Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency

Sage Publications, Inc.
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  • Citizenship and Sentencing: Assessing Intersectionality in National Origin and Legal Migration Status on Federal Sentencing Outcomes

    Objectives: This study seeks to understand how national origin and legal migration status of noncitizen defendants in federal criminal courts shape incarceration and sentence length decisions. Method: The authors use annual United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) Monitoring of Federal Criminal Sentences (MFCS) datasets (2011–2016) to examine the impact of defendant’s (1) national origin and (2) legal versus illegal migration status on incarceration and sentence length decisions in federal criminal courts. In addition, in order to account for effects of immigration cases, supplemental analyses are conducted for (1) non-immigration offenses and (2) immigration-only offenses. Results: For the incarceration decision, noncitizen defendants have higher odds of incarceration than U.S. citizens, net of other factors. These effects are less consistent in the sentence length decision. These relationships systemically differ across national origin and legal migration status. Conclusions: Punishment disadvantages based on one’s citizenship are particularly pronounced for defendants from Mexico, Latin America, and Africa and especially for those with “illegal” migration status. As noncitizen populations continue to grow in federal courts and in the U.S. more broadly, understanding and addressing these citizenship disparities in punishment will be increasingly important.

  • The Age-Graded Consequences of Justice System Involvement for Mental Health

    Objectives: Drawing on the life course and social stress perspectives, this paper examines age variation in the mental health consequences of justice system involvement by assessing arrest, conviction, or incarceration as possible age-graded stressors that amplify harm at younger ages of involvement. Methods: Individual fixed effect regression models utilizing National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997) data test whether age moderates the mental health impact of arrest, conviction, or incarceration. Follow-up analyses for moderated associations compute and compare age-specific relationships to identify differences in the significance and magnitude of mental health consequences for contacts spanning late adolescence, emerging adulthood, and adulthood. Results: The incarceration-mental health relationship is moderated by age, as significant harms to mental health are exclusively observed following secure confinement in late adolescence (ages 16–17) and emerging adulthood (18–24), but not in adulthood (25–33). The lack of moderation between arrest and mental health indicates a universally harmful experience at all ages. Conclusions: Evidence supports conceptualizing incarceration as an age-graded social stressor that is correlated with pronounced harm to mental health during late adolescence and emerging adulthood. Future research should identify the mechanisms of this unique stress response following earlier incarcerations and its long-term salience for processes of cumulative disadvantage.

  • The Racial Divide at Micro Places: A Pre/Post Analysis of the Effects of the Newark Consent Decree on Field Inquiries (2015–2017)

    Objectives: An initial investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) found that the Newark Police Department (NPD) had engaged in a “pattern or practice” of constitutional violations with regard to stop and arrest practices, prompting the city to enter a consent decree. Methods: This study draws on official event-level data on FIs recorded by NPD officers (N = 50,322) and uses random effects panel regression models to examine how socioeconomic characteristics interact with the implementation of the consent decree at micro places in the short term. Results: Spatial analyses indicate a concentration of FI encounters. The implementation of the consent decree coincided with improvements in the quality of data collected by officers conducting FIs of citizens. It was also associated with decreased rates of reported FIs for the city’s Black and Latino citizens relative to their share of the local population, and patterns of FI encounters. Conclusions: Newark’s consent decree improved the quality of data collection. However, the spatial concentration of reported FIs and subsequent arrest of Black and Latino individuals have not experienced the same effect as they presumably require a culture change that is likely to necessitate a longer time frame to manifest.

  • When Crime Moves Where Does It Go? Analyzing the Spatial Correlates of Robbery Incidents Displaced by a Place-based Policing Intervention

    Objective: Examine the place-based correlates of robbery activity displaced by a foot-patrol intervention in Newark, NJ. We use constructs from Crime Pattern and Social Disorganization theories to test hypotheses concerned with associations between the structure of the environment and the displacement of crime. Method: Robbery incidents were spatially joined to street segments to study micro-level displacement processes. Predictor variables were operationalized using data from the Newark Police Department and Infogroup USA. Generalized Linear models tested associations between the characteristics of street segments and displaced robbery in the target area as compared to a control. Results: Environmental structure is important to understanding the settings of displacement, though this varied between spatial and temporal displacement. Relationships between displaced crime activity and model covariates did not always appear in expected directions. For example, bus stops predicted increased spatial displacement while corner stores predicted decreased levels of temporal displacement. Conclusions: While testing for displacement has become commonplace in place-based policing interventions, less attention has been paid to the micro-level factors that may facilitate the displacement of crime events. Both bus stops and corner stores show consistent associations with displaced crime activity, but the directions of these relationships suggest more complex processes requiring further examination.

  • Gender Differences in the Accumulation, Timing, and Duration of Childhood Adverse Experiences and Youth Delinquency in Fragile Families

    Objective: The purposes of this study are twofold. First, we explore how the accumulation, timing, and duration of ACEs influences youth delinquency. Second, because few studies to date have examined how the effect of ACEs may vary among different groups, we explore how these patterns may vary by gender. Methods: Analyses were based on data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCW), which employs a national sample of urban-born, at-risk youth. Results: The results showed that as the number of early ACEs experienced incrementally increases, the likelihood of youth reporting delinquent behavior also increases, even after adjusting for recent adversity. Moreover, exposure to early ACEs that are high but late, intermittent, or chronically high significantly increase the risk of youth participating in delinquency. Our results also indicate that ACEs are significantly related to delinquency for girls, but not for boys. Conclusions: Prevention and intervention efforts should screen for ACEs—especially in early childhood. Given that the accumulation, timing, and duration of ACE exposure is linked to youth delinquency, interventions that target ACEs early may have greater success at reducing delinquency. Moreover, prevention programs need to consider gender-specific responses to ACEs and gender-specific intervention strategies.

