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Justice Policy Journal - Volume 12, Number 1 - Spring 2015


From the Editors

Dear Readers:

This spring we bring you yet another exciting issue of Justice Policy Journal.  We have four original articles in this issue, and a frequent Justice Policy Journal contributor, William Brown, brings one of those articles to us.  Randall Sheldon, my co-editor, provides a brief introduction to this article below.  The other three articles are certainly to interest you as well. 

The first article titled Jumping Hurdles: The myriad of issues and barriers for incarcerated mothers to regain custody of children, touches on an extremely important issue in the criminal justice system—parental rights.  As Stone, Liddell and Martinovic note, mothers face a myriad of hurdles in attempting to regain their parental rights upon exiting prison.  From lack of housing to employment to substance abuse issues, mothers face a range of issues that prevent them from regaining custody upon exiting prison. As Stone et al. note, the lack of assistance and support for mothers also exacerbates this issue. 

The second article titled Are your friends crucial or trivial? Peer support’s effect on recidivism tackles the issue of how peers affect recidivism.  Tracing peer support at three different time intervals, Taylor and Becker show that peer support had no effect on recidivism, but that victimization and alcohol and drug use did significantly predict recidivism.                       

The third article titled The importance of “working rules” in the determination of traffic stop outcomes examines how police make decisions in traffic stops.  Kent and Regoeczi show that officers’ use a series of rules that either aggravate or mediate the likelihood that someone will receive a traffic ticket. Citizen’s demeanor and seriousness of offense were the two most dominant working rules guiding traffic stops, but several others are also examined in the article.

Finally, William Brown and colleagues bring us the final article.  Randall Shelden provides this introduction:

The subject of veterans caught up in the criminal justice system has been discussed by William B. Brown and colleagues previously in this journal.  In fact, Brown has been contacted by several attorneys all over the country representing veterans on numerous occasions, largely as a result of the articles in this journal.  He’s been told that we seem to be the only journal that has published on the subject.

We are proud to announce that once again Brown and colleagues make an appearance in the pages of this journal – this time as the lead article.

Their goal in this article is to help educate criminal justice officials about the importance of what they call “cultural competency” when faced with a veteran who has been charged with a crime.  They are correct when they note that most representatives of the system probably don’t know what they are talking about.  These officials – mostly prosecutors and judges – often display total ignorance of the context within which the crimes of veterans occurs.  All too often Brown and his co-authors have been told that bringing up the war background of these veterans is “irrelevant” when considering guilt or innocence.

To those of us working in the academic world of criminology and related social sciences this is not surprising. Prosecutors – and many judges – believe that defendants “freely chose” to commit the crime, regardless of why it happened in the first place.  Rarely is the surrounding context considered.  If it is, they too often accuse us of “excusing” or denying “responsibility” for such crimes.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We are merely asking that being part of a “total military institution” and serving in a war zone, helps to explain what happened and why. And, like we have done with offenders with drug or mental health problems, or women who have experienced domestic violence, they should be treated differently. The courts should take a “multidisciplinary approach” and utilizing social science disciplines.

It’s the least we can do for those who have sacrificed to serve our country.

Happy reading!

Elizabeth Brown and Randall Shelden, Co-Editors


Jumping Hurdles: the myriad of issues and barriers for incarcerated mothers to regain custody of children

By Una Stone, Marg Liddell, and Marietta Martinovic 

This paper describes the myriad of issues and barriers that mothers face on exiting prison in their attempts to regain parental responsibility of their children. Interviews with professionals and stakeholders in Victoria, Australia who support these mothers, reported that these issues include lack of housing, obtaining a secure job and overcoming drug and alcohol addictions.  Women coming out of prison have few organizational skills, as many have become institutionalized whilst in prison.  They have poor time management, poor self-discipline, a poor work history and often battle anxiety and depression.  Further, they need to prove that they are addressing the issues that caused them to be incarcerated and that they are able to care for their children in order to regain custody of them.  Such ‘proof’ involves housing and employment, remaining drug and alcohol free and developing pro-social networks.  The research shows that the hurdles incarcerated women need to overcome to meet these requirements are often hampered by limited support and assistance. 


Are Your Friends Crucial or Trivial? Peer Support’s Effect on Recidivism

By Caitlin Taylor and Patricia Becker

This study used a data set from the Serious and Violent Reentry Initiative evaluation to measure the effect of peer instrumental support on recidivism. To examine recidivism, this study looked at self-reported criminal activity as well as new arrests in the first 15 months after release. Peer instrumental support was recorded at three different time periods: one to three months, three to nine months, and nine to 15 months post release. Logistic regression models were conducted to examine the relationship between peer support and recidivism. The results showed that peer support had no significant effect on recidivism in any of the three waves; however, other variables, such as, victimization frequency and the need for alcohol and drug treatment significantly predicted recidivism. A number of implications are discussed for policies and practices within the criminal justice system and future research.


The Importance of “Working Rules” in the Determination of Traffic Stop Outcomes

By Stephanie L. Kent and Wendy C. Regoeczi

Systematic observation of police initiated traffic stops reveal a set of common working rules that guide the decisions made by officers that determine the outcome of the interaction. We uncover a typology that shows that these rules either aggravate or mediate the likelihood of a citizen receiving a ticket. Of the one hundred fifty seven working rules that were described by officers in applying discretion, the citizen’s demeanor and the seriousness of the offense accounted for half of the rules offered. Police reported that polite and/or remorseful citizens were more likely to get warnings and in many instances, the citizen’s behavior was not serious enough to warrant a ticket. Police who offered these rules were likely to act on them by issuing tickets or warnings accordingly. Other important “rules” included the sentiment that ticketing would not produce a useful result or that the citizen’s lack of a prior record was a good reason to not ticket. Theoretical and policy implications of these findings are discussed.


“You probably don't know who or what you are talking about”: Cultural and Moral Incompetence in Evaluating the Veteran in the Criminal Justice System

By William Brown, Robert Stanulis, Misty Weitzel, and Kyle Rodgers

The topic veterans entangled in criminal justice is not novel.  Veterans have often been used to occupy jail cells and fill empty prison beds since at least the end of the Civil War.  Massive numbers of World War I veterans made the transition from war to prison.  While there are no specific data regarding World War II veterans and criminal justice encounters, the Vietnam War produced many veterans who landed in prison.  Today many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are beginning the long process from war to jail and prison.  Historically, the criminal justice system, along with much of the general public, has ignored the intricate details of military culture and the impact that culture plays on veterans trying to find their place in the civilian culture.  The primary purpose of this article is to awaken and educate those in the criminal justice system about the importance of cultural competency when it comes to processing veterans through the criminal justice system.  We also introduce the importance of employing a multidisciplinary approach to enable a comprehensive understanding of the plight of veterans as they attempt to re-acculturate back into civilian communities.  This article demonstrates the value and importance of bringing together the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, and sociology to address social and criminal justice problems that confront veterans returning home from war.  The two primary problems related to veterans that we address in this article are posttraumatic stress disorder and moral injury. 


Keywords: incarcerated mothers, JPJ, recidivism, traffic stops, veterans

Posted in Volume 12

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