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Justice Policy Journal - Volume 12, Number 2 - Fall 2015


From the Editors

Dear Readers:

Welcome to the fall issue of the Justice Policy Journal. In this issue we have some very timely articles that touch upon topics that are currently in the news. Two in particular are among the most controversial topics in discussed in the media today, the militarization of the police and the especially controversial topic of “open-carry” gun laws.

This issue begins with the issue of “open-carry” laws (“University and College Police Officials’ Perceptions of Open Carry on College Campus”). Here Aaron Bartula and Kendra Bowen of Texas Christian University focus on how gun laws have begun to have an impact on college campuses. Several colleges and universities around the country have been dealing with the extremely sensitive issue of allowing guns to be carried on campuses. In fact, as they report, as of 2012, 200 public campuses across six states allowed guns on campus. Focusing on Texas, the authors focus on two bills that were passed in 2015. One bill (known as “campus carry”) allows individuals to carry weapons on college campuses. Another bill (known as open carry) “allows licensed Texans to carry handguns in plain view in belt or shoulder holsters.” This study focused on the perceptions of university police officials regarding campus carry in Texas.

In the second article Scott Tighe and William B. Brown address the growing importance of the “militarization of the police” (“The Militarization of Law Enforcement: Bypassing the Posse Comitatus Act”). In this paper the focus is on the blurring of the lines between local law enforcement and the military and an Nineteenth-century law known as the Posse Comitatus Act (1878), which restricted the use of the military in civilian issues/circumstances. After a detailed review of the literature the authors conclude that the growing use of military equipment and weaponry has flowed into law enforcement agencies across the United States at such a dramatic pace that law enforcement agencies have adopted military strategies and tactics, which have been traditionally been used against foreign enemies. They conclude that the standard mission statement of “protect and serve” has been, for all practical purposes, change to “defeat and conquer.”

An important, but less controversial topic of the relationship between incarceration and drug trafficking, is reviewed by Valerie Wright of Cleveland State University (“Pushers: The Effect of Incarceration on Earnings from Drug Trafficking”). Using survey data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97) for the years 1997-2005, professor Wright assesses whether or not being incarcerated has any impact on illegal drug earnings upon release from prison, compared to earnings of those not incarcerated. The results of her review of the data might surprise the reader.

In addition, the effect of the perception of neighborhood conditions on gang membership is measured by Kyung Yon Jhi at University of Nebraska at Kearney and Jurg Gerber at Sam Huston University (“Texan Gangs In “Da Hood":  The Impact of Actual and Perceptual Neighborhood Qualities on Gang Membership). They find that employment opportunity greatly decreased gang membership, which they found unsurprising. However, their more surprising find was that even just improving the perception of the quality of the neighborhood would likely help reduce gang membership. Policies that change perception or even improve the actual quality of neighborhoods thus are likely to help communities stave off the ill effects of gangs.

Finally, Sheila Toppin of Clark Atlanta University presents the results of her evaluation of a Transitional Center Program in the state of Georgia (“Program Evaluation: Georgia’s Transitional Center Program”). This specific program was a “reentry transitional program” and the author’s study considered the programming, the characteristics of the participants, and recidivism outcomes of inmates who were released between 2006 and 2008. The study included such variables as the type of prison, race, gender and age of the participants.

Happy reading!

Elizabeth Brown and Randall Shelden, Co-Editors


University and College Police Officials’ Perceptions of Open Carry on College Campus

By Aaron Bartula and Kendra Bowen

In 2015, Texas joined the ranks of other states that approved a concealed campus firearm carry bill. The state also approved a bill that allows for open carry of firearms for licensed gun owners. Taken in combination, the potential for the development of a future open carry campus bill is possible. This study surveyed Texas University and College Police Officials to determine their perceptions of the perceived effects an open carry on college campus bill would have on campus crime, firearm incidents and fear of victimization among students, staff and faculty. Findings suggest that the perceived amount of crime on campus and number of firearm related incidents would remain unchanged. However, the fear of victimization of campus students and personnel would increase. Ultimately, the Texas higher education Police Officials are strongly opposed to the idea of any potential open carry bill for college campuses.


