 Ibid.

75 Wood, P. B., and H. G. Grasmick. (1999). “Toward the development of punishment equivalencies: Male and female inmates rate the severity of alternative sanctions compared to prison.” Justice Quarterly 16, 19–50.

76 Example is excerpted from Amy B. Thistlethwaite and John D. Wooldredge. (2010). Forty studies that changed criminal justice: Explorations into the history of criminal justice research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. This is an excellent book that demonstrates the impact research has had on criminal justice operations.

77 National Commission on Productivity. (1973). Opportunities for improving productivity in police services. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, p. 19.

78 Pate, T., A. Ferrara, R. Bowers, and J. Lorence. (1976). Police response time: Its determinants and effects. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.

79 Worden, R. (1993). “Toward equity and efficiency in law enforcement: Differential police response. American Journal of Police 12, 1–32.

80 Example is excerpted from Amy B. Thistlethwaite and John D. Wooldredge. (2010). Forty studies that changed criminal justice: Explorations into the history of criminal justice research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

81 Simon, R. (1967). The jury and the defense of insanity. Boston: Little, Brown.

82 Ibid.

83 Steffensmeier, D., J. Ulmer, & J. Kramer. (1998). “The interaction of race, gender, and age in criminal sentencing: The punishment cost of being young, black, and male. Criminology 36, 763–797.

84 Example is excerpted from Amy B. Thistlethwaite and John D. Wooldredge. (2010). Forty studies that changed criminal justice: Explorations into the history of criminal justice research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

85 Martinson, R. (1974). “What works? Questions and answers about prison reform.” The Public Interest 10, 22–54.

86 Ibid, p. 25.

87 Ibid, p. 49.


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