Completed CJRC Projects

The following are research studies and other projects that were run out of the CJRC and/or that involved substantial collaboration by core CJRC faculty or researchers and are now completed.  Most were externally funded. 

This study examines the social networks of prison inmates in a state correctional institution.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Derek Kreager, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology (dkreager@psu.edu)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac
  • Co-Investigators: Martin Bouchard (SFU), Dana Haynie (OSU), David Schaefer (ASU), Michaela Soyer (Hunter), Jacob Young (ASU), Sara Wakefield (Rutgers)

About the Project

  • The National Science Foundation made an award of $323,814 to Penn State to support this project, for the period April 15, 2015 – March 31, 2017.
  • Seed funding was provided by the Justice Center to support development of this project, including collection of pilot data.
  • This study is related to the TC-PINS project discussed in the next section and the R-PINS project under development, discussed under the Justice Center Supported Projects section.

Research Questions

  • What is the structure and implications of inmate network ties for in-prison health and rehabilitation and post-release recidivism?
  • How does an inmate’s position within the unit’s informal network structure relate to his out-of-prison ties and community reentry?

Project Details

  • Project focuses on inmate social networks in a minimum security general population unit at a medium security Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution.
  • All inmates within a single unit were recruited for participation in computer assisted personal interviews, with a response rate of approximately 70% across two waves of data collection during summer and fall of 2015.
  • Project has full support from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Public Data

  • How do I acknowledge the use of the PINS data in an analysis? Please use the following text when acknowledging the use of the data: This research uses data from The Prison Inmate Network Study (PINS), a program project directed and designed Derek Kreager Martin Bouchard, Dana Haynie, David Schaefer, Michaela Soyer, Sara Wakefield, Jacob Young, and Gary Zajac, and is funded by grant LSS-1457193 from the National Science Foundation. Special acknowledgment is due to Corey Whichard, Ed Hayes, Gerardo Cuevas, Wade Jacobsen, and Kim Davidson for interview and coding assistance, and to Bret Bucklen and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for their valuable support of this project. No direct support was received from grant LSS-1457193 for this analysis.
  • How do I cite PINS data in a manuscript? Please use the following text when citing the use of the data: Kreager, Derek, Martin Bouchard, Dana Haynie, David Schaefer, Michaela Soyer, Sara Wakefield, Jacob Young, and Gary Zajac. 2015. The Prison Inmate Network Study (PINS), Wave I, 1995. State College, PA: Justice Center for Research, Penn State University.

Implications

  • This study will have important implications for understanding how inmate social networks influence inmates’ lives and wellbeing in prison, as well as their reentry prospects.

View the Project Abstract (.docx file)

Final Report

This study in development examines how the in-prison social networks of prison inmates examined in the PINS study (see summary of this under Active Funded Research Projects) impacts post release experiences of selected inmates from the PINS study who have since been released.

Project Team

  • Investigators: Derek Kreager, Department of Sociology & Criminology (dkreager@psu.edu), Corey Whichard (PSU Criminology doctoral student), Sara Wakefield (Rutgers), Michaela Soyer (Hunter)

About the Project

  • This project in development extends the current PINS study (see summary of this under Active Funded Research Projects) with intensive interviews of parole-eligible inmates prior to and after prison release.
  • Seed funding was provided by the Justice Center to support development of this project and interview costs.
  • External funding is currently being sought to further the development of this work.

Research Questions and Project Details

  • This project will explore post-release experiences of inmates enrolled in PINS, examining the impact of prison-based and community network ties on post release outcomes including employment, housing, community social ties, health and recidivism.
  • A subset of inmates who participated in the PINS study were recruited to participate in interviews after their release, with over 100 surveyed inmates  agreeing to do so.
  • Exploratory interviews are presently being conducted throughout the state with inmates who have since been released to test methods and elucidate questions in support of a larger research agenda around inmate social networks and reentry experiences and outcomes.  Released inmates will be interviewed in several waves.
  • This line of inquiry can lend important policy insight into how social capital and ties before, during and after prison impact reentry outcomes and promote successful offender reintegration.

This developmental study investigates the incarceration and re-entry experiences of female inmates and their children.

Project Team

  • Investigators: Derek Kreager, Department of Sociology & Criminology (dkreager@psu.edu), Gary Zajac, Sara Wakefield (Rutgers University), Dana Haynie (Ohio State University), and Michaela Soyer (Hunter College)

About the Project

  • This project will fill three critical knowledge gaps identified by the National Research Council in their report on the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the United States: (1) the absence of even basic information on modern conditions of confinement, (2) the potential heterogeneity in incarceration effects across individual and institutional contexts, and (3) the limited understanding of any association between maternal incarceration and child well-being.
  • The proposed project will leverage strong relationships with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to explore the prison and re-entry experiences of female inmates incarcerated in two Pennsylvania prison units.

