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Criminal Justice and Criminology News

Gang Mentality

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Police say Portland, Ore., gang violence is exploding. A landmark report shows just the opposite.

Clay Mosher

Clay Mosher

Turn on the TV news and you’d have reason to believe gang violence in Portland, Ore., is out of control. Terse warnings from police and fallout from three recent high-profile shootings have prompted alarming reports in the media of a recent surge in gang activity.

But amid the rhetoric and media heat, a far more complicated picture emerges when the numbers are examined.

Clay Mosher, a professor of sociology at WSU-Vancouver and author of a gang assessment for Clark County law enforcement in 2012, says various agencies label gang-related crime differently—and often liberally. “Most crimes committed by gang members are not committed for the gang. But they can get coded as a gang-related crime,” Mosher said.

Learn more about efforts to measure gang activity

‘Housing First’ Helps Keep Ex-Inmates Off the Streets (and Out of Prison)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Faith Lutze

Faith Lutze

Many of the roughly 10,000 inmates who exit U.S. prisons each week following incarceration face an immediate critical question: Where will I live? While precise numbers are hard to come by, research suggests that, on average, about 10 percent of parolees are homeless immediately following their release. In large urban areas, and among those addicted to drugs, the number is even higher—exceeding 30 percent.

“Without a safe and stable place to live where they can focus on improving themselves and securing their future, all of their energy is focused on the immediate need to survive the streets,” says Faith Lutze, criminal justice professor at WSU. “Being homeless makes it hard to move forward or to find the social support from others necessary to be successful.”

Learn more about Lutze’s research into inmate recidivism

Woman seeks to open transitional home for rehabilitating ex-inmates

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Zachary Hamilton

Zachary Hamilton

Dorothy Owsley spent years visiting jails and prisons to help inmates figure out their plans for re-entry into the community, and she frequently heard the same story.

“I heard a lot of ‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t have anywhere to go. Where I lived before got me in trouble in the first place,’ ” said Owsley, 62.

That’s why Owsley said transitional homes play an important role in breaking a cycle that can end with those inmates back behind bars. She’s planning to turn a brick house in Roanoke, Va., into a transitional home for about eight area women released from jail or prison.

Zachary Hamilton, an assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology and an expert in offender re-entry and rehabilitation, said research is mixed regarding the effectiveness of transitional facilities. He said that places focusing on a specific goal, such as addiction recovery or employment, tend to show more positive results. His own research has shown that a structured environment coupled with parole conditions results in fewer parole violations.

More about the planned home and Hamilton’s research

Oakland, Calif., police enduring unprecedented overtime stretch

Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Bryan Vila

Bryan Vila

Without enough officers to respond to 911 calls and patrol streets, Oakland, Calif., has required police to work extra patrol shifts for the past 18 months—a duration that law enforcement experts say appears unprecedented and could threaten public safety.

The mandatory overtime requirement began in October 2012 and isn’t scheduled to end until next March when the department anticipates finally having enough officers to adequately staff the patrol division.

But mandatory overtime is typically reserved for disasters or short-term operations, said Bryan Vila, a WSU professor of criminal justice and criminology and former Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy who authored the book Tired Cops: The Importance of Managing Police Fatigue.

“I’ve never heard of mandatory overtime being used for longer than a year or so and even that is very long,” Vila said.

Too much overtime, especially in Oakland where police face the highest volume of 911 calls in the state, could leave officers fatigued, over-stressed and mistake prone, Vila said. “Your risk of critical incidents and vehicle crashes goes up,” he said. “Those cost a lot of money and so do the civil suits every time a police officer makes a mistake that is avoidable.”

Read more about police overtime

WSU professor to head Spokane criminal justice reform efforts

Monday, April 21, 2014
Jacque Van Wormer

Jacque van Wormer

Spokane County and city officials intend to hire Jacque van Wormer, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology, to lead the initial implementation of criminal justice reforms recommended by a blue-ribbon panel last winter.

Van Wormer is expected to be hired under a $26,000, yearlong contract to serve as project manager for instituting recommendations in the 60-page report by the three-member panel. She said her work in recent years has revolved around reform efforts in other states, and said she is eager to help Spokane implement changes.

Those changes could reduce the high cost of criminal justice, at the same time providing offenders with tools to turn their lives around.

Van Wormer has master’s and doctoral degrees in criminal justice from WSU. She also has experience working in the field before joining academia.

More about the reform project plan

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