Catch and release

Kevin Lewis

July 14, 2017

How Arrest Impacts Delinquency Over Time Between and Within Individuals
Thomas Mowen, John Brent & Kyle Bares
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, forthcoming

While some studies find that criminal justice contact may deter future offending, another body of research indicates that contact with the criminal justice system can increase delinquency among youth. Although research has examined the relationship between punishment and offending, from a life-course perspective, we know little about between-individual and within-individual effects of punishment across time. Using a cross-lagged dynamic panel model, results from an analysis of four waves of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 demonstrate that arrest contributes to within-individual increases in delinquency across time even after baseline levels of delinquency are controlled. Between-individual results show that youth who were arrested experience significant increases in offending compared to youth never arrested even after accounting for prior offending. Finally, this study uncovers a “cumulative effect” of arrest in that each subsequent year the youth is arrested relates to increased offending irrespective of prior offending. Overall, findings suggest that arrest contributes to significant increases in delinquency even after baseline levels of offending are directly modeled.

Right-to-Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State-Level Synthetic Controls Analysis
John Donohue, Abhay Aneja & Kyle Weber
NBER Working Paper, June 2017

The 2004 report of the National Research Council (NRC) on Firearms and Violence recognized that violent crime was higher in the post-passage period (relative to national crime patterns) for states adopting right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws, but because of model dependence the panel was unable to identify the true causal effect of these laws from the then-existing panel data evidence. This study uses 14 additional years of panel data (through 2014) capturing an additional 11 RTC adoptions and new statistical techniques to see if more convincing and robust conclusions can emerge. Our preferred panel data regression specification (the “DAW model”) and the Brennan Center (BC) model, as well as other statistical models by Lott and Mustard (LM) and Moody and Marvell (MM) that had previously been offered as evidence of crime-reducing RTC laws, now consistently generate estimates showing RTC laws increase overall violent crime and/or murder when run on the most complete data. We then use the synthetic control approach of Alberto Abadie and Javier Gardeazabal (2003) to generate state-specific estimates of the impact of RTC laws on crime. Our major finding is that under all four specifications (DAW, BC, LM, and MM), RTC laws are associated with higher aggregate violent crime rates, and the size of the deleterious effects that are associated with the passage of RTC laws climbs over time. We estimate that the adoption of RTC laws substantially elevates violent crime rates, but seems to have no impact on property crime and murder rates. Ten years after the adoption of RTC laws, violent crime is estimated to be 13-15% percent higher than it would have been without the RTC law. Unlike the panel data setting, these results are not sensitive to the covariates included as predictors. The magnitude of the estimated increase in violent crime from RTC laws is substantial in that, using a consensus estimate for the elasticity of crime with respect to incarceration of .15, the average RTC state would have to double its prison population to counteract the RTC-induced increase in violent crime.

Language from police body camera footage shows racial disparities in officer respect
Rob Voigt et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 20 June 2017, Pages 6521–6526

Using footage from body-worn cameras, we analyze the respectfulness of police officer language toward white and black community members during routine traffic stops. We develop computational linguistic methods that extract levels of respect automatically from transcripts, informed by a thin-slicing study of participant ratings of officer utterances. We find that officers speak with consistently less respect toward black versus white community members, even after controlling for the race of the officer, the severity of the infraction, the location of the stop, and the outcome of the stop. Such disparities in common, everyday interactions between police and the communities they serve have important implications for procedural justice and the building of police–community trust.

Demeanor, Race, and Police Perceptions of Procedural Justice: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments
Justin Nix et al.
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming

President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recently endorsed procedural justice as a way to restore trust between police and communities. Yet police–citizen interactions vary immensely, and research has yet to give sufficient consideration to the factors that might affect the importance officers place on exercising procedural justice during interactions. Building on research examining “moral worthiness” judgments and racial stereotyping among police officers, we conducted two randomized experiments to test whether suspect race and demeanor affect officers’ perceptions of the threat of violence and importance of exercising procedural justice while interacting with suspicious persons. We find that suspect race fails to exert a statistically significant effect on either outcome. However, demeanor does — such that officers perceive a greater threat of violence and indicate it is less important to exercise procedural justice with disrespectful suspects. These findings have implications for procedural justice training, specifically, and police–community relations more broadly.

