Students honored for work on crime and punishment

Students from CMC’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government have won top research awards from the Association of Criminal Justice Research/California  (ACJRCA), which recently held its fall conference.

Rose Institute research assistant Elise Hansell ’15 received the first place award (which includes a $300 cash prize) for her work on constructing measurements known as "national crime funnels" for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and certain drug offenses.

The term "crime funnel" refers to a graphic that succinctly shows how likely it is that the commission of crime results in incarceration. Ideally, every crime would result in the conviction of the offender and the imposition of an appropriate sentence. But there is a drop-off at each stage of the process. Not all crimes result in an arrest: and not every arrest leads to a conviction or to an appropriate punishment. This circumstance is sometimes described as “the funnel” because the data can be displayed graphically in the shape of a funnel.

For her research, Hansell (who worked with Nina Kamath ’16 and Charlotte Bailey ’16) compiled data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Judicial Reporting Program. Joseph Bessette, who is Alice Tweed Tuohy Professor of Government and Ethics, served as faculty advisor for the project.

Other ACJRCA winners are Elena Lopez ’15 and Andrew Nam ’15, who shared the second-place award (and a cash prize of $200) for their project presenting preliminary analyses on the implementation of California’s Three Strikes law, which imposes long prison sentences on repeat offenders for serious crimes.

Three Strikes, which was enacted by voters two decades ago, has been controversial. Supporters argue that it is the primary reason for a dramatic drop in serious crimes, while opponents argue that the law can result in sentences disproportionately severe when compared to the triggering offense.

Lopez and Nam’s research compiled quarterly data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to examine the offenses of those sentenced to prison under the law. They were assisted in their work by classmates Jessica Jin ’16, Audrey Breitwieser ‘16, Tyler Finn ‘17, Ian O’Grady ‘15, Hannah Oh ‘16, and David Tse ‘15. Professor Jennifer Walsh of Azusa Pacific University also served as the project's faculty advisor.

For more than 30 years, the Rose Institute has been nationally recognized as a leader in demographic analysis and redistricting research and reform. With extensive experience examining key issues, the Rose Institute has conducted budget analyses for private institutions, and contributed to fiscal research for local governments, among other legal and analytic projects affecting California government.

The ACJRCA brings together a dynamic mix of public servants, practitioners, evaluators, analysts, students, and academics united by a common interest in criminal justice issues. The Association seeks to stimulate discussion of current criminal justice issues. Analysts, academics, and practitioners meet to listen to and engage in energetic presentations at bi-annual conferences.