  • Social Disorganization and Strain: Macro and Micro Implications for Youth Violence

    Objectives: Explanations of community violence traditionally reflect a social disorganization perspective, suggesting that neighborhood characteristics affect crime via the intervening mechanism of informal social control. Drawing on Agnew’s Macro Strain Theory [MST], we argue that neighborhood characteristics 1) also affect macro-level crime for reasons related to aggregated strain and 2) condition the relationship between micro-level strains and individual violent offending. Methods: Using data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, we conduct a series of multilevel models examining both the macro- and multi-level relationship between neighborhood characteristics, strain and youth violence. Findings: Results generally support our arguments, suggesting that neighborhood characteristics like concentrated disadvantage 1) remain associated with community violence even after adjusting for multiple measures of informal social control and 2) condition the association between micro-level strain and violent offending. Conclusions: Strain processes, at both the macro and micro-level, play a critical role in the well-established empirical relationship between structural disadvantage and violence. In light of results, community crime control policies should address the ways in which structural disadvantage increases motivation, rather than focusing exclusively on the ways in which it weakens informal social control.

  • Procedural (In)Justice as Inclusivity and Marginalization: Evidence from a Longitudinal Sample of Mexican-American Adolescents

    Objectives: Treatment by law enforcement officers, as representatives of the state that interact with individual citizens, may signal to individuals their political and social inclusion within society. Hispanics, as the largest minority group in the country that oftentimes must navigate two cultural identities, may be especially sensitive to the treatment of police. We test the group engagement model’s implication that procedural justice—or lack thereof—may promote or hinder attachment to the United States and/or Mexico among Latino/a adolescents and young adults. Methods: Using a fixed effects panel design with a subsample of Mexican Americans from the Pathways to Desistance Study, we examine whether changes in subjective procedural justice evaluations of the police are related to changes in National identification. Results: Changes in procedural justice perceptions are significantly related to changes in Mexican identification, whereas procedural justice is not related to changes in Anglo identification. Although, consistent with segmented assimilation theory, the relationships between changes in procedural justice and Mexican/Anglo identification may be stronger among participants born in the United States. Conclusions: The findings are generally consistent with the group engagement model of procedural justice and suggest procedural injustice may alienate Hispanics.

  • Foster Care, Permanency, and Risk of Prison Entry

    Objective: (1) Examine associations of foster care exit type (e.g., reunification with birth family, adoption, guardianship/permanent relative placement, or emancipation from care) with risk of entry into state prison; (2) Examine racial disparities in those associations. Method: With data on over 10,000 Wisconsin youth who entered foster care in mid- to late-childhood, we present imprisonment rates in young adulthood by race, sex, and foster care exit type. Proportional hazards models with a robust set of covariates compared prison entry rates among the most common exit types—reunification, aging out, and guardianship/permanent relative placement. Results: Nearly 13 percent of the sample experienced imprisonment in young adulthood. Compared with emancipated youth, hazard of imprisonment was 1.58–1.96 times higher among reunified youth. Differences were largely unexplained by observed individual, family, or foster care characteristics. Imprisonment rates were similar for emancipated youth and youth exiting to guardianship/permanent relative placement. Hazard of imprisonment for reunified Black youth was twice that of reunified white youth, but racial differences in prison entry were statistically non-significant among emancipated youth. Conclusion: Efforts to reduce incarceration risk for all youth in foster care are needed. Reunified youth may benefit from services and supports currently provided primarily to emancipated youth.

  • The Impact of Ambiguity-induced Error in Offender Decision-making: Evidence from the Field

    Objectives: To invoke behavioral economics theories of ambiguity in the context of offender decision-making, and to test the impact of ambiguity in punishment certainty on offender decisions. Methods: We leverage a quasi-experimental condition among a sample of drunk driving arrestees that are tested for alcohol use and subject to mandatory brief incarceration for a violation. The treatment condition relaxes a zero-tolerance alcohol rule, thereby introducing design-based ambiguity surrounding the certainty of punishment. We use Mahalanobis matching and propensity score weighting methods to estimate the impact of ambiguity on violations. We then interrogate this finding with complementary sensitivity analyses. Results: When facing the ambiguity condition participants are 27–28 percentage points (84–93 percent) more likely to violate program conditions after 30 days of supervision. We demonstrate that a statistical difference in violations due to ambiguity is still detectible at 90 and 180 days of supervision. These results are robust to alternative specifications and falsification tests. Conclusions: This study is the first to examine the impact of ambiguity on criminal justice program compliance using a quasi-experiment from the field. We further demonstrate the unintended costs to persons under supervision and jurisdictions of laxity in program design, which are applicable across criminal justice domains.

  • Low Self-Control, Peer Delinquency, and Crime: Considering Gendered Pathways

    Objectives: We extend prior research by considering how low self-control and peer delinquency may work together in a mediating process whereby low self-control increases association with delinquent peers, which in turn increases criminal offending. Further, we draw on gender crime research to suggest that the indirect effect of self-control on offending will be greater for boys than girls. Methods: We use three waves of data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods to test these hypotheses for violent offending, property offending, and substance use, using multi-group multilevel generalized structural equation models that address issues of time ordering, spuriousness, and the measurement of criminality. Results: The hypothesized mediation process is supported by our results. We also find that the indirect effect of low self-control on violence and property crime is greater for boys, primarily driven by a stronger effect of delinquent peers for boys. In contrast, and in support of expectations, the results for substance use reveal little gender difference. Conclusions: We conclude that rather than treating self-control and peer delinquency as competing explanations, we should view them as working together to affect crime and delinquency. Moreover, researchers must give careful attention to gender differences in the pathways to offending.

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