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Criminal justice faculty help non-violent offenders take first step

Two Washington State University criminal justice faculty members are playing key roles in a national effort to free thousands of non-violent prisoners and help them transition smoothly to civilian life.

Zach Hamilton and Alex Kigerl.
Hamilton and Kigerl

The First Step Act was signed into law by President Trump late last year. The legislation was designed to create a path to release for prisoners convicted of non-violent drug offenses. The prisoners earn credit for good behavior and are issued a risk profile based on a number of factors. That’s where WSU’s Zach Hamilton and Alex Kigerl come in.

Hamilton received a phone call earlier this year from the National Institute of Justice, requesting his expertise for one of the key components of the First Step Act’s implementation.

“The FSA recognized there is a population in prison that is non-violent,” said Hamilton, an associate professor. “The goal is to release non-violent offenders to communities in ways that are as safe as possible. We created a risk assessment that increases credit given for good behavior and other factors that predict they would be successful in re-engaging (in communities).”

Hamilton says the FSA was necessary due to the fallout from the “war on drugs,” which led to prison populations quadrupling over the past 30 years. The bill had been under consideration for several years before gaining traction last year thanks to bipartisan support.

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WSU Insider

Outstanding criminal justice student chosen to carry CAS gonfalon

Outstanding senior in criminal justice and criminology Jordan Sykes will carry the gonfalon for the College of Arts and Sciences during Washington State University graduation ceremonies on Saturday, May 4, in Beasley Coliseum.

“When I arrived at WSU, I made it my mission to make a meaningful impact,” Sykes said. “While I have attempted to accomplish this mission, I feel that, in turn, the University and the Pullman community have had such a profound impact on me that I will be forever indebted to this amazing community.”

The honor of being selected gonfalon bearer recognizes Sykes’s outstanding achievement during his undergraduate career. Gonfalons are the shield-shaped banners that represent WSU’s 11 colleges at commencement events.

Described by one of his professors as “a powerful student role model,” Sykes has demonstrated his commitment to excellence in an array of scholarly and service activities.

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WSU Insider

Student plans app to reduce DUI rates

A WSU student created a concept for an app in response to an increase in rates of drunk driving in Washington.

Savannah Obernberger.

Savanna Obernberger, junior criminal justice major, said she worked with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and four classmates in a crime prevention strategies course.

She said they evaluated policies regarding DUIs and developed recommendations for police departments, insurance companies and bartenders. The course ended in fall 2018, but she said she wanted to continue finding solutions to reduce DUI rates.

The app would allow people to keep track of when they are drinking at bars, how much their blood alcohol content is, and how they decide to get home, she said.

“I think our criminal justice system can improve in so many ways,” Obernberger said. “If there is any way we can approach that as students or young people, we definitely should.”

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Daily Evergreen

Martial arts reviewer decries criminalization of doping in sports

In an “Under the Radar” segment, MMA Beat host Luke Thomas reads a letter from Dale Willits, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at WSU:

Dale Willits.

“…doping, based on our data, appears to be driven by many of the same forces that drive criminal and antisocial behavior more broadly. However our literature — which is ranging from criminology, criminal justice, and sociology — have all acknowledged that zero-tolerance approaches are not effective in combatting crime and especially not so in combatting drug use. Instead, we argue the point that the criminological literature provides guidance on more promising strategies that could be used instead of the criminalization of (performance-enhancing drugs).”

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MMAFighting SB Nation

As Spokane beefs up efforts to catch car thieves, some — including prolific one who targets Subarus — won’t stop

In the time it takes to tidy your bed, floss your teeth or microwave a bowl of rice, 19-year-old Christian Normand can steal your car. If it’s an early-’90s-to-2000s Subaru, even better.

Since at least the year 2000, Spokane has consistently ranked as one of the worst cities in Washington for people hoping to permanently keep their cars in their driveway. For several years it even ranked in the top 15 cities in the United States in terms of vehicle theft rate.

David Makin

“I think by and large, most of the arguments around Spokane are joyriding, addiction, and you have those chronic offenders,” said David Makin, a professor of criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University. “But I think there’s still a lot of unknowns around there.”

Makin says in-home monitoring, such as modern electric bracelets that look no different than a Disneyland MagicBand, are one of the most effective ways to curb repeat offenses.

Last semester, three students in his Crime Prevention Strategies class recommended electronic monitoring to the Spokane Police Department as part of their research into vehicle theft prevention.

The students wrote that compared to the average cost of incarceration per inmate per year — about $31,286 — the $4,500 to $8,500 it would cost for electronic monitoring would be a cheaper alternative, and would help curb recidivism.

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WSU Insider