CJRC Seed Grant Projects

The following projects are supported through the CJRC Seed Grant program, which provides support to Penn State faculty with the development of their research as they seek external funding and the pursuit of scholarly products such as publications. Those that have been awarded external funding with CJRC support are indicated with a brief note about the source of external funding.  Others are currently in search of external funding. 

The typical CJRC seed grant provides support of up to $8,500 (Seed Grant Awards), and in some cases up to $20,000 (Enhanced Seed Grants). The Enhanced Seed Grant program has been supplemented with funds from the Penn State Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), as well as with internal CJRC funds. 


Enhanced Seed Grant Award

Consumer Racial Profiling in Canada: A Pilot Study

Dr. Shaun L. Gabbidon, (Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice, Penn State Harrisburg and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Harrisburg) and External Collaborators, Dr. Kareem Jordan (Associate Professor of Justice, Law and Criminology, American University) and Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah (Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto Mississauga) will examine the prevalence and scope of Consumer Racial Profiling (CRP) in Canada. CRP is defined as the act of discriminating against consumers, by retailers, based upon their race or ethnicity. The team will survey the CRP experiences of a diverse sample of Canadians.

Seed Grant Awards

A Pack of Lone Wolves:  Understanding the Link Between Incel Culture and Mass Violence Events 

Dr. Kurt Fowler (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Penn State Abington and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Abington) will examine the cultural pipeline that leads to individual behaviors. By examining the language of Incel culture, its prescriptive values, and the narratives of mass violence manifestos, this research will uncover a social process that starts with enculturation and ends with individual acts of mass violence.  

Examining the Role of Drug Courts in an Era of Reform

Dr. Jennifer Murphy (Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Penn State Berks and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Berks) will conduct 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.

Household Substance Use Bans and Youth Susceptibility to Vaping, Smoking, and Cannabis Use

Dr. Jeremy Staff (Professor of Criminology, Sociology, and Demography and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate) with Co-Investigator Jessica Mongilio (Graduate Student in the Department of Sociology and Criminology) will use nationally-representative longitudinal data to assess the impact of household bans on vaping, smoking, and cannabis use on youth susceptibility, age of onset, and past year use of e-cigarettes, tobacco cigarettes, and cannabis.

Probation Experiences and Challenges in Rural Pennsylvania Communities

Dr. Pam Wilcox (Professor of Sociology and Criminology and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate) will conduct an analysis of pilot data on probation service provision and client experiences in rural Pennsylvania in order to gain a preliminary understanding of the challenges facing rural community-based corrections.


Enhanced Seed Grant Award

Racial Resentment Writ Large: Understanding Americans’ Attitudes Toward Criminal Justice Institutions and Reforms

Dr. Eric Silver (Professor of Sociology and Criminology and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate) and Co-Investigators Dr. John Iceland (Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Demography and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate) and Dr. Kerby Goff (Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University) will examine racial resentment by and toward Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and Asians, and systemic racism beliefs as drivers of Americans’ attitudes toward criminal justice institutions and reforms. The team will survey nationally representative samples, the data will include information on Americans’ attitudes toward police, police reform, bail reform, drug decriminalization, gun control, decarceration, the Black Lives Matter Movement, the Stop Asian Hate movement, and punitiveness toward white collar offenders.

Seed Grant Awards

Big Data and Violence Diffusion across US Communities: Was Diffusion Exacerbated or Weakened during the Covid-19 Pandemic?

Dr. Corina Graif (Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate) and Collaborating Investigator Christopher Seto (Assistant Professor of Sociology at Purdue University) will aim to address two main research questions: To what extent violence diffuses from a community to another? More specifically, to what extent homicide and other violent incidents in one (origin) place can contribute to new such events in other (destination) places that are connected though population mobility flows. The second aim is to address what extent violence diffusion was exacerbated or weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic?

Geographic Heterogeneity in Opioid Use in the Wake of COVID-19 and Cannabis’ Potential for Harm Reduction

Dr. Louisa Holmes, Assistant Professor of Geography and Demography and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate,  will collect survey data from individuals who use opioids, those in recovery from opioid use disorder, and those who use cannabis in the Northern, North Central, and Central Appalachian States. This research will focus on describing how ongoing COVID-related stressors may be associated with opioid use frequency, use of prescription versus illicit opioids, and barriers to obtaining substance use treatment. In addition, this research will investigate concurrent and simultaneous co-use of opioids with cannabis and illicit drugs, assess to what degree those who use opioids or are in recovery from opioid use disorder  (OUD) view or use cannabis as a substitute to opioids for pain management, evaluate differences by state cannabis legalization policies in opioid-cannabis co-use and cannabis substitution, and measure differences in opioid use, opioid co-use, and substance use treatment availability and uptake across a very rural to urban spectrum.

