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Justice Policy Journal - Volume 9, Number 1 - Spring 2012

(ISSN 1530-3012)


From the editor

By Elizabeth Brown, Ph.D. and Randall G. Shelden, M.A., Ph.D.

From the Editors

Welcome to another issue of Justice Policy Journal!  This time we have four excellent articles for your reading enjoyment-- two original research papers and two literature reviews of topics pertinent to issues of justice policy. 

Karen Miner-Romanoff's article titled "Juveniles Sentenced and Incarcerated as Adults: Findings From a Qualitative Analysis of Their Knowledge, Understanding, and Perceptions of Their Sentences" starts off the issue.  In this article, Miner-Romanoff tests whether laws mandating juvenile transfer to adult court satisfy the requisites of deterrence.  Based on qualitative interviews with individuals incarcerated as adults for crimes they committed as juveniles, Miner-Romanoff demonstrates that not a single one knew that juvenile transfer laws could apply them.  Given that juveniles did not know that the crimes they were committing were subject to juvenile transfer laws, Miner-Romanoff concludes that the requisites of deterrence are not satisfied and that in order to increase the deterrent effects of transfer provisions, states and localities must take steps to inform juveniles of this potential consequence. 

John M. Nally, Susan Lockwood, Taiping Ho and Katie Knutsen bring us the second article, titled "The Post-Release Employment Among Different Types of Offenders with A Different Level of Education: A 5-year Follow-up Study in Indiana."  In this article, Nally and his colleagues examine the issues of education and the ability of previously incarcerated people to secure stable and full-time employment.  Many incarcerated people are denied the opportunity for education while on the inside and face many difficulties securing employment once released due to their lack of education and job skills.  The authors demonstrate, using a large sample size of people released from the Indiana Department of Corrections, that those more likely to recidivate were also people who were more likely to be under-educated and unemployed.  Further, the authors showed that the most important predictors of recidivism were employment status, age, and the level of education.  Given this reality, the author's suggest that rebuilding opportunities for formal education in the prison system is paramount for addressing issues of recidivism and crime. 

Danielle Shields brings us the first of the two papers by graduate students, titled "The Infamous 'One-percenters': A Review of the Criminality, Subculture and Structure of Modern Biker Gangs."  Her paper reviews the extensive literature on organized crime, particularly by an often unexamined group--biker gangs.  While these groups are often considered by law enforcement as responsible for a vast number of crimes, knowledge of their organizations and activities is rather limited.  Few studies of the internal organization of these groups exist, and what is known about these organizations is often limited to folklore or the accounts of members who have left the groups.  Even further, though these organizations are often considered responsible for brutal acts of violence and controlling illegal trade in firearms, drugs and people, law enforcement have been able to do little to stem their growing influence.  As Shield cogently demonstrates, this is an issue that is ripe for more scholarly investigation and more law enforcement attention in order to provide greater understanding of how the secrecy behind these groups helps to shield their illegal activities from police and the public.  

Wyatt Merritt's paper titled "The Use of War to Profit" is the final paper of the issue but addresses a rather timely and important topic of war profiteering.  Merritt examines the history of profits in war, showing how the issue of wartime profiteering has surfaced during all the major wars of the twentieth century.  While often considered a problem deserving of legislative action, Merritt shows how legislation intended to curb wartime profiteering has often been ignored, rewritten, and insufficient to capture the waste and inefficiency of private contractors.  Perhaps the most disturbing point of Merritt's analysis of wartime profiteering is the way that even companies under investigation or that have been proven to illegally profit from war, often continue to receive military contracts and charge exorbitant rates for their services.  On a final note, Merritt notes how this reality has led the increasing use of private contractors as security services, which has led to the loss of civilian lives and as a byproduct, has also helped enable enemy insurgents. 

We hope you enjoy reading each of these insightful articles as much as we did.

