Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Application of Dispersion Staining and Infrared Microspectroscopy to Analyze Physical Evidence in Developing Countries

    Author:
    Thiti Mahacharoen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    John Reffner
    Abstract:

    In developing countries like Thailand and in remote forensic laboratories around the world, scientific investigations of crimes are limited by the shortage of trained personnel and financial resources. The premise of this research is that polarized light microscope and dispersion staining methods will be developed which allow investigators with limited training to analyze physical evidence at a minimal cost. This research identifies specific liquids for the analysis of trace evidence using the dispersion staining technique. The development of dispersion staining technique and identification of specific liquid will extend the application of forensic science to remote laboratories and in the field to improve criminal investigations and justice. The methods developed in this research are fast, inexpensive and require minimum training; meeting the needs of developing countries and laboratories in the remote area. Dispersion staining is a non-destructive microscopical method that creates a uniquely colored image of a transparent sample when it is mounted in a specific liquid. This color is produced by differences between the refraction of light by the sample and surrounding liquid. The scientific principles of these techniques are well-established, but when applied to forensic science, they advance the capacity of developing countries to achieve high standards of evidentiary proof at lower cost. The collection of evidence, documentation of a crime scene and scientific examination of physical evidence are foundations of criminal investigation which both strengthen the prosecution and prevent wrongful convictions. This technique can be used to detect, compare and identify very small particles. In this study, three classes of trace evidence were selected to demonstrate the practicality and advantages of this technique. The three classes are fibers, controlled drugs and soil minerals. Samples of each evidence class were analyzed in two steps: first, the Becke line method was used to observe and record the relative refractive index between a sample and mounting liquid, the second step was to put each sample in a specific refractive index liquid to generate distinct colors of the sample. The dispersion staining technique can differentiate and identify an unknown sample by the color produced in a liquid of a specific refractive index value. To validate the composition of exemplar evidence material, FTIR microprobe analysis was used. The rapid and reliable results of this method will aid criminal investigation in a remote area, improve law enforcement and reduce demands on central laboratory facilities.

  • The Impact of Police Misconduct in Kings County on New York City's Civil Liability 2006-2010

    Author:
    Brian Maule
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Maria "Maki" Haberfeld
    Abstract:

    The confluence of police misconduct and civil liability is an issue of growing concern for many communities throughout the U.S. today. The gravamen of the issue is evident in increases in the number of lawsuits alleging police misconduct and the civil liability that results from these lawsuits. In New York City during the period 1997-2005 the cost for police misconduct went from $27.9 million in 1997 to $40.4 million in 2005 (Thompson, 2007). Concerns over these increases have resulted in efforts to curb both the number of lawsuits brought against the New York Police Department and the civil liability to the City that results from these lawsuits. The study examines and describes the impact of allegations of police misconduct in Kings County during the years 2006-2010 on New York City's civil liability. Using allegations of police misconduct in lawsuits that resulted in a settlement or jury award as a measure of police misconduct, the study provides evidence of the increasing costs of police misconduct in Kings County, New York. The study found that the increasing financial impact that police misconduct had on the City during the years studied was not the result of the increasing costs of settlements and jury awards per se but rather the increase in the number of lawsuits vis-à-vis the increase in the incidence of police misconduct.

  • The Relationship Between Possessing Child Pornography And Child Molestation

    Author:
    Jennifer McCarthy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Karen Terry
    Abstract:

    Based on integrated theories of sex offending, non-contact (n=176) and contact (n=71) adult male child pornography offenders were compared on dispositional and transitory dispositional variables. Contact child pornography offenders were successfully discriminated from their non-contact counterparts based on their deviant sexual interests, criminal history, inability to self-regulate sexually, substance abuse history, online seduction of minors and networking with others who had similar deviant sexual interests. For contact child pornography offenders, four factors were found to be predictive of child sex abuse - criminal history, marital status, involvement in indiscriminate sexual behavior, and the online seduction of minors. Additionally, from a situational perspective, the offense process of contact child pornography offenders was found to be similar to that of child molesters.

  • The Chemical Analysis of Modern Tattoo Inks

    Author:
    Michelle Miranda
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Thomas Kubic
    Abstract:

    The application of vibrational spectroscopic methods to the analysis of modern organic pigments found in tattoo inks is explored in this project. In the field of forensic science, the recognition and identification of both inorganic and organic pigments in human tissue can aid in the identification of charred, decomposed, mummified or otherwise unidentifiable remains in criminal investigations and mass disasters (natural, accidental and as a result of terrorism). In the field of art conservation and cultural heritage, the characterization and archiving of organic pigments in traditional tattoo inks can aid in future anthropological and archaeological studies of human culture and history. The criminal justice field has long studied the culture and impact of tattooing, especially in criminal behavior and incarcerated individuals. A more detailed knowledge of the composition of tattoo inks can assist in understanding criminal behavior and cultural practices of individuals in prison settings and among social groups. Furthermore, by detailing the visual, microscopic and spectroscopic analysis of tattoo inks along with describing the theories of vibrational spectroscopy and color chemistry, a thorough analytical method can be developed and validated to conform to current forensic laboratory accreditation standards and the satisfaction of legal standards such as Frye, Daubert and the Federal Rules of Evidence. The aim of this research is to scientifically evaluate tattoo inks by documenting the physical properties of the inks both macroscopically and microscopically and by identifying the optical and chemical properties of the pigments spectroscopically. This is done in an effort to qualitatively identify tattoo inks resulting in the ability to discriminate between different colors, within similar colors and between different brands of tattoo inks. The lack of an established method of analysis of tattoo inks for identification and comparison is an additional catalyst for this research. The primary means of characterization is based upon molecular structural determination using normal micro-Raman spectroscopy. This method will be supplemented by several other methods commonly employed in forensic science and art conservation laboratories, such as Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS), Fourier-transform Raman spectroscopy (FT-Raman), Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy (UV/Vis).