Project Details

  • In Phase 1, investigators will reveal each units’ informal organization and culture using innovative social network data that maps the unit’s friendship network, status hierarchy, and romantic ties. Network analyses will test hypotheses for the sources of prison status and the associations between inmate social position and outcomes such as prison victimization, mental health, official misconduct, and family visitation.
  • In Phase 2, parole-eligible inmate respondents in the two Pennsylvania prisons will be administered semi-structured qualitative and network interviews to garner their future expectations, social capital, and preparations for community re-entry. Women’s expected social networks provide a unique glimpse into the re-entry process that can later be compared to actual networks upon release. This phase of the project has clear implications for family reintegration, employment, post-release program participation, and relapse/recidivism. Contemporaneously, child and caregiver interviews will be conducted for inmate respondents who are mothers. These interviews will capture the well-being, fears, aspirations, and preparations of inmates’ families and surrogate parents prior to prison release.
  • During Phase 3, investigators will conduct two post-release community interviews of Phase 2 respondents to understand how the previously imprisoned women, their children, and caregivers have adjusted to life after prison and if their envisioned plans came to fruition. The goals of this phase will be to identify and drill down on the mechanisms underlying successful prison re-entry and criminal desistance.

Project Products

  • Aided by an advisory board of social scientists, correctional practitioners, and child advocates, the project’s data and products will test theoretically-driven hypotheses while also informing prison-based and community programs aimed at smoothing the inmate re-entry experience and reducing negative child and inmate health and behavioral outcomes.
  • NIJ award for $685,857 over 3 years.

Final Report

This developmental study investigates the incarceration and re-entry experiences of female inmates and their children.

Project Team

  • Investigators: Derek Kreager, Department of Sociology & Criminology (dkreager@psu.edu), Gary Zajac, Sara Wakefield (Rutgers University), Dana Haynie (Ohio State University), and Michaela Soyer (Hunter College)

About the Project

  • This project will fill three critical knowledge gaps identified by the National Research Council in their report on the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the United States: (1) the absence of even basic information on modern conditions of confinement, (2) the potential heterogeneity in incarceration effects across individual and institutional contexts, and (3) the limited understanding of any association between maternal incarceration and child well-being.
  • The proposed project will leverage strong relationships with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to explore the prison and re-entry experiences of female inmates incarcerated in two Pennsylvania prison units.

Project Details

  • In Phase 1, investigators will reveal each units’ informal organization and culture using innovative social network data that maps the unit’s friendship network, status hierarchy, and romantic ties. Network analyses will test hypotheses for the sources of prison status and the associations between inmate social position and outcomes such as prison victimization, mental health, official misconduct, and family visitation.
  • In Phase 2, parole-eligible inmate respondents in the two Pennsylvania prisons will be administered semi-structured qualitative and network interviews to garner their future expectations, social capital, and preparations for community re-entry. Women’s expected social networks provide a unique glimpse into the re-entry process that can later be compared to actual networks upon release. This phase of the project has clear implications for family reintegration, employment, post-release program participation, and relapse/recidivism. Contemporaneously, child and caregiver interviews will be conducted for inmate respondents who are mothers. These interviews will capture the well-being, fears, aspirations, and preparations of inmates’ families and surrogate parents prior to prison release.
  • During Phase 3, investigators will conduct two post-release community interviews of Phase 2 respondents to understand how the previously imprisoned women, their children, and caregivers have adjusted to life after prison and if their envisioned plans came to fruition. The goals of this phase will be to identify and drill down on the mechanisms underlying successful prison re-entry and criminal desistance.

Project Products

  • Aided by an advisory board of social scientists, correctional practitioners, and child advocates, the project’s data and products will test theoretically-driven hypotheses while also informing prison-based and community programs aimed at smoothing the inmate re-entry experience and reducing negative child and inmate health and behavioral outcomes.
  • NIJ award for $685,857 over 3 years.

Final Report

This project seeks to understand, describe, and disrupt networks of illicit sales of opiates from a public safety perspective in partnership with Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, and local treatment facilities. This project will help to understand hotspots of drug distribution and access, while addressing the utility of community based policing in addressing this complex issue.

Prior research emphasizes the disruption of the supply of prescription opioids from healthcare sources and increased first-provider access to the opiate overdose reversal drug, naloxone. Additional efforts emphasize combating demand by increasing treatment options for users. Within this context, however, there has been less emphasis on understanding, describing, and disrupting networks of illicit sales of opiates from a public safety perspective. We aim to fill a gap in these efforts by partnering with law enforcement, state agencies, and community organizations to identify and describe opiate distribution of opiates in PA and the geographic hotspots of sales within urban and rural PA communities to inform recommendations aimed at disrupting the supply of illegal opiates (including heroin, fentanyl, and diverted prescription opioids). We will develop tools to identify and describe opiate distribution networks and geographic hotspots of opiate activity from administrative data and community input that will be of broad interest to public safety and health experts in other communities in PA and other states.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigators: Glenn Sterner, Post-Doctoral Scholar, Justice Center for Research, Department of Sociology and Criminology, ges5098@psu.edu; Ashton Verdery, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Demography, Department of Sociology and Criminology, amv5430@psu.edu; Shannon Monnat, Associate Professor, Sociology, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, smmonnat@maxwell.syr.edu
  • Co-Investigators: Pete Forster, Associate Dean, College of Information Sciences and Technology, pforster@ist.psu.edu; Gary Zajac, Managing Director, Justice Center for Research, gxz3@psu.edu; Scott Yabiku, Department of Sociology and Criminology, sty105@psu.edu

About the Project

  • The National Institute of Justice made an award of $990,002 to Penn State to support this project, for the period  January 1, 2018 – December, 31, 2019.
  • The Pilot Study for this project was supported by the College of the Liberal Arts.

