Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • SERVING AT THE PLEASURE OF THE MAYOR: AN EXPLORATION OF POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT IN NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER DEPARTURES 1901-2001

    Author:
    Brian Rizzo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Todd Clear
    Abstract:

    In 1901 New York City abolished the bi-partisan Board of Police Commissioners and replaced it with a single headed police commissioner. This legislation was intended to remove politics from policing and affixed a police commissioner's term at five years absent removal for the public interest by the mayor. Through a historical, political and institutional context, the present study explored mayoral involvement in the departure of all former New York Police Commissioners (N=40) between 1901 and 2001. Variations of the following areas found in the literature were included in the analysis; Wilson's police executive selection, Enter's police executive career path, Bynander and Hart's executive succession and Mastrofski's police governance. Two new areas were added to the extant policing literature; "Police Independence" (Professional, Autonomist, Antagonist) which measured the police commissioner's criticism of the mayor at the time of his departure, and "Civilian Control" (Political, Latent Political, Non-Political) which measured the mayor's level of involvement in police commissioner departures. Tepid support for Wilson's (1968) link between local political culture and police style was found using qualitative and quantitative measures. Historically, the study found that despite a mayor being actively engaged in police affairs, political involvement was not the leading cause of police commissioner departures. Multiple manifest rationale were cited for police commissioner departures and numerous latent reasons were identified which revealed underlying political involvement. The average police commissioner tenure was half the City Charter's stipulated five year term and 63% of successions were mid-term. During the period of the study the relationship between the police commissioner and the mayor progressed from servitude to estrangement to, ultimately, accountability and oversight. An informal tradition was identified which was exhibited by police commissioner's decision to resign rather than invoke the City Charter to complete an unexpired term. This tradition which allowed a new mayor the pleasure of selecting his own man not only disregarded the letter of the 1901 legislation intended to protect and insulate incumbent police commissioners from induced political departures, but also violated its spirit to separate politics from policing. These findings are generalizable only to New York City. Future research should focus on municipalities with different political/police structures.

  • ASSESSING YOUNG MALES' PERSPECTIVES ON THE CULTURAL COMPETENCY OF JUVENILE JUSTICE STAFF AND PREDICTING PSYCHOSOCIAL FUNCTIONING

    Author:
    Crystal Rodriguez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Mark Fondacaro
    Abstract:

    The theory of symbolic interactionism explains how social interactions influence behavior. In this study, it is reasoned that culturally sensitive interactions may be associated with adjudicated youth behavior. The purpose of this project is to (1) examine the differences in adjudicated male youths' perceptions of the level of cultural competency in juvenile justice staff members and (2) to identify whether staff members' cultural competency is related to self-restraint, distress, and delinquent behavior in adjudicated male youth. Utilizing a cross-sectional design, adjudicated youths enrolled in a variety of re-entry and transitional programs were surveyed. Youths retrospectively assessed the cultural competency of law enforcement and correctional officers in New York and New Jersey. Since cultural competency has never been measured in the juvenile justice field, instruments from counseling psychology measuring the cultural competency of therapists were modified to assess the same construct in juvenile justice professionals. Instruments from psychology and juvenile justice fields were employed to assess self-restraint, distress, and delinquency, respectively. The findings for this study shed light on the relationship between youths' appraisal of the juvenile justice professionals' level of cultural competency and their psychosocial functioning. The results provide some support that there are differences in demographic characteristics of adjudicated male youth and their perceptions of officers' levels of cultural competency. No relationship exists between appraisals and delinquency. Self-restraint is not significantly related to youths' appraisals of officers. In addition, self-restraint is not a mediating factor between appraisals and delinquency. Distress is significantly related to youths' appraisals of correctional officers. Recommendations to improve the juvenile justice system by making juvenile justice professionals more culturally competent are provided. Replication of this study with a larger sample will be needed to assess the generalizability of these findings.

