Commonwealth Campus Center-Node (C3N) Seed Grant Projects

The Commonwealth Campus Center-Node (C3N) program was begun in 2019 under the auspices of and with funding from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, Office of the Provost, and the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses. The goal is to foster and support research by faculty at the Commonwealth Campuses in a wide variety of fields. The CJRC coordinates the Criminal Justice C3N node. One initiative of C3N is to provide seed funding to Commonwealth Campus faculty to support the development of their research. The following is a list of projects supported by C3N/CJRC since inception of the C3N program.


Digital Literacy: Curriculum Model Development to Reduce Recidivism

Dr. Jennifer Breese, (Program Head Cybersecurity Operations and Analytics, Assistant Professor, Cybersecurity Operations and Analytics; Information Sciences and Technology, C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Greater Allegheny) will conduct research that seeks to provide a Digital Literacy course preparing adult offenders for reconciliation with the community. The increasing use of technology and digital literacy for work purposes has become a predictor of successful employment; however, understanding basic security, privacy, and online citizenship is paramount to the way people live and communicate reducing recidivism rates.

Understanding Criminal Offending and Mortality Using CJARS and Disparities in American Communities (MDAC) Data

Dr. Siyu Liu (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, School of Public Affairs, C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Harrisburg) will work on a project that aims to use Criminal Justice Administrative Records System (CJARS) data linked with Mortality Disparities in American Communities (MDAC) data to examine desistance patterns and mortality risks among different demographic groups taking into account exposure time in population-based samples.

What is the Role of Drug Courts in the Era of Drug Policy Reform?

Dr. Jennifer Murphy, (Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Berks) will work on a pilot study to investigate how adult drug courts have responded to various criminal justice reforms, especially those in the past ten years, and what role drug courts play in current drug policy. Given that there are still more than 4000 drug courts operating in the United States, it is important to understand who they are targeting, how they work, and how they have adjusted to changes in local, state, and federal criminal justice policies.

You’re a Warrior: Understanding the Role of Narrative in Police Training and Culture

Dr. Kurt Fowler, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Abington, will investigate the internal mechanisms of decision making among police officers through the lenses of training, culture, and narrative. This research seeks to better understand the role these elements play on the impact of training and police decision making, specifically, during use of force incidents.


Development & Efficacy of an “Orange Flag Assessment”: An Addendum to the Lethality Assessment Program

Dr. Melanie Hetzel-Riggin (Professor of Psychology, C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Behrend) will working to design an addendum to the The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP). LAP has been found to be effective at increasing referrals from police officers to safe houses or other resources for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), but only assesses for extreme levels of danger (e.g., red flags). The project addendum will seek to assess more moderate levels of danger, primarily forms of coercive control which have only recently become part of the legal definition of intimate partner violence in certain states.

Developing Medical-legal Partnerships to Improve Outcomes for Women Experiencing Co-occurring Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Victimization and Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

Penelope K. Morrison (Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health, Health & Human Development and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State New Kensington), Kate McLean (Associate Professor of Administration of Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Greater Allegheny), Richard L. Wentling (Assistant Professor, Administration of Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State New Kensington) will conduct research that aims to understand the barriers and facilitators to developing medical-legal partnerships to improve outcomes for women experiencing Co-IPV/OUD from a wide range of key stakeholders, to include but not limited to: IPV advocates, MAT service providers, other health care professionals, court officials, social workers, child, youth, and family (CYF), lawyers, and law enforcement, among others.

How Much Is That Puppy on the Internet? An Examination of Pet-Scam Victim Narratives

Jennifer L. Schally (Associate Teaching Professor of Criminal Justice, School of Public Affairs and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Harrisburg) will conduct a qualitative study which examines the narratives of victims of advance-fee pet scams. This type of pet scam became more widespread in 2020 during the Coronavirus pandemic as people increasingly sought the companionship of pets while being confined at home. Using the theoretical framework provided by both narrative criminology and narrative victimology, this project is particularly interested in victims’ experience of shame and victim-blaming as well as the ways in which the victimization experience affects future behavior and self-concepts.

Using a Developmental Approach to Study Victims’ Post Traumatic Sexual Behavior

Dr. Kim S. Ménard (Associate Professor, Criminal Justice and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and C3N Faculty Affiliate Penn State Altoona) and Danielle J. DelPriore (Assistant Professor, Psychology and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Altoona) will work on a project that will seek to determine if the developmental timing of sexual victimization (defined here as nonconsensual sexual contact) affects post traumatic sexual behavior and motivations of women, using the Post Traumatic Sexual Behavior Inventory for Women (PTSBI-W). The goal of this study is to gain knowledge about the effects of developmental timing of prior victimization on women’s sexual behavior, which could help to better identify and inform the treatment needs of women who have been sexually victimized. Finally, this data collection effort would also allow the researchers to subject the PTSBI-W to additional invariance analyses.