Research Questions

  1. What are the characteristics of heroin and fentanyl distribution networks? We will focus on their hierarchical structure, number and strength of connections, clusters of distribution possibly associated with different organizations, susceptibility of distribution networks to disruption, and geographic spread.
  2. What are the characteristics (same as #1) of prescription opioid distribution networks?
  3. How do the distribution networks of heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opiates compare?
  4. How do residents’ perceptions of the geographic locations of opiate distribution compare to police collected data on opiate arrests, opiate seizures, and distribution locations?
  5. What are the differences in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and major highway access between neighborhoods with high versus low opiate distribution as defined by arrest data?
  6. What are the differences in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and major highway access between neighborhoods with high versus low opiate distribution as defined by participatory mapping?

Project Objectives

  1. Identify and document the structure of heroin and fentanyl distribution networks in PA.
  2. Identify and document the structure of diverted prescription opioid networks in PA.
  3. Compare heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid distribution networks in PA and their connections to each other.
  4. Develop and apply tools to record resident identified locations of local opiate distribution in 6 Pennsylvania Counties.
  5. Compare resident identified locations of local opiate distribution to relevant arrest locations.
  6. Describe the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of neighborhoods with high vs. low distribution (as measured by arrest records and respondent reporting).
  7. Provide recommendations for law enforcement to better target heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid distribution networks in ways that increase network disruption.
  8. Provide recommendations for improving intelligence gathering activities related to documenting and disrupting opiate distribution networks.
  9. Create stronger community and law enforcement connections.
  10. Disseminate information for opiate treatment and reporting of illicit activity at study sites.
  11. Create a portable data fusion model that other jurisdictions can employ to document, detect, and disrupt opiate distribution networks.

Implications

Looking more broadly at the value and impact of a geo-spatial approach to understanding opiate markets and avenues for their disruption, opiate abuse has tremendous consequences for the welfare of drug users, affecting their long term involvement in the criminal justice system, as well as their health, employment and employability, family relations, and other outcomes. Drug use and the criminal justice system involvement that often follows have consequences for the wellbeing not only of addicts and dealers themselves, but also for their families and more broadly their communities. Improved interdiction approaches that can result from our proposed study has benefits not only for the criminal justice and public health systems that are responding to the opiate crisis, but also for the communities that are harmed by widespread use of these substances, where such harm includes public health impacts, violence and social disorder. Our project will also encourage broader collaboration between researchers and law enforcement, especially in rural communities, and will set the stage for further applications of research and analysis to the study of opiate and other drug abuse in other communities beyond PA, demonstrating the importance of this approach and testing methods and innovations that can be diffused across many law enforcement settings nationally. We have an extensive plan to disseminate this information to a broad audience, including local and state criminal justice organizations, local, state, and national government officials, academic organizations, non-profit organizations, treatment and addiction centers, and task forces.

Although this study is limited to six counties in PA, the analyses and results from this study will have the ability to inform policy and practice across the Commonwealth and the United States. First, our innovative approach to data fusion will be of interest to law enforcement agencies to use as a model for addressing complex criminal justice issues. We are utilizing datasets from multiple units within the PA State Police to develop understandings of drug distributions. Similarly, we are utilizing community-based data gathering and existing data to gain clearer understandings of drug sales in neighborhoods. By tackling this issue from multiple perspectives, we are able to provide recommendations for police enforcement policy and practice to ensure efforts are maximized to disrupt the distribution of opiates. Integration across inter-departmental agencies and across jurisdictions is a model that could be applied to the opiate epidemic and other criminal justice concerns. Second, by identifying the common characteristics of communities where significant distribution occurs, we can inform criminal justice agencies on potential areas for concentrating officer targeting.

Project Partners

Criminal Justice Research Center, Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, and The Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

Final Report

This project examines the costs of the opioid crisis related to the criminal justice system (CJS) in Pennsylvania.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D., Managing Director Criminal Justice Research Center (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Co-Investigator: Derek Kreager, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology and Glenn Sterner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Penn State Abington
  • Researcher: Sam Nur, BA

About the Project

  • This project was requested by the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General (POAG) in support of a lawsuit that involves the POAG and numerous other states against the pharmaceutical industry to recoup damages to state governments caused by the opiate crisis and related over use of prescription pharmaceuticals.
  • This project engaged multiple subject matter teams throughout the university, in areas including public health, insurance, child welfare, education, and criminal justice.  The latter was led by the Criminal Justice Research Center.
  • The opioid crisis has made financial impacts across all levels of the public sector. This project focuses on costs related to the criminal justice system (CJS) in Pennsylvania. Costs impacting 3 principal areas of the CJS are examined: opioid-related arrests, court costs, and incarceration. Analysis of the state-level CJS is our main focus; no local-level costs are included.
  • Through this examination, costs of the opioid crisis for the period of 2007 to 2016 were estimated using opioid costs for 2006 as a baseline. Total costs to the Pennsylvania CJS during this period were over $526 million, with most of that accounted for by state corrections.

Research Questions

  • What is the estimate of the financial impact of the opioid crisis on the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania (state policing, courts and corrections) over the past several decades?

Project Details

  • Submitted report on criminal justice system costs to Dennis Scanlon, the overall project lead at Health Policy and Administration. Overall report (on costs in all policy domains) submitted to the POAG in early April of 2018.