Probation Duration:  System Diversion or Entrapment

Dr. Megan C. Kurlychek (Professor of Sociology, Criminology, and  Public Policy and Associate Director of the CJRC) and collaborator Dr. Matthew Kleiman (Executive Director, The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing) will conduct research to develop a detailed understanding of the structuring of probation sentences and how these determinations may be linked with individual success or failure. When an individual is sentenced to probation they can receive very long sentences and also receive numerous conditions of probation with which they must comply. Many of these conditions, (such as the requirement to pay for probation supervision), may represent an undue burden, particularly on marginalized individuals. This study attempts through a pilot research project in a single county in Pennsylvania to further investigate probation sentence structures, outcomes and racial/ethnic disparities.


Enhanced Seed Grant Awards

Evaluating Domestic Violence Reform in 18 states to Reduce Punitive Criminal Justice Response

Dr. Brenda Russell (Professor of Psychology, C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Berks) and consultant Jennifer Cox (Associate Professor, Clinical Psychology, University of Alabama) will investigate attorney and police officer attitudes about proposed domestic violence reforms pertaining to training, alternatives to arrest, prosecution, and perpetrator accountability. This information can provide pilot data to assess attitudes about potential reform among those who work in the criminal justice system. This study also plans to investigate the implementation of various reforms enacted by each state to reflect the diversity and expanse of reform programs.

Pilot Data Collection for the Corrections Officer Health and Networks Study (COHNS)

Dr. Derek Kreager (Liberal Arts Professor of Sociology and Criminology and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate) and consultant Keith Aronson (Director, Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness) will conduct a study that proposes the collection of focus group and pilot data from Pennsylvania state prison corrections officers (COs) to investigate their peer networks, prison social systems, and individual and aggregate health (e.g., suicidality, stress, burnout, COVID/vaccination). This preliminary data will be used to support subsequent data collection in two Pennsylvania state prisons (one women’s and one men’s prison) to map their CO networks and connect these to health outcomes. The larger project will also collect caregiver interviews and administer a survey to a random sample of COs across Pennsylvania prisons to further understand the social supports and organizational factors related to CO health.

Probation Officers’ Attributions of Clients and Inequity in the Justice System

Dr. Holly Nguyen, Associate Professor of Sociology, Criminology, and School of Public Policy and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate, Dr. Zach Rowan, Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, and Dr. Evan McCuish, Associate Professor in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, will conduct a pilot study of whether, and in what way, probation officers’ pre-sentence reports (PSRs) generate disparities in sentencing outcomes. The investigators will analyze a random sample of PSRs completed on a subsample of participants from the Incarcerated Serious and Violent Young Offender Study (ISVYOS), an ongoing longitudinal study conducted in British Columbia that aims to identify risk factors in incarcerated youth informative of adult outcomes such as reoffending.

Seed Grant Awards

Bail Decision-Making in a Rural Jail: Does Bail Reflect Risk or Extra-Legal Factors?

Dr. Thomas Loughran, Professor of Sociology, Criminology, and School of Public Policy and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate, Bryanna Fox, Associate Professor in the  Department of Criminology at University of South Florida, and Emerson Waite, PA Commission on Sentencing Graduate Student , in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the University of South Florida’s Center for Justice Research & Policy (CJRP), and a rural Florida jail, will evaluate the factors contributing to pretrial decisions—whether an individual is released on their recognizance, is denied bail, or receives monetary— and whether these decisions are associated with legal factors, extra-legal factors, and/or objective risk level. The second part of the proposed project involves interviewing justice involved individuals to gain perspective on why they are unable to make bail and how that affects them mentally and behaviorally, their perceptions of the justice system, and the implications of these decisions on their future. Finally, the investigators will also interview judges making these decisions in rural Florida, to assess their consideration of factors (e.g., legal, extra-legal, risk) in alignment with the four elements of focal concerns theory.

