Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • Perceptions of Quality in Criminal Investigations: Police Investigators, Supervisors and Prosecutors

    Author:
    Robert Tarwacki
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Warren Benton
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this research is to test whether the most meaningful qualities of a well-run investigation can be identified through an examination of actual investigation reports that have produced both successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Through the identification of these salient factors, case managers will be able to better monitor the work of their investigators, provide better training for them and possibly increase the number of cases with favorable outcomes within their agencies. In the law enforcement community, there are three main actors in the investigative process. They are the case investigator, the investigator's supervisors and commanders, and the prosecutor or assistant district attorney who will accept or reject a case for adjudication. Each of these public servants has a critical role to play in the criminal justice system and each, in their own way, contribute to the ultimate quality of a criminal investigation. Investigators are the "tip of the spear" who document criminal complaints and perform all of the initial footwork in the investigative process. They engage in routine police activities such as checking criminal records, canvassing for witnesses, preserving evidence and identifying suspects. Their first benchmark of quality is to meet and sustain a level of proof known as probable cause. Law enforcement supervisors and commanders must see that the proper resources are available to their line investigators. In the absence of necessary resources, an investigator is handicapped and the level of quality in an investigation can drop off sharply. Transportation, partners, money to pay informants, scheduling of work hours, and access to technical equipment all contribute to case quality. In addition, supervisors must maintain healthy levels of discipline, morale and motivation in order to keep their workers operating a peak efficiency levels. They represent upper management and are the agents of communication to the rank and file on agency policy. The role of the prosecutor is critical. Prosecutors carry out a quasi-judicial function and provide the link between the investigator and the court system. It is the prosecutor's job to judge case quality and review the legal sufficiency of the case at hand, as well as to recommend which charges will be brought against a defendant, which cases will be plea bargained and which will go to trial. In some cases, their decision might be nolle prosequi or to decline prosecution if they believe a case is poorly crafted and lacks the required levels of proof. These three groups were therefore chosen to be participants in a study of what constitutes quality in a criminal investigation. In addition, only the most experienced of these practitioners were sought to participate in in-depth interviews designed to solicit their thoughts and insights about investigational quality and how they define it. The reviewed literature has suggested that there are three paradigms to quality investigative work: the attributes of the work output (the case file), the personal attributes of the investigator, and the chosen managerial techniques used by the agency. However, the existing literature fails to examine whether these are three independent phenomena, or if there is a synergistic relationship among them. This research proposes that all three forces work together to enhance quality ensuring that optimal results are attained. A group of thirty participants were enrolled in the research. In total, they represented some 816 years of criminal justice experience. Their responses to a pre-scripted interview were recorded and analyzed using Nvivo-9 software for qualitative analysis. Through the use of word frequency analysis, the most frequently cited quality attributes in all three paradigms have been identified. The attributes of case quality were identified as routine police activities, thoroughness, completeness, knowledge, organization and teamwork, while desirable personality attributes for investigators were determined to be experience, integrity and knowledge. With regard to managerial techniques, the most detrimental activity was identified as micro-management. There was a strong sense that investigators should "own" the work that they are assigned. The most frequently cited positive managerial action was providing positive feedback to investigators. The overwhelmingly preferred choice of management style was consultative management.

  • Examining the Criminal Histories of Homicide Offenders: A Comparison of Single-Victim and Serial Homicide and the Link between Prior Offending and Homicide Crime Scene Behaviors

    Author:
    Carrie Trojan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Gabrielle Salfati
    Abstract:

    This study was undertaken to test the assumptions of early behavioral typologies of homicide and serial homicide, which proposed that individuals committing similar homicides would have committed similar prior offenses. Additionally, due to the lack of empirical studies directly comparing single-victim and serial homicide offenders, these offenders were directly compared in the current study in terms of their criminal histories and homicide crime scene behaviors. The broad aim of this was not only to refine any true differences and similarities between single and serial homicide offenders' criminal histories, but also to explore whether an empirical link between prior offending and current crime scene actions could be established. If there is an underlying psychology to offender characteristics and crime scene actions as assumed in offender profiling, offenders should demonstrate thematic consistency between their prior crimes and current homicide behaviors and, therefore, investigators would be able to use such information to refine suspect lists in investigations. Four theoretical frameworks of potential patterns in offender criminal history were proposed and tested on a sample of 122 single-victim offenders and 9 serial offenders using Smallest Space Analysis. Using an approach that focuses on the co-occurrence of offenses across the sample of offenders, the results demonstrated that both single and serial offenders' criminal histories could be best conceptualized according to a framework of criminal specialization. Although single and serial offenders' criminal histories did not differ in terms of the degree of specialization as originally proposed, they did differ in terms of the type of offending specialization they demonstrated. Once this framework was developed, the crime scene behaviors of both groups of offenders were examined and a thematic division was evident between behaviors that were hostile versus cognitive. Moreover, within this framework, offenders fell along a continuum of behaviors from highly impulsive (single-victim) to more controlled (serial) actions. However, only a small proportion of serial offenders demonstrated thematic consistency between criminal history and current homicide behaviors in the manner assumed by early profiling research. Overall, the results caution against using criminal history to profile single-victim and serial homicide offenders.