Implications

  • This project may lead to expanded efforts in the future to estimate costs nationally.

Final Report

Researchers are investigating racial disparity in death penalty sentencing in all death-eligible cases in Pennsylvania during the time period 1998-2010.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Ulmer, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology ()
  • Co-Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D.
  • Project Consultant: John Kramer, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology- Emeritus
  • Research Assistant: Edward Hayes, M.A., Robert Hutchison, M.A.

About the Project

  • Funded by the PA Supreme Court’s Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness and the Falk Foundation.

Research Questions

  • Is there racial disparity in death penalty sentencing in PA?

Project Details

  • Identify all death eligible cases in PA during the time period 1998-2010.
  • Analyze the role that race plays relative to other variables in determining death penalty sentencing.
  • Currently in the data analysis phase.

Implications

  • Results will inform public debate on the controversial topic of the death penalty.

Final Report

The Justice Center was named as the advisor to this agenda of research into the state of capital punishment within Pennsylvania. Justice Center researchers are involved in several research topics from the resolution including fairness, public opinion, secondary trauma, and role of mental disorder in capital punishment.

Project Team

  • Project Consultant: Gary Zajac, Ph.D. (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Project Consultant: John Kramer, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology- Emeritus
  • Project Consultant: Derek Kreager, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology

About the Project

  • In 2011, the Pennsylvania Senate passed Senate Resolution Number 6 calling for an agenda of research into the state of capital punishment within Pennsylvania.
  • The Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission has primary responsibility for the management of this resolution, but the Justice Center for Research was named in the resolution as the advisor to this effort.

Research Questions

  • The resolution identifies 17 specific research topics surrounding the death penalty in Pennsylvania, including issues of cost, fairness, public opinion, alternatives, juror selection, penological intent, and related issues.

Project Details

  • The Justice Center is directly participating in several of these topics, including fairness (see summary of death penalty project), public opinion, secondary trauma, and role of mental disorder.

Implications

  • This work will directly inform deliberations in the PA Senate on policy surrounding capital punishment.

Final Report

For this project, researchers are examining the situational factors that impact offenders’ desistance from crime and violence. Offenders released from prison in 2004 will be interviewed and DOC data will be collected to form a complete picture of offenders’ backgrounds.

Project Team

  • Co-Investigator: Julie Horney, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology (jzh11@psu.edu)
  • Co-Investigator: Doris MacKenzie, Ph.D., Adjunct Senior Scientist in Criminology- Retired

About the Project

  • 3 year NIJ-funded study in collaboration with RTI.
  • Tracking offenders released from prison in 2004 who were studied in a previous RTI project.

Research Questions

  • What situational factors impact offenders’ desistance from crime and violence? (marriage, divorce, employment, education, etc.)
  • How do rehabilitation programs help offenders? How does cognitive transformation affect desistance?

Project Details

  • Obtain data from Indiana and South Carolina Departments of Corrections for record of life time incarcerations.
  • In-person interviews to collect information on demographics, attitudes, life events, and criminal activity.

Implications

  • Results will increase knowledge about factors associated with desistance from crime.
  • Long-term outcomes will help researchers better understand whether cognitive transformation is necessary as a prerequisite to desistance.

The Justice Center evaluated two dozen probation departments in Indiana to learn more about officer workload. The results of this study will inform probation departments about how to best distribute their caseload assignments based on the different risk and needs levels of offenders.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Matthew DeMichele, Ph.D.

About the Project

  • The Indiana Judicial Conference provided funding for the Justice Center to conduct a workload evaluation of two dozen probation departments.
  • Many probation departments currently use a one-size fits all approach to offender case assignments.
  • Some departments are now moving toward using a workload approach that recognizes differences in criminogenic needs and risk of recidivism.

Research Question

  • How can probation departments distribute caseload assignments in a way that maximizes officer time availability, skill level, and knowledge?

Project Details

  • The Justice Center conducted a survey of probation officers, a time study of officer practices over a 5-week period, and conducted interviews with probation chiefs.
  • These data collection methods led to preliminary results that demonstrated the amount of time officers spend each month supervising offenders of different risk and needs levels.

Final Report

This is a pilot project that seeks to understand the relationship between legal employment, informal employment and money generating criminal activities. Specifically, we are interested in how various sources of income overlap and the incentive structures associated with these sources.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Holly Nguyen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology (hollynguyen@psu.edu)
  • Co-Investigators: Jeremy Staff, Ph.D., Gary Zajac, Ph.D. Derek Kreager, Ph.D., Thomas Loughran, Ph.D. (University of Maryland)

About the Project

  • Seed funding was provided by the Justice Center to support the collection of pilot data.
  • External funding will be sought to expand the scope of this work.

Research Questions

The project is driven by three main research questions:

  1. What are the patterns associated with participation in legal employment, informal employment and money generating crimes?
  2. How are earnings from legal, informal and crime related to participation in each?
  3. How are perceptions of rewards (monetary, intrinsic and social) associated with participation in legal, informal, and money generating criminal activities?

Project Details

  • This project will focus on interviewing selected inmates within a State Correctional Institution in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
  • Inmates within the selected institution will be recruited for participation in the summer of 2016.
  • This project has the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Implications

  • Results from this project have the potential to inform 1) theories on decision making and desistance from crime 2) the design of policies that increases the efficacy of custodial and noncustodial employment programs, and 3) improve the general understanding of offenders’ conceptualizations of “work”.