Digital Radicalization in Theory and Practice

Dr. Kurt Fowler (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Abington) will be working on a project that sheds light on the process of digital radicalization. By using data collected from a variety of message boards and social media posts, this research strives to understand the role technology and digital culture play in the process of radicalization and provide policy recommendations to reduce the likelihood of extremist-based crime, violence, and domestic terrorism.

Examining Patterns of Firearms Interest Following Covid-19 Lockdowns, George Floyd Protests, and the Election of Joe Biden in 2020

Dr. David Ramey, Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate will examine how three major social events in 2020 – Covid-19 Pandemic, social justice protests following the murder of George Floyd, and the election of Joe Biden – influenced firearms interest, with a focus on understanding how local factors and events shaped such interest. Using weekly data from an anonymous panel of 40 million mobile devices, aggregated to the census block, Dr. Ramey will examine whether foot traffic to licensed firearms dealers increased in the weeks immediately following the passage of stay-at-home policies (March-April 2020), following the George Floyd protests (June-August 2020), and in the aftermath of Joe Biden’s election in the heavily contested 2020 election (November 2020-January 2021).

Leveraging Prominent National Surveys to Assess the Efficacy of County and City Crime Control Efforts

Dr. Eric Baumer (Professor of Sociology and Criminology and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate) will work on a project that will integrate jurisdictional data on crime prevention efforts and criminal justice policies and practice with individual-level data from national-level surveys These data integrations will offer several important contributions both to general scientific knowledge about victimization and youth offending and to specific knowledge about the efficacy of selected crime control efforts.

Gun Accessory Purchasing Patterns and Intentions

Dr. Lacey N. Wallace* (Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Altoona)will seek to address these gaps in the literature on gun accessories including devices such as slings, lights, external scopes, magazine extenders, large-capacity magazines, and silencers. Gun owners will be surveyed and this study will serve as pilot data collection to future funding. Topics to be examined include the prevalence of different types of gun accessories, individuals’ reasoning for purchasing them, intent to purchase, and how owners obtained gun accessories (dealer, online, privately). The study will further explore how these factors differ between rural and urban areas. *Lacey Wallace has left Penn State, Dr. Nathan Kruis (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Altoona) will continue this work.


Enhanced Seed Grant Award

Assessing Police Officers’ Knowledge and Training about Drug Addiction

Dr. Jennifer Murphy (Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Berks) and Co-Investigator Dr. Brenda Russell (Professor of Applied Psychology and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Berks) will investigate what current educational materials and trainings are offered to police officers in Berks County about issues of substance use and to determine what is needed to improve police officer knowledge about addiction and reduce stigma. This was an enhanced seed grant award thanks to support to the CJRC from the Penn State Social Science Research Institute.

Seed Grant Awards

Cost-Effectiveness of Veterans Treatment Courts

Dr. Eileen Ahlin (Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Harrisburg) and other investigators including Dr. Cassandra Atkin-Plunk (Associate Professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida Atlantic University) and Dr. Daniel Mallinson (Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration, School of Public Affairs, C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Harrisburg) will focus on enhancing investigators’ statistical capabilities and practitioner/professional network to enhance their competitiveness to pursue external funding. Veterans treatment courts are one of the many problem-solving courts that process criminal cases through a dedicated court docket that blends therapeutic treatment and accountability. Many problem-solving courts (e.g., drug courts) have been shown to be cost-effective. As one of the newer courts in the problem-solving court movement, the cost-effectiveness of veterans treatment courts is not well established.

Organized Knowledge Production by People who Use Drugs: Ethical Collaborative  Research in Theory and Practice During the Overdose Epidemic

Dr. Sarah Brothers (Assistant Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate) will develop and implement sustainable and ethical Community Driven Research (CDR) with drug-user-lead organizations in the United States. The findings will be used to develop materials for ethical research with vulnerable and criminalized groups, particularly those who use illicit drugs, disseminate through rapid research the risk-reduction information distributed through these networks, and contribute to theoretical work on expertise in vulnerable and criminalized groups.


Calls to Police: Contextual and Individual Determinants

Dr. Lacey N. Wallace (Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Altoona) will conduct a state-representative survey in Pennsylvania about calls to the police. The survey will examine the circumstances under which individuals are likely to call the police, perceptions of police legitimacy, and reactions to recent police-involved deaths and calls to defund the police. The study will further explore how determinants of calls to police differ between rural and urban areas.

