Archive for the ‘National Institute of Justice’ Category

Solving Sexual Assaults: Finding Answers Through Research

July 24, 2012 Comments off

Solving Sexual Assaults: Finding Answers Through Research (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice Journal

It has been a headline-making story for the past few years: thousands of sexual assault evidence kits — untested — in police storage. In a few jurisdictions, lawmakers have responded to the outcry from victims and victim advocates by mandating that kits in all alleged sexual assaults be DNA tested.

But what do we know, empirically, about the value of DNA testing large numbers of sexual assault kits (SAKs) that have long been held in police property rooms? And what do we know, empirically, about the crime-solving utility of testing kits in all alleged sexual assaults?

One thing we know is that the probative value of forensic evidence in any crime, including sexual assault, depends largely on the circumstances of the case — pivotal in one, less important in another. If the perpetrator is a stranger to the victim, a DNA profile can be crucial in identifying the suspect and adjudicating the case. However, at least half of sexual assault victims know the perpetrator’s identity; if he admits sexual contact but claims it was consensual, DNA evidence may be of questionable value in adjudicating the case — although it could have value in uncovering serial so-called “acquaintance” rapes. And, finally, when sexual assault is perpetrated on a child, DNA evidence is vital in determining that a crime occurred.

In Search of a Job: Criminal Records as Barriers to Employment

July 7, 2012 Comments off

In Search of a Job: Criminal Records as Barriers to Employment
Source: National Institute of Justice

A new study shows that nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23.[ This record will keep many people from obtaining employment, even if they have paid their dues, are qualified for the job and are unlikely to reoffend. At the same time, it is the chance at a job that offers hope for people involved in the criminal justice system, as we know from research that stable employment is an important predictor of successful re-entry and desistance from crime.

Criminal records run the gamut — from one-time arrests where charges are dropped, to lengthy, serious and violent criminal histories. Most arrests are for relatively minor or nonviolent offenses. Among the nearly 14 million arrests recorded in 2009, only 4 percent were considered among the most serious violent crimes (which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault).

Another 10 percent of all arrests were for simple assault; these do not involve a weapon or aggravated injury but often include domestic violence and intimate partner violence. The remainder of the arrests in 2009 were for:

  • Property crimes, which accounted for 18 percent of arrests. These include burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, vandalism, stolen property, forgery and counterfeiting, fraud and embezzlement.
  • Drug offenses, which accounted for 12 percent of arrests. These include production, distribution or use of controlled substances.
  • Other offenses, which accounted for 56 percent of all arrests. These include disorderly conduct, drunkenness, prostitution, vagrancy, loitering, driving under the influence and weapons violations.

Although many of these “other” offenses are for behaviors that harm the community, they do not constitute the most serious violent offenses of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Furthermore, what is often forgotten is that many people who have been arrested — and, therefore, technically have a criminal record that shows up on a background check — were never convicted of a crime. This is true not only among those charged with minor crimes, but also for many individuals arrested for serious offenses. A snapshot of felony filings in the 75 largest counties, for example, showed that approximately one-third of felony arrests did not lead to conviction.

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook

May 24, 2012 Comments off

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook was developed for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) based on a recommendation from its Institutional Corrections Technology Working Group (TWG).The TWG, which consists of leaders from correctional agencies across the country, has recognized the growing importance of greening initiatives.

This guidebook provides correctional administrators with a brief, yet comprehensive and informative, view of sustainability-oriented green technologies. It reviews green technologies’ evolving role in correctional institutions and presents issues to consider when acquiring and implementing green technologies to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of resource use. It also addresses the opportunities and challenges involved in selecting and implementing green technologies in correctional settings.

The guidebook has seven chapters that provide information and insight into specific types of green tech- nologies.The authors selected these seven topical areas because they include most — although not all — of the green technologies in use in corrections in 2011. Subsections on future trends indicate possible additions and enhancements to the field.

Each chapter contains lists of specific technologies, including well-established and more traditional exam- ples, as well as emerging technologies that have proven effective in saving money and increasing the efficiency of resource use while protecting public safety and staff security.