For this project, Justice Center researchers analyzed the key needs and challenges facing prisoners returning to rural areas. Very few programs address the skills that are most strongly associated with recidivism reduction.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D. (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Research Assistant: Courtney Meyer, M.A.
  • Graduate Assistant: Robert Hutchison, M.A.

About the Project

  • Funded by Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s 2012 Research Grant Projects initiative.
  • One of the first studies to focus on rural reentry (previous research examined reentry to urban areas).

Research Questions

  • What are the key needs and challenges facing prisoners returning to rural PA?
  • How do corrections agencies respond to these challenges and what kinds of services are available to inmates upon their release?

Project Details

  • Surveyed 44 rural county jail wardens.
  • Collected data from PADOC and PA Board of Probation and Parole.

Results

  • Most critical reentry needs for returning rural inmates include assistance with employment, housing, and transportation.
  • Very few programs address ex-offenders’ thinking, decision making skills, and problem solving skills; all of which are strongly associated with recidivism reduction.

Final Report

This study is focused on the implementation of evidence-based practices in the area of substance abuse treatment. Researchers are investigating which organizational change strategies are most effective in promoting the implementation of evidence-based practices.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Steve Belenko, Ph.D., Temple University
  • Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D. (gxz3@psu.edu)

About the Project

  • NIDA-funded, multi-center, multi-site, multi-year study focused upon the implementation of evidence-based practices in corrections, with specific focus on substance abuse treatment.
  • Three primary research protocols – (1) implementation of medically assisted therapies in drug treatment (e.g. methadone); (2) utilization of rigorous assessment practices in the development of treatment plans in the transition from prison to the community; (3) implementation of strategies to manage care of HIV positive inmates.
  • Emphasis with CJDATS is not on evaluating outcomes of specific treatment practices, but studying the implementation of evidence-based practices and testing strategies to enhance such implementation.

Research Questions

  • How are evidence-based treatment practices disseminated within corrections agencies?
  • What organizational change strategies (e.g. local change teams) are most effective in promoting the implementation of evidence based practices?

Project Details

  • Nine research centers testing organizational change strategies in the three research protocol areas in dozens of criminal justice agencies across the U.S.

Implications

  • Results will inform development and dissemination of organizational strategies to promote high fidelity implementation of evidence-based practices in correctional substance abuse treatment and will contribute to the growing body of literature on implementation science.

This research study is examining current treatment practices being delivered by the MCATC and determining whether these services correspond to best practices in corrections. Researchers are also investigating whether the MCATC is structured to support future outcome evaluation activities.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D. (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Research Assistant: Laura Winger, M.S.

About the Project

  • Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, this project involves a process evaluation of the drug court operated by Mifflin County, PA, which is immediately south of the University Park campus.
  • Mifflin County received funding to start and operate its drug court, and also to support initial evaluation activity which was conducted by the Justice Center.

Research Questions

  • Do the treatment services offered by the MCATC correspond to best practices in corrections and the principles of effective offender intervention?
  • Is the MCATC structured in such a way as to support future outcome evaluation activities, for example, are the data systems for MCATC sufficient for information needed by evaluators?

Project Details

  • Research activities include review of data systems and examination of treatment practices being delivered by the MCATC.

Results

  • Results from the program evaluation include key recommendations to MCATC that will increase the likelihood of reducing recidivism.
  • The final report can be accessed here. (.pdf file)
  • The final report can be accessed here. (.docx file)

COSA is a community-based reentry program aimed at sex offenders with a high risk of reconviction. Justice Center researchers conducted evaluability assessments of 5 COSA programs across the U.S. to determine which sites are prepared for more extensive evaluations.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Ian Elliot, Ph.D. (iae1@psu.edu)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D.
  • Research Assistant: Courtney Meyer, M.A.

About the Project

  • NIJ-funded evaluability assessment of COSA prison reentry programs in U.S.
  • COSA is a community-based program aimed predominantly at sex offenders with the highest risk of reconviction.
  • Offenders are provided with 4-5 community volunteers who provide social support while challenging risky behaviors and modeling pro-social behavior, overseen by related professionals.

Research Questions

  • Do U.S. COSA providers implement comparable programs?
  • Can U.S. COSA programs contribute to a rigorous multi-site outcome, cost, and customer satisfaction evaluation?

Project Details

  • Assess implementation at 5 COSA providers across the U.S. for intended application of the COSA model, actual program operations, data management, and challenges to evaluation.

Results

  • Vermont’s COSA program demonstrated high program fidelity; Fresno and Lancaster programs showed adequate fidelity.
  • 5 potential obstacles to conduct a successful experimental evaluation of COSA were identified (choice of outcomes; significant differences in program implementation; core member selection issues; sample size, site capacity, and low baselines of recidivism; and ownership of data).
  • 3 recommendations for future evaluative activity include: conduct an experimental evaluation of Vermont’s COSA program; conduct an experimental evaluation that combines Vermont and Fresno programs; or allow fledgling sites to develop and conduct a multi-site evaluation of COSA in the future.

