Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Intimate Partner Violence: An Examination of Ecological Factors

    Author:
    Sheetal Ranjan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Maureen O'Connor
    Abstract:

    Intimate Partner Violence has commonly been examined using an individual-psychological or a socio-structural perspective. Little research has examined IPV using an integrated approach. Specifically, little research has focused on understanding IPV in the context of neighborhood or ecology. In ecological studies the units of analysis are spatially defined population aggregates (Anselin, Cohen, Cook, Gor and Tita 2000). The Steering Committee for the Workshop on Issues in Research on Violence against Women, National Research Council clearly identifies the need for ecological research in relation to IPV: "The committee recommends research to estimate the extent of variation in violence against women among census tracts or small neighborhoods, police precincts or districts, or other theoretically meaningful social area aggregations. Research should also be aimed at determining which features of area composition influence rates and types of violence against women." (Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin and Petrie, 2004, p5). The present study, therefore, uses both individual level and community level data to understand the features of area composition that influence IPV. A combination of primary data from survey participants and secondary data from the Census, Infoshare, New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Domestic Violence Research Unit of the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services were modeled using Hierarchal Linear Models (HLM) software. The data were also geo-coded on electronic maps using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. Multi-level binomial regression results indicate no neighborhood effects for the survey sample, whereas Moran's I tests using Geoda software indicate significant spatial clustering of IPV rates in police precincts. Further, regression analysis shows that concentrated disadvantage (b=.55), immigrant concentration (b=-.22) and community violence (b=.31) significantly predict IPV rate in police precincts accounting for about 71 percent of variance in the model.

  • Intimate Partner Violence: An Examination of Ecological Factors

    Author:
    Sheetal Ranjan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Maureen O'Connor
    Abstract:

    Intimate Partner Violence has commonly been examined using an individual-psychological or a socio-structural perspective. Little research has examined IPV using an integrated approach. Specifically, little research has focused on understanding IPV in the context of neighborhood or ecology. In ecological studies the units of analysis are spatially defined population aggregates (Anselin, Cohen, Cook, Gor and Tita 2000). The Steering Committee for the Workshop on Issues in Research on Violence against Women, National Research Council clearly identifies the need for ecological research in relation to IPV: "The committee recommends research to estimate the extent of variation in violence against women among census tracts or small neighborhoods, police precincts or districts, or other theoretically meaningful social area aggregations. Research should also be aimed at determining which features of area composition influence rates and types of violence against women." (Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin and Petrie, 2004, p5). The present study, therefore, uses both individual level and community level data to understand the features of area composition that influence IPV. A combination of primary data from survey participants and secondary data from the Census, Infoshare, New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Domestic Violence Research Unit of the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services were modeled using Hierarchal Linear Models (HLM) software. The data were also geo-coded on electronic maps using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. Multi-level binomial regression results indicate no neighborhood effects for the survey sample, whereas Moran's I tests using Geoda software indicate significant spatial clustering of IPV rates in police precincts. Further, regression analysis shows that concentrated disadvantage (b=.55), immigrant concentration (b=-.22) and community violence (b=.31) significantly predict IPV rate in police precincts accounting for about 71 percent of variance in the model.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.