  • ASSESSING FRONTAL LOBE FUNCTIONING IN THE CONTEXT OF VIOLENT AND AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR: A NEW MULTIMODAL APPROACH

    Author:
    Brigitte Vallabhajosula
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Patricia Zapf
    Abstract:

    Numerous neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies have suggested that there is a strong relationship between frontal lobe impairment and aggressive behavior. Most of the studies undertaken to date, however, have failed to use valid and reliable tests and techniques to assess this relationship, which calls into question the findings of these results. Furthermore, due to the inherent limitations of all currently available tests of frontal lobe functioning and neuroimaging techniques, such as CT and SPECT, basing a conclusion of frontal lobe dysfunction on a single test or technique, is inappropriate. In addition, Daubert requires that scientific evidence proffered in a court of law must have scientific validity and evidentiary reliability. Although Daubert does not specify at what point the error rate of a test or technique exceeds the reliability requirement, given the dramatic increase of defendants who assert various defenses due to frontal lobe impairment it is imperative that the diagnoses is based on a sound methodology and valid, and reliable tests, and techniques. At present, the methodologies employed for the assessment of frontal lobe functioning vary widely; however employing a consistent assessment approach is crucial since doing so will assist in establishing the true strength of the relationship between frontal lobe impairment and aggression. It is hoped that the multimodal approach that has been developed here will further our understanding of the relationship between aggression and the frontal lobes, as well as provide a methodology that is likely to withstand a Daubert challenge, and sophisticated cross-examination.

  • IDENTITY AND BEHAVIOR: EXPLORING AN UNDERSTANDING OF "BEING" AND "DOING" FOR CATHOLIC PRIESTS ACCUSED OF THE SEXUAL ABUSE OF MINORS IN THE UNITED STATES

    Author:
    Brenda Vollman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Jock Young
    Abstract:

    The problem of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the United States has been problematized as a phenomenon that is, in part, a distinction of the priesthood. Although it is known that there are sex offenders in the world who are not, nor were they ever, priests, this study sets forth to uncover whether or not the priests in the sample are, in fact, different on typical psychological risk factors than the at-large sex offender. More importantly, in the absence of notable differences on risk factor characteristics, this study explores the ways in which narrative structures are used to tell difficult stories. It also supplements an understanding of the specificity of the problem of abuse in the Church, and the ways in which priests use both classic vocabularies of motive as well as vocabularies that are culturally rooted. The narratives paint a picture of the ways accused priests make sense of their identity as men, as moral leaders, and as men accused of sexual abuse, particularly as these are understood within the Catholic subculture of sin, repentance, and redemption. The specific risk factors described are deviant relationships to sexuality, social interaction deficiencies, and low esteem. In general, priests are no different on most of the measures, and when they are the comparative sample sizes are small, requiring a cautious use of the findings to make universal claims regarding priests. What is unique to the priesthood is the trajectory of the story of coming to this peculiar master status, and the mechanisms for managing the allegations made against them which, whether true or not, interrupt the priest's narrative. Priests use similar stigma management techniques as other sex offenders with victims who are minors and/or adults. Some priests in this sample denied allegations outright or, when they admitted to them, engaged in the process of disavowal from the "sick self", often after they had received some sort of treatment. Admitters also used typical techniques of neutralization, the content of which, at times, were illustrative of an understanding of self as fallible and forgivable.

  • Social and Legal Determinants on the Enforcement of Domestic Violence Laws by the Police: A Study of New Jersey Police Officers

    Author:
    John Waldron
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Maria (Maki) Haberfeld
    Abstract:

    A survey study of 425 police officers operating within fourteen police departments over a two countywide area of New Jersey examines police officer's attitudes and opinions concerning the enforcement of domestic violence laws. New Jersey is a jurisdiction with strict statewide mandatory arrest policies and procedures that apply to all police agencies. Extensive mandatory training is a key component to the New Jersey model of domestic violence enforcement. The first phase of the research examines similarities and differences by the setting in which officer's work: Urban, urban suburb, large suburban, and small suburban police agencies. The second phase examines six scenarios in which officers responded to questions as to how they would handle domestic situations. A follow-up question to each scenario explored the motivation and justification for the officer's action. The majority of police officers cited as their primary motivation in handling mandatory arrest situations of domestic violence that their actions were mandated under law. Yet, only about one-half of officers in the study had received all mandatory required training over the past four years. Police officers in a mandatory arrest jurisdiction for the enforcement of domestic violence laws rely heavily on their perception of the law to justify their enforcement activities. Significant correlations were found between a police officer's personal and professional positive opinions toward the enforcement of domestic violence legislation and his actions in mandatory arrest domestic violence situations. Police officers are more likely to make an arrest for a domestic violence offense in a mandatory arrest situation when they observe the offense as opposed to when they must rely on victim statements or physical evidence to establish probable cause.