Final Report

The Justice Center is investigating whether offender management software that monitors and enforces acceptable internet use for sex offenders can be successfully implemented alongside the PA Board of Probation and Parole’s current supervision procedures.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Ian Elliott, Ph.D. (iae1@psu.edu)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D.

About the Project

  • Restrictions on release for sex offenders can include limiting or revoking access to communications technologies, such as the internet, which can diminish their ability to develop an offense-free life.
  • There is a need for a system that allows sex offenders full access to communications technologies, but with adequate monitoring in place that eliminates the perception of anonymity and provides guardianship and accountability.
  • Securus offender management software (OMS), when installed on a machine, allows agents to enforce acceptable use policies through real-time monitoring of the user’s PC for prohibited words and phrases, both online and offline.

Research Questions

  • Can OMS be successfully implemented alongside current PA Board of Probation and Parole (PABPP) supervision procedures?
  • Do agents and offenders find OMS a user-friendly method by which to provide internet access?
  • Is there capacity for adequate data organization in support of further implementation and evaluation?

Project Details

  • 20 – 30 adult sex offenders from the caseloads of 2 or 3 suitable PABBP agents will have OMS installed on a computer for their use. Agents will remotely monitor those machines via OMS for serious and minor violations of acceptable use.

Implications

  • Results will provide conclusions about whether or not OMS has ongoing benefit for the PABPP, and provide further information for the design of a larger scale evaluation.

Final Report

This study explored issues surrounding the provision of police services by the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to municipalities in Pennsylvania that either have no police department at all, or that have only a part-time police department. Justice Center researchers investigated the level of PSP service provided to municipalities as well as the amount and types of revenue that the Commonwealth received from the municipalities.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D. (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Research Associate: Lindsay Kowalski, M.A.

About the Project

  • Funded by Center for Rural Pennsylvania to analyze PSP service provision to municipalities over the period of Jan. 2006 – Dec. 2010.

Research Questions

  • How many municipalities did PSP serve and what level of service was provided?
  • How much and what types of revenue has the Commonwealth received from the municipalities? (fines)

Project Details

  • Collected existing administrative data from PSP Bureau of Research & Development
  • Administrative Office of the PA Courts provided data on fines.

Results

  • PSP provided full- or part-time coverage to 67% of all municipalities in PA (92% of all rural municipalities).
  • 72% of PSP incidents occur in municipalities that rely on PSP for full- or part-time law enforcement services.
  • Half of traffic fine revenue is returned to municipalities; Commonwealth retains revenue from all non-traffic fines with 64% coming from rural areas.

Final Report

Justice Center researchers conducted a survey of county jail wardens to learn more about treatment services and programs. They also analyzed jail population trends, demographics, and capacity. Most notably, very few jails offered programs that address criminal thinking and decision making skills.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D. (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Research Associate: Lindsay Kowalski, M.A.

About the Project

  • Funded by Center for Rural Pennsylvania to examine the operation of PA’s 44 rural county jails.
  • Investigated jail population, demographics, capacity, and treatment programs and services over the period 2004-2011.

Research Questions

  • What are the population trends for PA’s rural county jails?
  • What are the key factors involved in the jail infrastructure and specifically, what treatment/rehabilitative services are offered?

Project Details

  • Utilized existing administrative data from PADOC.
  • Conducted survey of county jail wardens/sheriffs.

Results

  • Rural county jail system operated at 84% capacity and jail population grew by 17% from 2004-2010.
  • 27% of jails offered programs that aren’t related to goal of recidivism reduction.
  • Only 16% of jails had programs that target criminal thinking and decision making skills.

Final Report

The Justice Center was sought out to make updates and improvements to this survey of school students conducted by the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The survey layout was improved and a three-form survey design was incorporated to boost the response rate.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Rose Baker, Ph.D., College of Education (rmb194@psu.edu)
  • Doris MacKenzie, Ph.D.

About the Project

  • Survey of school students in 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grades conducted every 2 years by PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).
  • Justice Center was sought out to make updates and improvements to survey.

Research Questions

  • How can response rate be improved for certain questions?
  • What changes can be made to help students complete the survey faster?

Project Details

  • Changes include using a three-form survey design so that all questions will be answered by a more even number of respondents.
  • Survey layout was changed to improve readability and speed of completion. Also, new questions have been added to help local organizations meet the requirements of funding agencies.

Implications

  • Rose Baker was asked to oversee the next implementation of the survey.

In response to recent concerns about the potential negative impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling in rural PA, the Justice Center analyzed crime reports and state police incidents to address whether a relationship exists between drilling activity and increased crime in Marcellus Shale counties. Results indicated that there was no clear association during recent years.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D. (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Research Associate: Lindsay Kowalski, M.A.

About the Project

  • Investigated crime in rural PA counties in response to concerns regarding negative impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling.

Research Questions

  • Is there a relationship between drilling activity and increased crime in Marcellus Shale counties?
  • How do Marcellus regions compare to other rural PA counties in terms of crime?

Project Details

  • Identified 7 counties with most Marcellus drilling activity.
  • Analyzed Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) incidents/calls for service and Uniform Crime Reports.

Results

  • No clear association between Marcellus Shale drilling and criminal activity.
  • Non-Marcellus areas have seen a decrease in PSP incidents during recent years.