Examining the Impact of Clergy-Perpetuated Childhood Sexual Abuse on Adult Survivors

Michael Lavetsky (Lecturer, Rehabilitation and Human Services at Penn State Abington) and Dr. Glenn Sterner (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and C3N Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Abington) will explore the impact of clergy perpetuated sexual abuse (CPSA) through qualitative analysis of over 100 in-depth clinical interviews of adult survivors of CPSA. Effects of this abuse throughout the lifespan of these survivors will be analyzed. An action based research agenda will emerge that can inform services offered to survivors and guide the development of future research on this topic.

Use and Effectiveness of Rehabilitative-Intervention Approaches to Justice Involved Persons in Rural Communities: Cases Involving Opioids, Methamphetamines and Other Drugs

Dr. Pamela Wilcox, Professor of Criminology and and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate, Dr. Darrell Steffensmeier, Professor of Sociology and Criminology and and University Park CJRC Faculty Affiliate, and Dr. Miranda Galvin, PA Commission on Sentencing Post Doctoral Scholar at the CJRC, will conduct a study of drug related convictions in rural counties in Pennsylvania to explore patterns of usage of traditional prosecution and sentencing approaches versus a rehabilitative-intervention approach for drug related justice involved persons. The impact of these differing approaches on desistance and reoffending will be examined. This seed grant project is being funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing.


Changes in the Age Structure of Rural Offending in Pennsylvania and Their Impact on the Age-Sentencing Relationship

Dr. Jeffery Ulmer (Professor of Sociology and Criminology and Criminal Justice Research Center Faculty Affiliate) will focus on assessing whether and how changes since the early-mid 2000s in Pennsylvania’s proportional age distribution of rural arrests, especially for drug crimes, have affected age-related sentencing patterns in rural Pennsylvania county courts.

How Family Members are Impacted by Opioid Addiction

Dr. Jennifer Murphy (Commonwealth Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Berks) will assess how individuals have managed opioid addiction in their family. Qualitative interviews with family members who have been impacted by opioid addiction will illuminate the methods that they have used to cope with addiction issues and related problems, including stigma.

Public Perception of White-Collar Crime Offenses and Punishments

Dr. Miranda Galvin (PA Commission on Sentencing Postdoctoral Scholar) will conduct a public opinion survey about white-collar crime together with Dr. Matthew Logan (California State University, San Bernardino). The survey will tap into public conceptualizations of “white-collar crime” and beliefs about the appropriate punishment for white-collar offenders using a multifactorial vignette design.

Women and Opiate Involved Violations in Rural Communities: Gendered Profiles and Pathways

Drs. Pamela Wilcox with Darrell Steffensmeier (Professors of Sociology and Criminology and Criminal Justice Research Center Faculty Affiliates) will establish offense profiles for opiate-involved violations overall as well as profiles associated with different types of opiates and also establish law violations for opiates and non-opioids.


Actionable Assessment of Effectiveness of Community versus Case Processor Models of County Prosecution in Addressing Opioid Epidemic in Pennsylvania and New Mexico

Drs. Darrell Steffensmeier (Sociology and Criminology), Jeffery T. Ulmer (Sociology and Criminology) and Noah Painter-Davis (University of New Mexico, Sociology) will document the epidemiology of opioid epidemic in rural and semi-rural counties in Pennsylvania and New Mexico using multiple markers of opioid abuse, identify models of county-prosecutor response/s to the Opioid Epidemic –including “community” versus “caseprocessing,” and assess the impact of variation in prosecutor responses on actionable outcomes.

Doing Time? A Life-Course Approach to the Prison Experience

Drs. Holly Nguyen and Tom Loughran (Sociology and Criminology) will examine the incarceration experience through a life-course approach and patterns of in-prison experiences are associated with post- release outcomes.

Improving Education Outcomes for Justice-Involved Individuals: Toward A Behavioral Outreach Campaign

Drs. Royel Johnson (Higher Education and African American Studies) and Kelly Rosinger (Higher Education) will assess the feasibility of designing, implementing, and evaluating an outreach campaign to improve educational outcomes for justice-involved individuals. The outreach will focus on reducing informational, behavioral, and psychological barriers that justice-involved individuals face in reentering their communities and pursuing education.