Femoids: Incels’ Gendered Spectrum of Female Political Agency

Kurt Fowler, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Abington, will be analyzing an existing dataset consisting of threads gathered from online message boards populated by incels. Incels are a group of exclusively male internet users who are “involuntarily celibate.” Specifically, this research will look at the type of language incels have created to discuss gender as a spectrum of political agency and the terms they’ve invented to describe their belief that women wield the majority of political agency in modern society. This project extends existing research already accepted by a leading criminology journal on the language they’ve created to describe the men’s spectrum of political agency.

Policies on Medication Assisted Treatment and Medical Marijuana in Problem-Solving Courts

Jennifer Murphy, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Berks, and Nathan Kruis Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Altoona will serve as Co-Principal Investigators for this project. The use of medication assisted treatment (MAT) (i.e., methadone, suboxone, Vivitrol) for opioid use disorder in problem-solving courts (i.e., drug courts, mental health courts, veterans courts, etc.) continues to be controversial. While some courts have permitted the use of MAT, other courts have restricted its use as part of treatment. Because individual courts determine whether they will permit MAT, it is not known which courts do or do not permit clients to access this treatment. This project will survey all problem-solving courts in Pennsylvania to assess the rules and restrictions regarding MAT.

The Effects of Belief in Pure Evil and White Supremacy on State-Level Social Justice Outcomes

Colleen E. Mills, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Abington, and Russell J. Webster, Associate Professor of Psychology at Abington, will serve as Co-Principal Investigators for this project. The project intends to examine the effects of two individual difference variables—belief in pure evil (BPE) and white nationalism/supremacist beliefs (WNS)—on state-level sociopolitical outcomes that undermine social justice. A number of individual-level studies have shown that people who believe more in pure evil are more likely to support punitive responses to crime and offenders as well as demonize offenders (Webster & Saucier, 2013; 2015; 2018; Vasturia et al., 2018). Two studies (Watkins & Webster, 2018; Webster & Watkins, 2019) with national samples saw WNS beliefs correlated with a variety of psychological outcomes, including support for racist and anti-immigrant attitudes and policies. The current project intends to extend these findings by linking BPE and WNS to more “real-world” outcomes.

Western Pennsylvania Veterans Prison to College Initiative

Sandra L. Trappen, Assistant Professor of Administration of Justice at Greater Allegheny and Jonathan Preece, a student research assistant , will examine the social factors that may predispose justice involved veterans to success or failure in a prison to college education program. The project will work with federal probation officers and veteran cases affiliated with the Western Pennsylvania Veterans Court. The research aims to understand not only the risks but, moreover, the special needs of veterans; we aim to exceed the limitations of traditional risk management instruments by taking a trauma-informed needs-based approach to correlating social factors with institutional supports that can enhance education outcomes for justice involved veterans.


Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) Support for Reentering Prisoners with Opioid Use Disorders

Principal Investigators: Derek Kreager and Gary Zajac. Commonwealth Campus Faculty Researchers: Katherine McLean (Greater Allegheny), Jennifer Murphy (Berks), and Glenn Sterner (Abington). This project evaluates an intervention for prisoners with opioid use disorders (OUD) who exit prison to Dauphin or York counties. Specifically, the intervention connects eligible incarcerated participants, during inpatient treatment, to a Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) from the RASE Project to assist in the transition from prison to community. This individualized, case-management system was to operate in parallel, but outside of reporting responsibility, to correctional staff to increase client trust, communication, and treatment compliance in the precarious recovery period immediately following release. C3N funds helped to support Commonwealth Campus Faculty (McLean and Murphy) who conducted semi-structured interviews of intervention participants and their caregivers.

Inner-City (Im)Mobility: How Residents Cope with Community Violence When Moving is Not an Option

Faculty Investigator: Eileen M. Ahlin (Harrisburg). This project examines why inner-city residents remain in communities plagued by violence, risking further exposure to violence and its consequences, while also evaluating resident and neighborhood agency and processes of social control. The project will focus on understanding risk and protective factors contributing to decisions to stay in communities with high violent crime rates, risks they face, and how they cope with violence.

Exploring Professional Experiences Among LGTBQ+ Identified Individuals within Criminal Justice Professions

Faculty Investigators: Glenn Sterner and Tom Wines (Abington). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) perspectives within the United States are highly underrepresented in criminal justice literature. Our primary emphasis within this project is to highlight the experiences of LGBTQ professionals within our criminal justice system. In addition to the need for research on this subject matter, there are no available undergraduate courses that pointedly examine the intersection of LGBTQ identities and the criminal justice system currently offered at Penn State Abington nor within the broader Penn State System. We hope to empower LGBTQ students to examine this career pathway, while expanding all students’ knowledge on criminal justice and LGBTQ interactions. The first goal of this project is to add to the criminal justice literature by examining LGBT experiences through a qualitative study. The second objective of this project is to develop a course proposal for a special topics course on LGBTQ perspectives in criminal justice for offering in Spring Semester of 2021.