Breaking Bad: Mechanisms of Social Influence and the Path to Criminality in Juvenile Jails
Megan Stevenson
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

I conduct a series of tests of peer influence in juvenile incarceration facilities motivated by three mechanisms: criminal skill transfer, the formation of new criminal networks, and the social contagion of crime-oriented non-cognitive factors. Identifying peer influence off natural variation in small cohorts within the same facility, I find evidence consistent with social contagion: exposure to peers who come from unstable homes and have high levels of aggression leads to an increase in crime after release, as well as an increase in crime-oriented attitudes and behaviors. This effect persists despite controlling for the criminal experience and gang affiliation of the cohort, and is found in settings where youths are unlikely to interact after release.

Do Weapons Facilitate Adolescent Delinquency? An Examination of Weapon Carrying and Delinquency Among Adolescents
Amanda Emmert, Gina Penly Hall & Alan Lizotte
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

This article examines whether weapon carrying influences the frequency and variety of violent, property, and drug delinquency adolescents commit through fixed-effects analyses of data from the Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS). We conclude that weapon carrying contributes to violent, substance, and property delinquency, and delinquent behaviors learned during weapon carrying continue to affect substance and property delinquency long after carrying has ceased.

Monitoring Volatile Homicide Trends Across U.S. Cities
Andrew Palmer Wheeler & Tomislav Victor Kovandzic
University of Texas Working Paper, June 2017

The recent increase in the national homicide rate in the United States has generated much speculation about its causes among the media. In this article we show how two data visualization tools, funnel charts and time series fan charts, can show the typical volatility in homicide rates in different cities over time. Many of the recent increases are not out of the norm given historical patterns, and so one need not rely on various ex-ante hypotheses to explain recent homicide spikes occurring in some U.S. cities.

Drawing the Line: Empirical Recidivism Results From a Natural Experiment Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility
Eric Fowler & Megan Kurlychek
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, forthcoming

Every state maintains some mechanism by which youths can be tried as adults in criminal courts. While scholars have long debated the inherent benefits or detriments of prosecuting youths as adults, empirical studies of actual outcomes have provided mixed findings and have been limited by problems of selection bias and jurisdictional differences in processing. The current research aims to further inform this literature by capitalizing on a policy change in Connecticut that raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 17 on January 1, 2010, creating a natural experiment to assess the recidivism differences for youths based upon the system of processing: juvenile versus adult court. Findings from a 2-year follow-up reveal that 16-year-olds processed in juvenile courts had substantially reduced rates of recidivism with odds of rearrest that were between .462 and .630 less than for 16-year-olds processed in adult courts dependent on model specification.

An impact assessment of machine learning risk forecasts on parole board decisions and recidivism
Richard Berk
Journal of Experimental Criminology, June 2017, Pages 193–216

Objectives: The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole has begun using machine learning forecasts to help inform parole release decisions. In this paper, we evaluate the impact of the forecasts on those decisions and subsequent recidivism.

Methods: A close approximation to a natural, randomized experiment is used to evaluate the impact of the forecasts on parole release decisions. A generalized regression discontinuity design is used to evaluate the impact of the forecasts on recidivism.

Results: The forecasts apparently had no effect on the overall parole release rate, but did appear to alter the mix of inmates released. Important distinctions were made between offenders forecasted to be re-arrested for nonviolent crime and offenders forecasted to be re-arrested for violent crime. The balance of evidence indicates that the forecasts led to reductions in re-arrests for both nonviolent and violent crimes.