A More Efficient Means to Collect & Process Reference DNA Samples

April 12, 2012 Comments off
Source:  National Institute of Justice
Federal funding made available by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) through the DNA Initiative helped states and local governments significantly increase the capacity of their DNA laboratories between 2005 and 2008 [2] . At the same time, the demand for DNA testing continues to rise, thus outweighing the capacity of some crime laboratories to process the increased number of samples being received. The demand is coming from two primary sources: (1) the increased amount of DNA evidence that is collected in criminal cases and (2) the expanded effort to collect DNA samples from convicted felons and arrested persons.
All states and the federal government have laws that require collecting DNA from convicted offenders. The federal government also requires collecting DNA from arrestees, a trend rapidly growing in many states. With nearly every state pursuing legislative expansion of their Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) databases, the need to implement the most efficient DNA testing methods possible is paramount. In addition, with the current economic situation affecting most every state, it is equally imperative to develop a cost effective means of performing DNA analysis on these samples. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) has proposed a research study that will provide a solution to both of these needs.
The objective of this research project was 1) to implement a new DNA buccal collection kit that is universal in use, provides a higher success rate on the first analysis attempt, all at a significant reduction in cost, and 2) develop a technique to process buccal swabs using the Identifiler® Direct amplification kit. This kit eliminates the need for the extraction step in the DNA analysis process, but is specifically designed for use on FTA® cards.

See also:  Tools for Improving the Quality of Aged, Degraded, Damaged, or Otherwise Compromised DNA Evidence (PDF)

Jihad, Crime, and the Internet: Content Analysis of Jihadist Forum Discussions

February 1, 2012 Comments off
Source:  National Institute of Justice
It is common knowledge that terrorists, and Jihadists in particular, make extensive use of the Internet. But the Internet also provides a window into the full range of Jihadist activities. Previous research has identified the various uses of the Internet by Jihadists; however, little research has focused on forum discussions in Jihadist web sites that are of most concern to U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The purpose of the study is twofold: to provide quantitative and qualitative assessments of the content of communications in the forums. Special attention is paid to the nexus between crime and terrorism as it unfolds in the discussions. The data comprise 2112 discussion threads downloaded over two years from over 15 different prominent Arabic language Jihadist forums and randomized for distribution to coders who are Arab and Sunni Muslims, whose native language is Arabic, and who grew up in Arab speaking countries. The results suggest that most discussions are short lived, involve a small number of participants from among the pool of registered forum members, and include few entries and pages. Participants often refer readers to approved web sites and share authentic Jihadist multimedia. References and quotes from religious sources are common. Over a third of the discussions include calls for Jihad, and 3% of the communications discuss non-terrorist illegal activities, particularly computerI and software-related offenses. Content analysis of the discussion summaries identified four groups: information dissemination, religious preaching, instruction or training, and social interactions. These groups all support three central activity pillars in the terrorist organization: ideological foundation, organizational structure, and operational means. In addition to traditional methods of waging Jihad, participation in forum discussions is itself considered a form of Jihad. Policy recommendations include making use of the fleeting nature of forum discussions to get inside the loop of Jihadist attention and interest; responding to threats by adding interference at any touchpoint along the communication process; mitigating the harm done by exposure to violent imagery, and understanding the context of the Arab, Muslim, and Jihadist milieu in which the studied social interactions take place. Recommendations for further research include examination of the content of links authenticated through the forums, an analysis of the rate of acceptance and adoption of views and behavior promoted by those in control of the forums, and a comparison of what is known about terrorists’ behavior from prosecution data to what is observed in their forums.

Electronic Monitoring Reduces Recidivism

January 12, 2012 Comments off

Electronic Monitoring Reduces Recidivism (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

A large NIJ-funded study of Florida offenders placed on electronic monitoring found that monitoring significantly reduces the likelihood of failure under community supervision. The decline in the risk of failure is about 31 percent compared with offenders placed on other forms of community supervision.

Researchers from Florida State University’s Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research compared the experiences of more than 5,000 medium- and high-risk offenders who were monitored electronically to more than 266,000 offenders not placed on monitoring over a six-year period. The researchers worked with the Florida Department of Corrections to secure approval, obtain administrative data, and gain help in contacting local probation offices for interviews. The researchers interviewed offenders, probation officers, supervisors and administrators to uncover insights into the electronic monitoring process.

Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption

September 14, 2011 Comments off

Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

This final report provides findings concerning death investigation, CED use, CED-related health effects, and medical response. The panel recommends a thorough review of the entire report and the associated research literature for medicolegal personnel and those making decisions concerning CED deployment and associated policies. The following findings are provided as those of most general interest to date.

There is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term CED exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons. Field experience with CED use indicates that shortterm exposure is safe in the vast majority of cases. The risk of death in a CED-related use­of-force incident is less than 0.25 percent, and it is reasonable to conclude that CEDs do not cause or contribute to death in the large majority of those cases.