The Militarization of Law Enforcement: Bypassing the Posse Comitatus Act

By Scott Tighe and William Brown

American law enforcement has experienced historic changes over the past several decades – particularly in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 events. In the past, community policing and problem solving were popular policing strategies used in many jurisdictions, but now police departments frequently institute “zero-tolerance” policies. This shift incorporates the use of military equipment and weaponry that has flooded into law enforcement agencies across the United States. In many cases/situations law enforcement has also adopted military strategies and tactics – tactics designed for use against foreign enemies. One popularly broadcast and subsequently perceived mission of American law enforcement was to protect and serve the public. Today, the progress of that mission statement is in question. Another issue related to law enforcement performance is clearance rates. In 1971, the clearance rate for violent crimes was 46.5 percent. That percentage increased to 47.7 percent by 2011 - reflecting a 1.2 percent improvement over 40 years. Amidst this inferior performance in police activity we seem to have entered into a period where law enforcement has become militarized. Today’s law enforcement mission reflects a bypassing of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which restricted the use of the military in civilian issues/circumstances. Today, the militarization of law enforcement provides an exception to that law through the creation of an ad hock military presence. Thus, protect and serve has been replaced with defeat and conquer. This paper examines short and long-term implications of defeat and conquer mission.  


Pushers: The Effect of Incarceration on Earnings from Drug Trafficking

By Valerie Wright

Despite the rapid and dramatic increase in the incarceration rate of drug offenders in the American criminal justice system over the past few decades, little is known about the influence of imprisonment on illegal drug earnings. To shed light on this topic, this study uses a person-period sample to estimate a tobit regression model for adolescents and young adult male exoffenders and non-offenders using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97) for the years 1997-2005. The analysis reveals that the ex-incarcerated earn more drug trafficking income than individuals that have never been incarcerated. In addition, the results suggest that spending a significant amount of time incarcerated reduces social and human capital and increases earnings in illegal opportunity structures. Finally, the study shows that racial and ethnic minorities with jail or prison records make less from drug sales than their white counterparts. Implications and suggestions for policy changes are discussed.


Texan Gangs In “Da Hood": The Impact of Actual and Perceptual Neighborhood Qualities on Gang Membership

By Kyung Yon Jhi and Jurg Gerber

In order to assess the causes for youth gang membership, an analysis of data from interviews with inmates in Texas prison were conducted. The variables of individual characteristics, actual and perceptual neighborhood qualities were included as potential causes of youth gang membership in the analysis. Unemployment from individual characteristics variables and perception toward neighborhood qualities were found to have significant relationship with gang membership. The findings of this study suggest that the problem of youth gang can be addressed to some extents by providing more employment opportunities and implementing positive perceptions on neighborhood qualities as well as the efforts of improving the actual qualities of neighborhood.


Program Evaluation: Georgia’s Transitional Center Program

By Sheila Toppin

The purpose of this study is to provide a mixed mode program evaluation of Georgia’s Offender Reentry Transitional Center Program by considering programming, characteristics, and recidivism outcomes of inmates who were released in FY 2006, FY 2007, and FY 2008. The data included offenders’ last facility, race, and gender and birth year. The results showed statistical significance in inmates released from Georgia’s Transitional Center Program during the study years; however, those rates were comparable to that of inmates who started and successfully completed probation. The statistical significance between Probation and Transitional Center outcomes are related to three commonalities: the programs and facilities were community-based; prelease planning programs were afforded to all participants; and employment is required of all participants during their incarceration. The findings and recommendations from this research could be useful to the contextual knowledge of offender reentry by focusing on the effect of participation in transitional centers and other community based institutions on recidivism.


Keywords: drug trafficking, drugs, gangs, JPJ, open carry, police, Randall Shelden, Texas

Posted in Justice Policy Journal

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