Dissecting the Complexities of the Relationship Between Police Officer–Civilian Race/Ethnicity Dyads and Less-Than-Lethal Use of Force
Katelyn Jetelina et al.
American Journal of Public Health, July 2017, Pages 1164-1170

Methods: We extracted cross-sectional data from 5630 use-of-force reports from the Dallas Police Department in 2014 and 2015. We categorized each officer–civilian interaction into race/ethnicity dyads. We used multilevel, mixed logistic regression models to evaluate the relationship between race/ethnicity dyads and the types of use of force.

Results: Forty-eight percent of use-of-force interactions occurred between a White officer and a non-White civilian (White–non-White). In bivariate models, the odds of hard-empty hand control and intermediate weapon use were significantly higher among White–Black dyads compared with White–White dyads. The bivariate odds of intermediate weapon use were also significantly higher among Black–Black, Hispanic–White, Black–Hispanic, and Hispanic–Black dyads compared with White–White dyads. However, after we controlled for individual and situational factors, the relationship between race/ethnicity dyad and hard-empty hand control was no longer significant.

Conclusions: Although we observed significant bivariate relationships between race/ethnicity dyads and use of force, these relationships largely dissipated after we controlled for other factors.

The Mobility of Youth in the Justice System: Implications for Recidivism
Kevin Wolff et al.
Journal of Youth and Adolescence, July 2017, Pages 1371–1393

Both residential mobility and community disadvantage have been shown to be associated with negative outcomes for adolescents generally and juvenile offenders specifically. The current study examines the effects of moving among a large sample (n = 13,096) of previously adjudicated youth (31.6 % female, 41.2 % Black, 16.5 % Hispanic). Additionally, we examine whether moving upward to a more affluent neighborhood, moving downward to an area of greater disadvantage, or moving laterally to a similar neighborhood tempers the effects of residential mobility. We use a combination of analytical techniques, including propensity score matching to untangle the effects of mobility sans pre-existing conditions between movers and non-movers. Results show relocation increases recidivism, irrespective of the direction of the move with regard to socioeconomic context. Moving upward has the most detrimental impact for adjudicated male adolescents, while downward relocations evidenced the largest effect for female youth. Implications for policy and future research needs are discussed.

Digging Deeper: Exploring the Value of Prison-Based Dog Handler Programs
Jacqueline van Wormer, Alex Kigerl & Zachary Hamilton
Prison Journal, forthcoming

As U.S. correctional systems continue to rollout evidence-based programs, the utility of “complimentary” programs that do not address recidivism reduction remains in question. Many U.S. prisons have a variety of prison-based animal programs, yet the outcomes are largely unexplored. This research addresses a literature gap by evaluating the intermediate outcomes associated with a statewide prison-based dog handler program. Using propensity score matching, we compared 1,001 inmates in a pretest, postentry design, aimed at measuring change across four outcomes. Results indicate that dog handler program inmates experienced significant improvement in three of four areas. Implications and further research needs are explored.

Fast Food Restaurants and Convenience Stores: Using Sales Volume to Explain Crime Patterns in Seattle
Amber Perenzin Askey et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

This study investigates how convenience stores and fast food restaurants influence crime patterns over time. Using sales volume data from fast food restaurants and convenience stores, we examine streetblock crime levels over a seven year period in Seattle using multilevel models. Results demonstrate that high sales volume links to high crime, even after controlling for local socio-economic status, the effects of retail businesses, and local crime trends. In addition, street segment crime trajectories were spatially clustered in a significant way. The dynamics that explain why specific types of commercial facilities link to street crime need further theoretical clarification. This is the first study demonstrating significant spatio-temporal patterning of streetblock crime trends.