Law enforcement need not refrain from using CEDs to place uncooperative or combative subjects in custody, provided the devices are used in accordance with accepted national guidelines and appropriate use-of-force policy. The current literature as a whole suggests that deployment of a CED has a margin of safety as great as or greater than most alternatives. Because the physiologic effects of prolonged or repeated CED exposure are not fully understood, law enforcement officers should refrain, when possible, from continuous activations of greater than 15 seconds, as few studies have reported on longer time frames. All deaths following deployment of a CED should be subject to a complete medicolegal investigation, including a complete autopsy by a forensic pathologist in conjunction with a medically objective investigation that is independent of law enforcement. The complete investigation should include the collection of information specific to CED-related deaths, such as the manner in which and the location where CED darts or prongs were applied. A recommended checklist is contained in chapter 11, “Considerations in Death Investigation,” pages 36-37 in this report.

National Institute of Justice Publishes Fingerprint Sourcebook

August 22, 2011 Comments off

National Institute of Justice Publishes Fingerprint Sourcebook
Source: National Institute of Justice

The Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) today published The Fingerprint Sourcebook, a comprehensive examination of the science behind fingerprint identification that will serve as a definitive resource for experts in the field.

Written by more than 50 law enforcement and forensic experts worldwide, The Fingerprint Sourcebook consists of 15 chapters covering: the anatomy and physiology of friction ridge skin (the uniquely ridged skin found on the palms and soles); techniques for recording exemplars from both living and deceased subjects; the FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identifications Systems (AFIS); latent print development, preservation and documentation; equipment and laboratory quality assurance; perceptual, cognitive and psychological factors in expert identifications; and legal issues.

Individual chapters of The Fingerprint Sourcebook were previously published online. This publication is the complete book and will be available in PDF form.

+ The Fingerprint Sourcebook

Strategic Cutback Management: Law Enforcement Leadership for Lean Times

August 17, 2011 Comments off

Strategic Cutback Management: Law Enforcement Leadership for Lean Times (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

The United States is experi­encing the 10th economic decline since World War II. This document presents lessons learned from past experience and suggests approaches leaders can use to address financial crises in law enforcement agencies.

Leadership is the most critical element for success. We know from the past that an organization’s leaders create a shared sense of the importance of the priorities and tasks of the group. It is this inspiration that induces work­ers to follow along in support of the group’s mission.

Additional lessons learned from the past:

  • Avoid across-the-board cuts. They cause disproportionate harm.
  • Use the crisis to improve management and improve productivity. In law enforcement, examples abound of departments faced with unfortunate crises — from consent decrees to accidental shootings — where the events provided meaningful moments of reflection, learning and process improvement. Budget crises are no different.
  • Think long term. Research has shown that organizations capable of enduring a deep fiscal crisis had developed and were able to stick to a strategic plan with a multiyear time frame.
  • Do not just cut costs, look for revenue opportunities. Research on past reces­ sions shows that increasing a tax or fee provides relief faster than cutting expendi­tures. Although police agencies do not have the power to levy taxes, they may be able to charge user fees for some services.
  • Invite innovation. During past fiscal crises, new approaches were tried that are now standard in many cities. For example, local governments have privatized certain city services and sold public facility naming rights.
  • Look outside for help. Law enforcement can look outside the department to other government agencies, or to suppliers, academics or other subject matter experts for suggestions on improving operations at reduced cost.
  • Targeted layoffs are more effective than hiring freezes.

Connecting International Organized Crime Research to Policy and Practice: The Strategic Context in the U.S. and the U.K.

August 17, 2011 Comments off

Connecting International Organized Crime Research to Policy and Practice: The Strategic Context in the U.S. and the U.K.
Source: National Institute of Justice

In November 2010, NIJ hosted a small expert working group (EWG) that explored the role academic research could play in formulating more accurate or effective threat assessments and strategies for addressing international organized crime (IOC). The meeting, held in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit of the United Kingdom, focused on three areas where the EWG felt that researchers could help to improve threat assessments and the strategic planning that follows from them. The first area focused on the role of measurement, particularly how to measure harms associated with IOC activities, and why. The second area focused on the role of history, specifically how historical analogy could improve everyone’s understanding of contemporary IOC. The final area sought to identify the drivers of IOC and thus improve forecasts of IOC’s evolution in the future.

These significant issues are important if governments are to strive to produce more accurate threat assessments that lead to strategic plans with measurable impacts on IOC. Threat assessments can provide an accurate picture of IOC only if analysts collect and analyze the data, using the measurement tools available to them and eschewing unfounded extrapolations and outright guesses. The use of anecdotal evidence and poorly grounded statistics are the easiest way for the public and other stakeholders to dismiss threat assessments and strategy documents addressing IOC. Forward-looking strategies are rooted in accurate representations of historical trends and rely on accurate measurements to set goals and interim benchmarks.