Final Report

Justice Center researchers examined a training curriculum for PADOC staff to be used with female offenders with co-occurring disorders. Treatment activities were evaluated to determine the readiness for future program evaluations.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D. (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Deirdre O’Sullivan, Ph.D., College of Education
  • Research Assistant: Edward Hayes, M.A.

About the Project

  • Second Chance Grant project through contract with PA Department of Corrections.
  • Process evaluation of co-occurring disorder treatment program for female offenders.

Research Objectives

  • Examined training curriculum developed and delivered to PADOC staff.
  • Examined integrated treatment activities.

Project Details

  • Identified intended program activities; document actual program activities.
  • Discovered program strengths and weaknesses related to implementation fidelity.

Implications

  • Results from this process evaluation will establish the readiness of the treatment program for future evaluation activities, including outcome evaluations.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing is working with the Justice Center to conduct a recidivism study of the most severe offenders. The goal is to learn more about which offender characteristics best predict future recidivism, especially for violent crimes.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Matthew DeMichele, Ph.D.
  • Graduate Assistant: Julia Laskorunsky, M.A. (jal549@psu.edu)

About the Project

  • The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing (PCS) was mandated by the Pennsylvanian Legislature to develop a risk assessment tool to guide sentencing decisions.
  • In response to this mandate, the PCS is working with the Justice Center for Research to conduct a recidivism study of individuals sentenced as level 5 offenders (most severe; pose greatest threat to public safety).

Research Questions

  • Which offender characteristics best predict future recidivism?
  • Specifically, which characteristics predict recidivism for a violent crime?

Project Details

  • The Justice Center is using sentencing data and several offender characteristics from the Department of Corrections’ database to analyze offender characteristics.

Implications

  • The findings from this project will contribute to criminological theory and methods, and have direct policy-relevance by informing judges of the risks of recidivism.

Final Report

This research project examines the preventable precursors of adult crime such as youth drug use, academic failure, delinquency, and youth mental health problems. The data will be used to help identify the profiles of at-risk youth.

  • Results will provide an empirical basis to inform the investment and re-investment in prevention and intervention strategies targeting the most prevalent precursors of adult crime.

In this study, researchers are examining the relationship between offending and victimization. Situational factors will be assessed through 3 different interview designs with recently admitted male prison inmates.

  • Results will provide valuable information to help explain why offenders are more likely to be victimized in disputes.

The Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) was designed to measure the need for prevention services among youth in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 in the areas of substance abuse, delinquency, antisocial behavior, violence, and mental health issues. The questions on the survey ask youth about the factors that place them at risk for substance use and other problem behaviors along with the factors that offer them protection from problem behaviors. The survey also inquires about the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATODs), participation in various antisocial behaviors, school climate and safety issues, and thoughts regarding suicide and students’ own mental health. The survey is conducted in public, private, parochial, and cyber schools. In 2013, over 350 school districts comprised of more than 800 schools participated in the survey administration. Funding for the survey was provided by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

  • Survey results inform and help evaluate prevention strategies.

The Justice Center is working with Penn State’s Justice and Safety Institute (JASI) on the ongoing evaluation of the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement Training Institute (PACSETI). PACSETI is a major, long term project of JASI, which is an original partner of the Center. PACSETI provides all of the training for the child support enforcement caseworkers throughout Pennsylvania. The Center is serving as the evaluation partner for PACSETI, and Diana Samardzic’s position is funded through this partnership. Dr. Zajac is part of the PACSETI management team, and is working with Diana on an ongoing program evaluation around PACSETI.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D.
  • Research Assistant: Diana Samardzic, M.A

About the Project

  • PACSETI is funded through a multi-year contract from the PA Department of Human Services, Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, to JASI.
  • Training targets are caseworkers employed by the Domestic Relations Sections within Pennsylvania’s county courts.
  • Diana is based out of the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg, pursuant to the nascent linkage between the School, JASI, and the Center.

Research Questions

  • What are the impacts of PACSETI on caseworker training satisfaction, knowledge gain, job behavior and ultimately more distal performance outcomes of the county Domestic Relations Sections.

Project Details

  • Evaluation plans are now being developed.

Implications

  • Strong implications for the operations of the county DRS offices and the success of the child support enforcement mission.

On October 29-30, 2012, the Justice Center held this conference which featured informative lectures about the impact, prevention, and intervention of child sexual abuse. Keynote speakers included Sugar Ray Leonard and Elizabeth Smart, survivors of child sexual abuse.

Project Status: Held on October 29-30, 2012

Conference Organizers

About the Project

  • The Justice Center, in collaboration with the College of the Liberal Arts and Penn State Outreach, organized this conference which was attended by nearly 500 people.
  • The conference appealed to various groups of people such as researchers, practitioners, advocates, and survivors.

Project Details

  • Keynote speakers included Sugar Ray Leonard and Elizabeth Smart, survivors of child sexual abuse.
  • A community discussion panel held the night before the conference featured an open-dialogue conversation between survivors and the audience.

Implications

  • This conference served as an important event in Penn State’s efforts to become a leader in the research, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse.

Justice Center researchers have created six TED-ED lessons based on the talks given at the Child Sexual Abuse Conference. Data from the lessons will be gathered to analyze the interest in the material and determine the need for continued development.

Project Status: Completed

Project Team

  • Lead Investigator: Ian Elliot, Ph.D. (iae1@psu.edu)
  • Co-Investigator: Kate Staley, Ph.D.
  • Co-Investigator: Courtney Meyer, M.A.