The Effects of Racial Profiling, Taste-Based Discrimination, and Enforcer Liability on Crime
Murat Mungan
George Mason University Working Paper, May 2017

The literature contains ambiguous findings as to whether statistical discrimination, e.g. in the form of racial profiling, causes a reduction in deterrence. These analyses, however, assume that enforcers' incentives are exogenously fixed. This article demonstrates that when the costs and benefits faced by officers in enforcing the law are endogenously determined, statistical discrimination as well as taste-based discrimination lead to an increase in criminal activity. Moreover, the negative effects of statistical discrimination on deterrence are more persistent than similar effects due to taste-based discrimination. This suggests, contrary to the impression created by the existing literature, that statistical discrimination is not only harmful, but, may be even more detrimental than taste-based discrimination. Thus, for purposes of maximizing deterrence, the recent focus in empirical research on identifying taste-based discrimination as opposed to statistical discrimination may be misplaced. A superior approach may be to identify whether any type of racial discrimination takes place in the enforcement of laws, and to provide enforcers with incentives to minimize the impact of their discriminatory behavior.

Privileged protection? Effects of suspect race and mental illness status on public perceptions of police use of force
Kimberly Barsamian Kahn, Melissa Thompson & Jean McMahon
Journal of Experimental Criminology, June 2017, Pages 171–191

Methods: A diverse sample of community members (n = 259) from Portland, OR completed a survey with an imbedded experiment. Participants read a case file describing a police officer using force against a suspect who varied in race (Black vs. White) and mental illness status (history of mental illness vs. not), and indicated their level of support for the officer’s use of force.

Results: While overall support for use of force was low, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) confirmed a significant interaction between suspect mental illness status and race on the public’s support for police force. Mental illness was a mitigating factor against support for police use of force, but only for White suspects. For Black suspects, mental illness instead increased support for police force, although support remained relatively low. These results were not influenced by participants’ race. Instead, effects were moderated by participants’ pre-existing affect about Blacks, such that positive affect decreased support for force against mentally ill Black suspects.

Justice System–Imposed Financial Penalties Increase the Likelihood of Recidivism in a Sample of Adolescent Offenders
Alex Piquero & Wesley Jennings
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, July 2017, Pages 325-340

Although the use of financial penalties is pervasive in the justice system, there has been limited (and mostly dated) empirical research that has investigated the effect of financial costs incurred by juvenile offenders and the extent to which such costs relate to the likelihood of recidivism and reintegration into society. This study uses data from a large cohort of adolescent offenders to examine how demographics and case characteristics relate to financial penalties imposed by the justice system and the degree to which such monetary penalties are related to recidivism in a 2-year follow-up. Results suggest that financial penalties increase the likelihood of recidivism. Study limitations and directions for future research are also discussed.

Anti-Crime Laws and Retail Prices
Hakan Yilmazkuday
Review of Law & Economics, forthcoming

The fear of becoming a victim of crime acts as a barrier to retail trade for consumers, where retailers attempt to reduce such barriers by enduring additional costs such as insurance or security/surveillance; as a result, retail prices are affected by the possibility of crime. This paper attempts to measure such effects by considering the recent experience of Sacramento County in California, where an anti-panhandling ordinance has been issued to protect retailers. As an application, a difference-in-difference approach is employed to identify the effects of the ordinance on Sacramento gasoline prices at the retail level, by considering the gasoline prices in neighboring counties as the control group of a natural experiment. The results show that the anti-panhandling ordinance has resulted in lower gasoline prices in Sacramento County.

Beyond The “Revolving Door?”: Incentives and Criminal Recidivism in a Mental Health Court
Karen Snedker, Lindsey Beach & Katie Corcoran
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Specialized mental health courts (MHCs) address the growing problem of defendants with mental illness cycling through the criminal justice system. Employing a mixed-methods approach, this article explores if MHCs can slow the “revolving door” of criminal justice involvement. We use quantitative data to evaluate the effectiveness of one MHC on different measures of criminal recidivism with logistic regression, event history analysis, and negative binomial regression. Modeling strategies report that graduates of MHC, defendants offered a dismissal of criminal charges, and defendants who maintained the same noncrisis mental health treatment while in court as they had prior to court had lower odds of new criminal charges, a longer time to a new criminal charge, and fewer new criminal charges. Qualitative data — court observations and interviews — suggest that providing incentives for program compliance, connecting defendants to planned mental health treatment services, and court completion are central to reducing recidivism.