  • Don't I Have a Right to Bail? A Study of Bail Decisions/Outcomes and Their Effects of Plea Bargaining and Sentencing

    Author:
    Meghan Sacks
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Candace McCoy
    Abstract:

    DON'T I HAVE A RIGHT TO BAIL? A STUDY OF BAIL DECISIONS/OUTCOMES AND THEIR EFFECTS ON PLEA BARGAINING AND SENTENCING by Meghan Sacks Advisor: Professor Candace McCoy Previous research on bail practices has shown that legal factors such as offense severity and prior criminal record impact bail decisions and outcomes, as well as demographic factors such as race and gender. While sentencing practices have been studied extensively, bail is at the forefront of the criminal process and has the potential to affect the trajectory of a case. This study examines the factors that impact bail decision making and the subsequent influence of bail on the entire criminal case process that includes plea bargaining and ultimately sentencing. The analyses consist primarily of quantitative methods. Specifically, this research employs a sample of 634 New Jersey superior court cases tracked from arrest through disposition. These data are supplemented with findings from interviews with the courtroom work group and observations of bail hearings. Regarding bail, this study finds that both legal and extralegal factors impact bail decisions and that financial resources play an important role in bail outcomes. More specifically, the seriousness of the offense and the number of charges brought against the defendant strongly impact bail decisions by the court. This study examines bail decisions made by judges and subsequent bail outcomes, i.e., whether defendant posted financial bail and were released or not. Individuals represented by public defenders are less likely to post bail when compared with individuals who have private counsel. Bail amount set by the court is higher for defendants in urban jurisdictions and defendants in urban jurisdictions are less likely to be able to post bail. Looking at demographic factors, minorities receive less advantageous bail decisions and black defendants are less likely to post bail. Conversely, bail amount plays a strong role in bail outcomes in that defendants with higher monetary bail requirements are less likely to post bail, highlighting the importance of the defendant's economic resources. Additionally, this study's qualitative findings demonstrate that criminal history is a strong consideration in bail decisions and that the courtroom work group dynamic also influences bail proceedings. Turning to subsequent decision points, this study found that an increase in the number of charges is related to an increase in the case's disposition time. While cases involving black and hispanic defendants take longer to reach a disposition, cases involving public defenders have a shorter disposition time. These results support the hypothesis that defendants who are detained before trial plead guilty earlier than defendants who are able to post bail, which can significantly affect later dispositions. Although pretrial detention does not impact the decision to incarcerate, pretrial detention does significantly impact the length of the sentence in cases that involve incarceration. Several other factors influence sentence length, including gender, race, the number of charges and offense type, and prior criminal history. In sum, the quantitative analyses indicate that both legal and extralegal factors impact bail decisions. The qualitative data demonstrate that factors internal to the court, i.e., agreement on the going rate, also play a role in bail proceedings. Moreover, these results show that pretrial detention impacts subsequent decision points in that defendants who are detained prior to trial, in most instances, plead guilty faster and receive lengthier sentences. The impact of bail proceedings on the trajectory of a case highlights the ongoing need to carefully scrutinize pretrial practices.

  • Situational Surveillance Control

    Author:
    Vincenzo Sainato
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Patrick O'Hara
    Abstract:

    This research considers the adoption, design, implementation, and oversight of digital surveillance technologies in the daily and critical functions of the Belleville Police Department. This agency has custom designed and implemented a digital surveillance and data management system which has since been adopted by forty police departments across its state--including the State Police; moreover, Belleville's data systems interface with the principal national and state-level criminal justice databases, as well as with data sources external to the criminal justice system. The agency provided, to the extent permissible by law, complete access to the agency's employees and systems, as well as all available historical data and records relating to the creation and development of the system. The researcher collaborated with the agency's employees in an extended ethnographic study of their digital surveillance technologies and processes in order to empirically assess associated potential and actual harms, issues, problems, and vulnerabilities. This study concludes by proposing ways that harm reduction models, such as Situational Crime Prevention, can be applied to digital surveillance technologies to improve oversight and accountability.

