Skip to main content

Justice Policy Journal - Volume 13, Number 1 - Spring 2016


Bad data: How government agencies distort statistics on sex-crime recidivism

By Alissa R. Ackerman and Marshall Burns

Data on the recidivism rates of individuals convicted of sex crimes varies considerably across studies. Both academic papers and government reports have assessed various forms of recidivism for this group, with different findings. The vast majority of the public believes that people convicted of sex crimes will inevitably reoffend and this is the premise upon which most related legislation is based. However, this premise is based on false and misleading information contained in numerous published reports. After a review of 287 studies of recidivism statistics, we selected seven that exhibit the most egregious misinformation and that have been the most influential in shaping governmental policy. We examine these seven studies thoroughly to better understand their definitions, interpretation, and presentation of recidivism data. We then seek to resolve discrepancies and to determine what can legitimately be said about sex-crime recidivism. We then discuss new revelations about recidivism and sex crimes vis-a-vis our analysis and we offer suggestions for future research.


Moral Injury as a Collateral Damage Artifact of War in American Society: Serving in war to serving time in jail and prison

By William B. Brown, Robert Stanulis, and Gerrad McElroy

Within a period of what seems to be a perpetual war there are factors that have been previously referred to as the invisible wounds of war. Those wounds include Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Moral Injury. We begin this article with a brief overview of the extensive period of American military involvement, followed by a section that exposes some of the experiences of veterans who have been to war. Moral injury is then addressed, differentiating between social and institutional morality, and the problems many veterans encounter in the aftermath of serving in a war zone and experiencing the actual horrors that only war can produce. Following a comprehensive explanation of Posttraumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury, we begin the explanation of how these hidden injuries of war attribute to veterans becoming entangled in criminal justice. Ultimately, it is the intention of the authors to advance cultural competency regarding the psychological, neurological, and moral dilemmas veterans, who become entangled in the criminal justice system, are often confronted with.


Deconstructing a Puzzling Relationship: Sex Offender Legislation, the Crimes that Inspired It, and Sustained Moral Panic

By Nancy G. Calleja

Sex offender legislation has expanded significantly over the last two decades with progressively harsher sanctions and with the inclusion of juvenile offenders. However, several of the crimes upon which the legislation was established are only loosely related to the resulting laws, and none of the crimes were perpetrated by juveniles—making it even more difficult to understand the intent and scope of the legislation today. This article re-examines the history of sex offender legislation since the 1990’s and the crimes that served as catalysts for the legislation. Moral panic and its potential role in current sex offender legislation is briefly explored while an argument is made for the exclusion of juvenile offenders in sex offender legislation.


Trial by Error: A Content Analysis of the Media Coverage Surrounding the Jerry Sandusky Trial

By Jennifer L. Klein and Danielle Tolson Cooper

In late 2011, reports surfaced that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was indicted on 52 related counts of child molestation against 10 young male victims. Since then, a jury found Sandusky guilty of 45 of the original 52 counts against him. The media coverage surrounding the Sandusky case was widespread at the pretrial and trial levels, leading to a potential media bias against the defendant. This article examines 217 news articles released during Sandusky’s trial. A content analysis was conducted to examine the coverage of Sandusky’s trial and the allegations against him. Drawing on prior literature, this study examines the potential biases made against Sandusky through the theoretical lens of “trial by media,” the tone of the publicity his case received, errors made in the reporting process, and the legal implications of his conviction from a policy standpoint.


The Relationship between Firearm Ownership and Violent Crime

By Matthew D. Moore and CariAnn M. Bergner  

Criminologists and other researchers have attempted to understand whether there is a connection between firearm prevalence and crime. Some experts have argued that prevalence of firearms increases crime, while others have argued it reduces crime. The purpose of this study was to further investigate and clarify this relationship. The current analysis used suicide by firearm as a proxy for firearm ownership. Examining violent crime, homicide, rape, robbery, and assault for 1,997 counties in the United States, the findings indicate that increased prevalence of firearms was associated with increased violent crime, homicide, rape, robbery, and assault. The results of this study suggest that a decrease in prevalence of firearms has the potential to decrease violent crime in the United States.


A National Examination of the Effect of Education, Training and Pre-Employment Screening on Law Enforcement Use of Force

By Ben Stickle 

For decade’s law enforcement agencies have attempted to reduce use of force incidents by increasing pre-employment standards, requiring higher education, and providing extensive training. The belief is that a better educated officer, who has passed extensive preemployment standards with enhanced training, will perform better and—among othergoals—be less likely to use force inappropriately. The present study continues research in this area by utilizing national LEMAS data with structural equation modeling to examine variables related to pre-employment screening techniques, hours of training, and highereducational requirements compared to agency use of force complaints. Findings indicate that increased employment screening tests, higher education requirements, and augmented training hours lowers departmental use of force complaints.

Keywords: bad data, firearms, gun violence, guns, Jerry Sandusky, JPJ, Justice Policy Journal, law enforcement, media coverage, police practices, police training, policy, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, recidivism, sex crime, sex offenders, trauma, trial, trial error, use of force, veterans, violent crime

Posted in Volume 13

Contribute to CJCJ

Make a difference to youth and adults trying to get their lives back on track.


California Stentencing Institute screenshot

California Sentencing
Institute (CASI)

Explore how California’s 58 counties send their residents to correctional institutions with interactive maps, charts, and downloadable data.

Connect with us

      YouTube

Contribute to CJCJ

Make a difference to youth and adults trying to get their lives back on track.

Join our mailing list

Get regular updates and news delivered to your inbox. We won’t share your information with anyone else.