Assessing Law Enforcement Performance in Behavior-Based Threat Detection Tasks Involving a Concealed Weapon or Device
Dawn Sweet, Christian Meissner & Dominick Atkinson
Law and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Across 3 experiments, we assessed the ability of law enforcement officers and naïve controls to detect the concealment of a weapon or device. Study 1 used a classic signal detection paradigm in which participants were asked to assess whether a target was concealing a neutered 9-mm handgun. Study 2 involved a compound signal detection paradigm in which participants assessed whether or not 1 of several individuals was concealing an unstable device in their backpack. Study 3 moved to a 2-alternative forced choice paradigm in which participants evaluated which of 2 targets was concealing an unstable device in his backpack. Across all 3 experiments we consistently found no significant differences in detection performance between law enforcement and naïve controls, although participants did perform above chance levels when response bias was free to vary. Furthermore, officers’ years of experience was associated with a bias toward perceiving concealment. Given the frequency with which officers are asked to assess the concealment of weapons or devices, and therein to identify threats, our findings suggest the need for additional research to explore various factors (e.g., context, race of target, operational experience, etc.) likely related to performance on such tasks.

The Effect of 311 Calls for Service on Crime in D.C. at Microplaces
Andrew Wheeler
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

This study tests the broken windows theory of crime by examining the relationship between 311 calls for service and crime at the street segment and intersection level in Washington, D.C. Controlling for a set of micro-level covariates as well as unobserved neighborhood-level effects using negative binomial regression models, it is found that detritus- and infrastructure-related calls for service have a positive, but small effect on crime. The results suggest that 311 calls for service are a valid indicator of physical disorder where available, and the findings partially confirm the broken windows theory. Given the small effects though, reducing physical disorder is unlikely to result in appreciable declines in crime.

Understanding Crime Control Theater: Do Sample Type, Gender, and Emotions Relate to Support for Crime Control Theater Policies?
Logan Yelderman et al.
Criminal Justice Review, forthcoming

Policies such as America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response Alerts, safe haven laws, Megan’s law, and three-strikes laws have provided the public with a feeling of safety and security. However, research has provided evidence that disputes their effectiveness. These types of laws and policies have become known as “crime control theater” (CCT) because they appear to be effective, serve the public’s best interests, and provide a crime control purpose but are largely ineffective and have unintended negative consequences. Using self-affirmation and emotion theory, this study examines potential explanations as to why individuals might support CCT policies. It also investigates whether support differs based on relevant characteristics (e.g., gender, sample type, and preexisting beliefs about policy effectiveness). Results suggest that females and Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers tend to support CCT policies more than males and college students. Further, the relationship between gender and support was mediated by anticipatory guilt, and this effect was stronger for individuals who did not believe in the effectiveness of the policy. Results suggest that individuals who believe the policy is effective will support it more than those who do not, regardless of their anticipated guilt. In contrast, those who doubt the policy only support it if they anticipate feeling guilty; this effect is stronger for women. Results can help explain why people support policies that are largely ineffective and suggest that relevance to the issue can help explain why some groups are more supportive than others.

Do Ecological Effects on Recidivism Vary by Gender, Race, or Housing Type?
Susan McNeeley
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

Several studies show that recidivism is influenced by the context of neighborhoods in which offenders live after leaving prison. However, the research on this topic is mixed, with many studies finding inconsistent or null neighborhood effects. This study addresses this inconsistency by examining whether neighborhoods affect recidivism differently based on offenders’ housing situation or personal characteristics (i.e., gender, race). The results of the multilevel logistic regression analyses show that neighborhood characteristics were significantly related to rearrest among minority offenders but not White offenders, and among offenders living in private residential housing but not those living in community-based facilities. These results help to explain the mixed findings in the literature and highlight the complexity of the relationship between neighborhood context and recidivism.

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