This EWG of researchers and practitioners engaged in a fruitful discussion at NIJ on these topics. Even though the focus was on how researchers could collaborate with practitioners in these three areas, their lessons are applicable to a much wider audience. In this way, the meeting continued NIJ’s focus on bringing the research and practice communities together to improve the overall response to IOC. The meeting was held under the Chatham House rule; thus, in the meeting notes that follow, none of the speakers are identified.

People with Dementia as Witnesses to Emotional Events

July 18, 2011 Comments off

People with Dementia as Witnesses to Emotional Events (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Demented elders are often the only witnesses to crimes against them, such as physical or financial elder abuse, yet they are disparaged and discounted as unreliable. Clinical experience with this population indicates that significant emotional experiences may be salient to people with dementia, and that certain behaviors and characteristics enhance their credibility as historians. For example, someone in an early stage of the disease may be able to reliably report on an event with strong emotional content. This is the first systematic research to identify people with dementia with reliable emotional memory and their characteristics.

A significant subset of older adults with dementing illnesses can reliably report emotional events in their lives. Compared to people with dementia with less reliable emotional memory, these individuals are able to report details of the event accurately and to recall the same event again after a short time delay. They are also likely to be an earlier stage of the disease, more aware of their own cognitive impairment, more likely to report negative events in their lives and to be able to recall an event without cues.

Older adults with dementia who are victims of crime should be evaluated for their ability to remember emotional events in their lives, and based on the results, allowed to provide testimony about the criminal events.

Death Investigation: A Guide for the Scene Investigator (Technical Update)

July 13, 2011 Comments off

Death Investigation: A Guide for the Scene Investigator (Technical Update)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Death investigation has evolved greatly in the years since the 1999 release of Death Investigation: A Guide for the Scene Investigator. This revised and updated edition is the result of a collaborative effort to present the most up-to-date information about the issues confronting death investigators today. The death investigator is the eyes and ears of the forensic pathologist at the scene. It is hoped that these guidelines, reflecting the best practices of the forensic community, will serve as a national standard.

The following introduction describes the original study that focused on the establishment of guidelines for conducting death investigations.

Police Discipline: A Case for Change

June 15, 2011 Comments off

Police Discipline: A Case for Change (PDF)
Source: Harvard University Kennedy School of Government/National Institute of Justice

This paper describes the challenges law enforcement agencies nationwide experience with current disciplinary procedures and offers alternate approaches that can improve internal morale and external relationships with the community. The author also highlights proactive approaches (such as education-based discipline, mediation, peer review, and early intervention) that some agencies are employing to manage and/or reform officer behavior.

Sex Trafficking in a Border Community: A Field Study of Sex Trafficking in Tijuana, Mexico

June 8, 2011 Comments off

Sex Trafficking in a Border Community: A Field Study of Sex Trafficking in Tijuana, Mexico (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Sex trafficking has caught worldwide attention in recent years, often being portrayed as modern-day slavery. The United States, along with many countries, has taken an aggressive position on pursuing sex traffickers, pimps, and sex tourists, making the nation among the most inhospitable to human trafficking and prostitution. Despite widespread attention on sex trafficking, there has been little empirical research on the nature and process of sex trafficking activities. Most existing studies have relied on so-called expert sources (i.e., advocacy groups, shelters, and law enforcement agencies). This study gathered information from the two sources closest to this illicit enterprise – (1) prostitutes; and (2) pimps (or sex trade facilitators).

Data for this study were primarily gathered in Tijuana, Mexico. It was hypothesized that human traffickers and sex industry operators might find Tijuana’s socio-political environment conducive to trafficking activities. Tijuana, the largest city on Mexico’s northern border, has long been a major tourism and weekend destination for Southern Californians. Its red light district draws a large number of visitors from both sides of the border. With more than 60 million people crossing the busiest international border annually, there is no shortage of demand for fringe services. Despite its geopolitical significance and the potential of spillover effects, to date there has been no empirical study on sex trafficking activities in Tijuana. This study is the first known empirical effort to fill this knowledge gap.