About the Project

  • Following up on the six-month anniversary of the Child Sexual Abuse Conference, the Justice Center aims to re-engage with conference attendees and the general public by disseminating conference material through TED-ED, an online learning system.
  • Using TED-ED, a series of online lessons were created based on the six pre-recorded Conference talks that are currently linked to the Conference website.

Project Details

  • Each TED-ED lesson includes a 15-item quiz, additional resources related to the specific content of the lesson, and discussion topics.
  • Lessons were made available to conference attendees and the public via the Conference website and the Justice Center twitter account.

Implications

  • Data from the lessons was gathered to analyze the number of visitors to the site, responses to quizzes, and discussions.
  • This information will be used to gauge interest in the material and determine whether there is a need for continued development of the online lessons.

Courtney Meyer organized a one-day conference to educate college students about sexual assault with a unique focus on masculinity and rape. The conference was available to students and took place at Penn State on October 15, 2013.

Project Status: Held on October 15, 2013

Project Team

About the Project

  • One-day conference in collaboration with the Center for Women Students and the Commission for Women held at Penn State University on October 15, 2013. (Conference was free and available to students to register).
  • The purpose of the conference is to educate college students about sexual assault in general, along with a special focus on masculinity and rape.

Project Details

  • Specific topics include: characteristics of the perpetrator, rape myths, dating violence, sex as a weapon, rape in the LGBT community, what to do after rape, reporting a rape, bystander intervention, and methods of preventing rape.
  • The keynote speaker was Laura Dunn. Students attended a variety of different small workshops.

Implications

  • With the conference’s unique focus on masculinity and rape, attendees were educated on campus sexual assault from an innovative point of view that is not usually represented in these types of programs.

The Justice Center is working with the Justice and Safety Institute to train several police executives from Morocco on evidence-based practices in policing. Topics include principles of democratic policing and the scientific basis of police forensics.

Project Team

  • Co-Project Director: Don Zettlemoyer (dkz1@psu.edu)
  • Co-Project Director: John Kramer, Ph.D., CLJ
  • Project Consultant: Gary Zajac, Ph.D.

About the Project

  • Funded by U.S. Department of State through the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
  • Goal is to convey evidence-based practices in policing to selected police executives from other countries.
  • Initial focus is on several police executives from Morocco who have been selected by the national police force there to participate in this executive development program.

Project Details

  • Specific topical areas selected in consultation with Morocco, but include principles of democratic policing and the scientific basis of police forensics.
  • Selected Moroccan police executives will visit Penn State during May-June 2013 to participate in this project. Project is being led by the Justice and Safety Institute, with cooperation from the Justice Center for Research and other centers on campus.

Implications

  • Project is intended to promote the expansion of evidence-based policing trans-nationally, and to build partnerships with police agencies in other nations.

This study examines the social networks of prison inmates in a state correctional institution.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Derek Kreager, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology (dkreager@psu.edu)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac
  • Co-Investigators: Martin Bouchard (SFU), Dana Haynie (OSU), David Schaefer (ASU), Michaela Soyer (Hunter), Jacob Young (ASU), Sara Wakefield (Rutgers)

About the Project

  • The National Science Foundation made an award of $323,814 to Penn State to support this project, for the period April 15, 2015 – March 31, 2017.
  • Seed funding was provided by the Justice Center to support development of this project, including collection of pilot data.
  • This study is related to the TC-PINS project discussed in the next section and the R-PINS project under development, discussed under the Justice Center Supported Projects section.

Research Questions

  • What is the structure and implications of inmate network ties for in-prison health and rehabilitation and post-release recidivism?
  • How does an inmate’s position within the unit’s informal network structure relate to his out-of-prison ties and community reentry?

Project Details

  • Project focuses on inmate social networks in a minimum security general population unit at a medium security Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution.
  • All inmates within a single unit were recruited for participation in computer assisted personal interviews, with a response rate of approximately 70% across two waves of data collection during summer and fall of 2015.
  • Project has full support from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Public Data

  • How do I acknowledge the use of the PINS data in an analysis? Please use the following text when acknowledging the use of the data: This research uses data from The Prison Inmate Network Study (PINS), a program project directed and designed Derek Kreager Martin Bouchard, Dana Haynie, David Schaefer, Michaela Soyer, Sara Wakefield, Jacob Young, and Gary Zajac, and is funded by grant LSS-1457193 from the National Science Foundation. Special acknowledgment is due to Corey Whichard, Ed Hayes, Gerardo Cuevas, Wade Jacobsen, and Kim Davidson for interview and coding assistance, and to Bret Bucklen and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for their valuable support of this project. No direct support was received from grant LSS-1457193 for this analysis.
  • How do I cite PINS data in a manuscript? Please use the following text when citing the use of the data: Kreager, Derek, Martin Bouchard, Dana Haynie, David Schaefer, Michaela Soyer, Sara Wakefield, Jacob Young, and Gary Zajac. 2015. The Prison Inmate Network Study (PINS), Wave I, 1995. State College, PA: Justice Center for Research, Penn State University.

Implications

  • This study will have important implications for understanding how inmate social networks influence inmates’ lives and wellbeing in prison, as well as their reentry prospects.

View the Project Abstract (.docx file)