  • Pathogen Detection Using the Luminex Multi-analyte System

    Author:
    Andrew Schweighardt
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Margaret Wallace
    Abstract:

    The causative agents of anthrax, botulism, tularemia, and plague are so destructive that they could be used maliciously by bioterrorists. Microscopical and biochemical methods of identifying pathogenic bacteria are often inaccurate and time-consuming. Genetics-based alternatives surpass traditional detection methods in terms of speed and accuracy, but often lack the capacity for multiplexing. Luminex technology embodies all the advantages of DNA-based identification while still offering impressive multiplexing capabilities. Luminex is a liquid array platform that relies on specially labeled microscopic beads to which unique probes are covalently attached. Hybridization of the probes to the unknown target sequences is detected and quantified by the instrument. Four core pathogenic bacterial species were selected: Bacillus anthracis, Clostridium botulinum, Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis, and Yersinia pestis. Probe sequences intended for confirmatory identification of the four core pathogens were located within genes related to the toxicity of each bacterium. Additional probe sequences within the 23S ribosomal RNA gene rrl were selected for presumptive identification of the four core pathogens, or a relative belonging to the same genus. Primer3 and AutoDimer software programs were used during probe and target DNA design to specify oligo parameters and minimize cross-reactivity. The specificity of all oligos was verified using whole genome searches conducted on the NCBI BLAST database. Target sequences were amplified by PCR and quantified using the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer. Primer specificity was confirmed by the detection of target band(s) of the requisite length. Specificity and sensitivity were examined by introducing various increments of each target sequence to all probes. A reasonable degree of specificity was observed, although some probes were prone to false positives. The LLDs for the probes ranged from 0.1 to 10 ng. Sensitivity was improved by using lambda exonuclease to enzymatically digest the non-complementary PCR strand. Thirty-three binary, ternary, and quaternary mixtures were examined in which all components were present in a 1:1 ratio, with an 80% success rate for identifying all components. Four binary mixtures were subjected to further study in which the two components were combined in various ratios. Both components were detected in 100% of the twenty-eight mixtures analyzed, even when the minor component was overshadowed by a ten-fold excess of the major component. False positives typically had an attenuated fluorescent response that made them easily distinguishable from a genuine positive result. Overall, the Luminex platform is a robust method of identifying pathogenic microorganisms. This technique has a superior level of specificity and sensitivity, provided that each assay has its underpinnings in a thorough survey of all pertinent bioinformatics data. Continued research with the Luminex technology is important both for validating the utility of this technique and for satisfying legal admissibility standards.

  • Military Interrogations: Best Practices & Beliefs

    Author:
    Matt Semel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Joshua Freilich
    Abstract:

    This study was designed to address some of the gaps in knowledge about interrogations conducted by military interrogators and provide information about methods from their perspectives, based on their experiences. Kassin et al. (2007) conducted the first self-report survey of best interrogation practices and beliefs of law enforcement officers and this study followed that model, using a different population from which to obtain the sample: military interrogators. Like that study, this survey asked participants to address and self-report on a number of issues, some in common with law enforcement and others that apply specifically to military interrogations. Participants were asked to estimate, rate and self-report on seven facets of their work: (1) their ability to detect truth or deception; (2) their own opinions and practices with regard to 13 of the general approach techniques authorized by the U.S. Army Interrogations and Intelligence Field Manual; (3) the importance of rapport building to extract information from a subject; (4) the applicability of law enforcement techniques to interrogations of terrorists; (5) the frequency, length and timing of interrogations; (6) training, and (7) their observations, if any, of others using torture or unapproved techniques during interrogations and, if so, with what frequency. Like the law enforcement study, the goal here was to obtain common practices, observations, and beliefs about interrogations directly from military interrogators. Subsequent research can test the interrogation methods that the subjects of this study believe are the most effective and focus on practices and beliefs unique to the military context. This study begins to shed light on interrogation practices currently in use by the United States military. This study empirically supports, for the first time, the hypothesis that experienced interrogators favor rapport-building approaches over all other available techniques.