Happy reading!
Elizabeth Brown and Randall Shelden

The Use of War to Profit

By Wyatt Merritt


The United States has engaged in numerous wars since its inception as a nation.  Every conflict used private civilian contractors to meet the needs of the military.  From the Revolutionary War to present day, companies have been supplying services and materials to the military on the assumption that this is the most efficient means to support the war effort.  In almost every aspect of war, besides combat, there is a private company willing to fill the demand.  Companies that gain contracts with the government can take advantage of the lack of government oversight.  In order to increase profit, companies frequently use fraud, waste, overcharging, poor quality of work, and at times, put their employees in dangerous situations.  There have been limited legislative or punitive responses to these practices, and companies that have been caught blatantly overcharging the government still continue to receive bids in the millions, if not billions, of dollars.

The Post-Release Employment Among Different Types of Offenders with A Different Level of Education: A 5-year Follow-up Study in Indiana

By John M. Nally, Susan Lockwood, Taiping Ho, and Katie Knutsen

Today, education programs in adult correctional facilities have encountered tremendous challenges due to the reduction and/or elimination of state and federal funding to support them.  Yet, previous research consistently demonstrates that released offenders are more likely to be "unemployed" after release from prison due to their inadequate education and job skills (Vacca, 2004).  The present researchers have conducted a 5-year (2005-2009) follow-up study to explore the impact of an offender's education and post-release employment on recidivism among different types of offenders (i.e., violent, non-violent, sex, and drug offenders).  This 5-year follow-up study of a cohort of 6,561 offenders representing 43.2 percent of a total of 15,184 offenders who were released from the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) custody throughout 2005.  Results from this longitudinal study revealed that recidivist offenders were likely to be unemployed or under-educated.  Furthermore, this study's results showed that the employment status, age of the offender, and the offender's level of formal education are the most important predictors of recidivism among released offenders, regardless of their type of offense.  Most importantly, the offender's level of formal education is an important element for reentry because it has a simultaneous effect on both post-release employment and recidivism.

The Infamous 'One-Percenters': A Review of the Criminality, Subculture and Structure of Modern Biker Gangs

By Danielle Shields

Owing to the difficulty of conducting empirical research within sophisticated and highly organized criminal enterprises, modern biker gangs have long remained an enigma within law enforcement and academic circles.  Despite their secrecy, with an army of an estimated 20,000 members and an unknown number of associates willing to do their bidding, these organizations are responsible for drug trafficking in the streets and within prisons, violence, theft, prostitution rings, and other dangerous criminal behavior both domestically and abroad.  In order to address the dearth of readily available information regarding modern biker gangs, this paper serves as a review of the current literature.  Utilizing the available research, this paper synthesizes and describes the literature regarding the subculture and values of biker gangs that separates them from traditional motorcycle clubs, the structure and criminality of biker gangs, and profiles of four of the largest modern biker gangs (the Hells Angels, the Banditos, the Outlaws, and the Mongols).  Policy implications to better track these groups are also discussed.  The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings and implications for future research.

Juveniles Sentenced and Incarcerated as Adults: Findings From a Qualitative Analysis of Their Knowledge, Understanding, and Perceptions of Their Sentences

By Karen Miner-Romanoff

Research has shown that the incarceration of juveniles with severe penalties is largely ineffective in decreasing juvenile crime.  Policies rest on theories that threats of severity lead to deterrence and rational decisions regarding commission.  To add to the few qualitative studies of juveniles' awareness of sentencing as adults, this interpretive phenomenological study explored offenders' understanding, knowledge, and perceptions of their sentencing.  Twelve adult inmates in four Ohio prisons were interviewed (10 males, 2 females; ages 19-30; sentenced as juveniles at ages 14-17; serving sentences from 2-45 years).  No participants understood that juvenile transfer to adult court could apply to them, precluding deterrence and rational choice decision making.  The findings add empirical evidence that without juvenile offenders' knowledge of severe punishment, crime is undeterred.  Findings should also encourage exploration of juveniles' risk assessment abilities and specific deterrence value of juvenile sentencing to adult court, leading to more effective juvenile crime control models.

Keywords: adult court transfers, deterrence, dispositional options, youth

Posted in Volume 9

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