Moral Institutions and Judicial Sentencing

Drs. Eric Silver (Sociology and Criminology) and Jeffery T. Ulmer (Sociology and Criminology) will measure the influence of judges’ moral intuitions on sentencing outcomes and submit a proposal to NSF’s Law and Social Sciences Program aimed at extending the pilot study to include a larger sample of judges from across PA.

Pennsylvania Active Shooter Preparedness

Dr. Lacey N. Wallace (Department of Criminal Justice, Penn State Altoona) will address public perceptions of mass shootings, by collecting data from Pennsylvania residents. Topics to be examined include public awareness, public beliefs about policy effectiveness, media consumption, self-protective measures, and perceived risk, as well as variation by community context. The study will also investigate the degree to which views vary by subgroup, including differences between parents and non-parents, between rural and urban areas, and between students and non-students.

Read to Your Child/Grandchild: Family Literacy for Incarcerated Parents in Pennsylvania

Drs. Esther Prins (College of Education) and Anna Kaiper (College of Education) will examine experiences and perspectives of incarcerated fathers in the Read to Your Child/Grandchild (RYCG) program at an SCI. This study will help inform potential outcomes of a family literacy program such as RYCG and examine which of these outcomes are most salient for inmates and their families.

RiseUptown: A Comprehensive Community Collaboration to Reduce the Adverse Effect of Poverty on Urban Adolescents

Drs. Martha Wadsworth (Professor of Psychology and Criminal Justice Research Center Faculty Affiliate); Jonathan Lee & Siyu Liu (PSU-Harrisburg, School of Public Affairs); Jarl Ahlkvist (Sociology and Criminology) will evaluate the efficacy of the RISEUP program in reducing youth crime and violence in Harrisburg.

Understanding Patterns of Terrorism using Social Networks and AI- Machine Learning

Drs. Diane Felmlee (Sociology and Criminology) and Scott Sigmund Gartner (School of International Affairs) will merge social network analysis with artificial intelligence to develop new ways to analyze terrorism data in order to identify factors that drive terrorist-based, criminal violence.


Effects of Permanency on the Adult Criminality of Former Foster Care Youth

Dr. Sarah Font (Assistant Professor of Sociology) will ascertain whether, and under what circumstances, adoption produces superior outcomes as compared with aging out of care among youth who enter the foster care system as adolescents.

Evaluating the Harms of Adolescent E-Cigarette Use

Drs. Jeremy Staff (Sociology and Criminology) and Jennifer Maggs (Health and Human Development) will rigorously test negative sequelae of adolescent e-cigarette use (Including delinquency) in the context of early life child and parent risk factors, and examine whether these risk factors exacerbate or attenuate potential harms of e-cigarette use on combustible cigarette use and other health risk behaviors.

Illuminating the Opioid Drug Crisis in Pennsylvania: Trends, Patterns, and Correlates of Drug and Opioid Law Violations across Rural and Urban Pennsylvania Counties from 2000 to the present

Drs. Darrell Steffensmeier and Jeffery Ulmer (Professors of Sociology and Criminology and Justice Center for Research Faculty Affiliates) will provide an assessment of the patterns and trends in opioid-drug law violations over the 2000-2017 period across a rural-continuum of counties in Pennsylvania as based on major markers of opioid abuse and/or social control responses to this abuse: arrests, convictions, imposition of intermediate punishments (e.g., treatment programs), and incarcerations.

Linking Accidental Overdoses to Medical Professionals and Pharmacies: A Population-Based Social Network Analysis

Drs. Oren Gur (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, PSU Abington) and Glenn Sterner (Justice Center for Research Postdoctoral Scholar) will provide needed insight into the relationship between legitimate dispensations of prescription opioid painkillers via medical professionals and pharmacies, and fatal overdoses from opioids.

Mechanisms of Firearm-Related Family Violence

Dr. Amy Marshall (Associate Professor of Psychology) will build a foundation for a uniquely externally-valid examination of two alternative mechanisms by which firearms may contribute to violent behavior: psychological priming and threat reactivity.

The Ethics of Policing

Dr. Eduardo Mendieta (Professor of Philosophy, Associate Director of the Rock Ethics Institute) will provide an interdisciplinary and international conference on the ethics of policing that brings together political scientists, criminologists, philosophers, legal experts, and others. The Rock Ethics Institute will host this conference September 20-22, 2018, at PSU’s University Park Campus.