  • Supreme Convolution: Gregg v. Georgia and the Nature of Supreme Court Decision Making

    Author:
    Zachary Shemtob
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Evan Mandery
    Abstract:

    Few issues evoke more impassioned debate than capital punishment. While death penalty supporters view it as a just and even necessary sanction, opponents see a profound symbol of American barbarism. The 1976 Supreme Court case of Gregg v. Georgia, 428 US 153, which authorized the modern death penalty, is one of the most controversial decisions in the Court's history. Not only did Gregg contain a variety of conflicting opinions, but it failed to fully clarify how the death penalty should be properly readministered. While Gregg's consequences have been subject to extensive analysis, surprisingly few scholars have explored the case itself at any length. This project analyzes Gregg through both archival research and oral history. It then situates this decision within the controversial discourse on what factors motivate judicial opinions. The study concludes that justices decide according to a variety of criteria, and therefore offers support for a mixed theory of judicial decision making.

  • Post Exoneration Offending

    Author:
    Amy Shlosberg
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Evan Mandery
    Abstract:

    Much is known about risk posed by releasees who are returned to society after having fulfilled their obligation. Additionally, a few qualitative studies have explored the negative effects of being wrongfully imprisoned. Social scientists know very little, by contrast, about the post-release behavior and risk posed by exonerees. Drawing on prior research on the effects of incarceration, the effects of exoneration and risk posed by commutes, this study makes a unique contribution to the literature. This study is the first to examine post-exoneration offending and the risk exonerees pose. The findings illustrate the need for additional research in this area and provide an understanding of the implications of being wrongfully convicted. Furthermore, findings can help inform policy and procedure.

  • Sexual Victimization of Women and Girls in the U.S.: An Analysis of Risk and Trends

    Author:
    Nahid (Julie) Siddique
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Karen Terry
    Abstract:

    Despite more than four decades of scholarship that has established both feminist criminology as a critical perspective in the field and victimology as a necessary element of integrated theories of crime and victimization, there are still many inconsistencies in the literature about the nature and extent of sexual violence and victimization in the United States. The current study used Lifestyle Exposure Theory (LET) and Routine Activities Theory (RAT) as conceptual frameworks to investigate personal risk of sexual victimization and macro-level trends in sexual victimization of females. Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) was used for the analyses. Results indicate that personal risk of sexual victimization is strongly associated with demographic variables, such as age, marital status, and cohabitation status; risk factors for sexual victimization differ from risk factors for other violent crime victimizations; risk factors for sexual victimization vary by type of victimization and victim-offender relationship; and the situational contexts of sexual victimization differ from other violent crime victimization. Furthermore, results indicate that the decline in sexual victimization rates between 1992 and 2005 was part of an overall decline in violent victimization of women; however, the factors generally credited with the crime decline of the 1990s and 2000s, such as changes in policing and incarceration, are insufficient in explaining the decline in sexual victimization. Other cultural factors related to sexuality may be relevant in conceptualizing the "rape decline" in the United States. Directions for future research are discussed.

  • Circumstances of Abuse: Examining Differences Between Male and Female Sex Offenders

    Author:
    Odessa Simms
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Karen Terry
    Abstract:

    Over time, criminological research has focused predominately on male offenders. Sex offender research maintains the same focus, with little attention paid to female sex offenders. That focus is now shifting, and female sex offenders have been a rising area of interest for researchers. Research has focused on the individual aspects of these offenders; however, no study has applied traditional criminological theories, combined with male-centered models and frameworks, to the study of female sexual offending. Previous research has also neglected to consider other variables that can affect offending patterns like the victim-offender relationship, victim characteristics, location of the offense, a history of sexual abuse, and situational characteristics. The current study, utilizing data collected on registered sex offenders in three states, will fill those gaps by comparing male and female sex offenders on variables such as their sexual abuse history, thoughts, urges, and fantasies consistent with paraphilic interests, presence of a co-offender, access to victims, victim-offender relationship, the situational characteristics offense(s), victim characteristics, and victim preference. Findings indicate fewer differences between male and female sex offenders than research suggests and contributes to the routine activities and situational crime prevention theories.