The Road Ahead: Unanalyzed Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases

June 2, 2011 Comments off

The Road Ahead: Unanalyzed Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases
Source: National Institute of Justice

The complex issue of untested evidence in sexual assault cases is explored in this special report. This report explores the ramifications – for law enforcement, crime labs, courts and victims — of the large number of unanalyzed “rape kits” that have recently been discovered in cities around the country. This looks at issues such as triaging cases for lab analysis and possible police follow-up (depending on a CODIS hit or other identification of a possible perpetrator) and how victims should be notified.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Theoretical Model Development in Elder Mistreatment

June 2, 2011 Comments off

Theoretical Model Development in Elder Mistreatment (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Elder mistreatment inquiry is a relative newcomer to the family violence arena and its empirically-based knowledge lacks a theoretical framework within which to understand its multiple manifestations. Effective intervention and prevention strategies depend upon theory-driven hypotheses testing in order to understand how risk factors at various social-ecological levels interact in the etiology of elder mistreatment. To foster theoretical model development, this article: (1) takes inventory of the empirically derived knowledge on elder mistreatment; (2) reviews the major theoretical approaches to the etiology of elder mistreatment; (3) proposes a new model of elder mistreatment of older adults with cognitive impairment. Each component of the NIJ-funded work was heavily informed by the methods and models from the adjacent areas of inquiry, child maltreatment and intimate partner violence. Information was obtained through an extensive literature review of the criminal justice, psychology, sociology, gerontology, forensics, and public health literature as well as from interviews with experts from elder mistreatment, child maltreatment, and intimate partner violence.

Police Use of Force, Tasers and Other Less-Lethal Weapons

May 27, 2011 Comments off

Police Use of Force, Tasers and Other Less-Lethal Weapons (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

This study looked at injuries that occur to law enforcement officers and citizens during use-of-force events. Most applications of force are minimal, with officers using their hands, arms or bodies to push or pull against a suspect to gain control. Officers are also trained to use various other force techniques and weapons to overcome resistance. These include less-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, batons or conducted energy devices (CEDs) such as Tasers. They can also use firearms to defend themselves or others against threats of death or serious bodily injuries.

This study found that when officers used force, injury rates to citizens ranged from 17 to 64 percent, depending on the agency, while officer injury rates ranged from 10 to 20 percent. Most injuries involve minor bruises, strains and abrasions.

The study’s most significant finding is that, while results were not uniform across all agencies, the use of pepper spray and CEDs can significantly reduce injuries to suspects and the use of CEDs can decrease injuries to officers. The researchers assert that all injuries must be taken seriously.

When police in a democracy use force and injury results, concern about police abuse arises, lawsuits often follow and the reputation of the police is threatened. Injuries also cost money in medical bills for indigent suspects, workers’ compensation claims for injured officers or damages paid out in legal settlements or judgments.

See also: Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption (PDF)

Police Science: Toward a New Paradigm

May 6, 2011 Comments off

Police Science: Toward a New Paradigm (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

We have argued in our essay for the importance of the adoption of the norms of evidence-based policy in policing and of the police taking ownership of police science. Such ownership would facilitate the implementation of evidence-based practices and policies in policing, and would change the fundamental relationship between research and practice. It would also fundamentally change the realities of police science in the universities. We believe that such a change would increase the quality and prestige of police science. It is time to redefine the relationship between policing and science. We think that bringing the universities into police centers, and having the police take ownership of police science will improve policing and ensure its survival in a competitive world of provision of public services.

Financial Abuse of Elderly People vs. Other Forms of Elder Abuse: Assessing Their Dynamics, Risk Factors, and Society’s Response

April 20, 2011 Comments off

Financial Abuse of Elderly People vs. Other Forms of Elder Abuse: Assessing Their Dynamics, Risk Factors, and Society’s Response (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Financial exploitation differed from other forms of elder maltreatment, specifically, physical abuse, neglect by other, and hybrid financial exploitation, across a number of important domains. Furthermore, financial exploitation is underreported, underinvestigated and underprosecuted. However, important differences existed among all four forms of elder abuse. An exploration of the dynamics of elder abuse facilitated a greater understanding of the different forms of elder abuse under investigation. Results further revealed discrepancies between APS caseworkers’ and elderly persons’ perceptions of the causes of the elder’s abuse. Furthermore, when differences did persist to the close of the case, the abuse was significantly less likely to cease.

Less-Lethal Operational Scenarios for Law Enforcement

April 18, 2011 Comments off

Less-Lethal Operational Scenarios for Law Enforcement (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Notwithstanding the diverse experiences of the panelists and some debate, the focused efforts of this select group of law enforcement practitioners resulted in a concise product. The seven scenario worksheets capture useful operational input in a form consistent with the accepted NATO framework, but with a focus on US law enforcement operational needs.

The scenarios not only contribute to moving this framework forward, but may also be useful as a tool for law enforcement at the national, state/ provincial, or local level in conducting “what if” drills to identify potential gaps between existing tactical protocols, established policies and procedures, current individual techniques, or available technologies and those required/desired to address specific operational needs.


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