  • Dual Arrest in Intimate Partner Violence Incidents: The Influence of Police Officer, Incident, and Organizational Characteristics

    Author:
    Patrick Morris
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Justin Ready
    Abstract:

    An unintended consequence of mandatory and preferred arrest laws has been dual arrest, the arrest of both parties in an incident involving intimate partner violence. Concern has been raised that its continued use may have an undesirable impact on the victims of this crime, particularly as it relates to revictimization by the criminal justice system. Using family violence arrest data from 21 municipalities in southwestern Connecticut for calendar year 2005, this research tests the influence of officer, incident and organizational variables on the decision to arrest both parties in an incident involving intimate partner violence. The sampling frame for the research is all family violence incidents that occurred from January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2005 in the 21 municipalities identified above, that resulted in arrest. In order for the incident to be included in the sampling frame, it had to involve a couple in an intimate relationship. The data analysis was conducted in a three-step process. Univariate analyses consist of means, frequency and percentage distributions, and tabular displays of the relative distribution of scores on each variable. Bivariate analyses consist of chi square tests of statistical independence. Finally, binary logistic regression was employed to test each of the independent variables and examine their contribution to the prediction of dual arrest. Significant predictors were identified as departmental policy with self-defense language, offense seriousness, officer seniority, and spousal relationship. The methodology also included a qualitative component in the form of focus groups. Four focus groups of 4-6 officers each were conducted in an effort to further explain quantitative results and attempt to probe the minds of the police officers making these arrest decisions. Additional issues raised by police officers during the focus groups were the influence of liability, field training officers, and first line supervisors. The implications of the research include an increased understanding of dual arrest, the need for better data collection, illumination of the benefits of self-defense language in departmental policies, the need for enhanced police officer training, and demonstration of the need for primary aggressor language in statutory law.

  • Exploring change in local criminal justice systems: An examination of the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment at the Local Level model in three U.S. counties

    Author:
    Suzanne Neusteter
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Jeff Mellow
    Abstract:

    Tough on crime policies in the U.S. began to emerge in the 1970s and steeply escalated through the 1980s and 1990s, prompting massive growth of correctional populations and criminal justice costs. Although many of these policy and legislative reforms were enacted at the federal and state levels, they have trickled down and greatly affected localities across the country. The recent economic downturn has exerted additional pressures on local governments. These factors have prompted the development of a number of planned change strategies designed to curb the escalating growth and related costs in criminal justice systems. One such approach, Justice Reinvestment at the Local Level (JRLL), targets the implementation of a planned change model within local criminal justice systems. This dissertation employs qualitative and quantitative data from three case studies to test if the JRLL planned change strategy supports the Lewin-White planned change schema. Lewin's model involves three phases: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. White advances this three-step process, arguing that for the purposes of full system change the final phase of Lewin's model requires a commitment to an iterative and experimental process. This study analyzed data from two waves of stakeholder interviews and surveys to assess if change was evident in areas pertaining to the Lewin-White model. Mixed results from the three JRLL case studies are somewhat consistent with this schema, and serve as an intermediate benchmark for success, indicating that the JRLL model has promise to affect full system change in the three study sites and potentially elsewhere as well.

  • The Power of Place: A Comparative Analysis of Prison and Street Gangs

    Author:
    Jennifer Ortiz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    David Brotherton
    Abstract:

    One misconception in gang research is the assumption that the terms prison gang and street gang are organizationally and ideologically synonymous. Although in the minority, some researchers suggest that prison gangs are qualitatively and quantitatively different from other gangs (Fleisher & Decker, 2001). Utilizing 30 in-depth semi-structured interviews, this study assesses the effect of environment on the emergence, organization, and ideologies of prison and street gangs. The findings identify key differences between the ‘free’ society where gangs emerge and the captive societies where prison gangs emerge. The primary difference was the level of formal and informal control exerted over individuals within each environment. This analysis presents a comparative model of prison and street gangs. The model illustrates similarities and differences across major aspects of each type of organization, including membership, leadership, ideology, conflict management, and relationships with authority figures. Gang membership and leadership structures in prison are rigid and not susceptible to the changes common amongst street gangs. Both prison and street gangs can be explained using a critical subcultural theory that focuses on their need for survival, a key component of their ideologies. However, the emergence of prison gangs is greatly affected by the need for extralegal governance that arose from the weakening of formal governance structures. Environments also affect how gangs manage conflict. Violence and crime in the street gang is chaotic while prison gang violence and crime is controlled by gang leaders due to a mutual need for violence reduction within correctional facilities. Lastly, while street gangs experience an antagonistic relationship with law enforcement as a result of formal policies such as stop and frisk and informal policies such as harassment of identified gang members, prison gangs have a complicated relationship with correctional staff that is determined by the type of correctional officer present in a facility. Respondents identified a typology of correctional officers that illustrates this complicated relationship. The findings from this study are used to develop a new definition of the term “gang” derived from the gang member narratives. Policy suggestions and directions for future research are discussed.

  • Developing Theoretical Propositions of Far-Right Ideological Victimization

    Author:
    William Parkin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Joshua Freilich
    Abstract:

    This study develops theoretical propositions of far-right ideological victimization using empirical data from the Extremist Crime Database, a unique, relational database that collects information on criminal activities, both ideological and routine, committed by domestic extremists in the United States. Data related to far-right ideological homicide events was collected, cleaned, and analyzed on the individual, situational, and macro-levels of analysis. Ideological victims were compared to other types of homicide victims, such as far-right non-ideological victims and "routine" homicide victims. Univariate, bivariate, and multivariate statistical analyses were conducted to determine whether far-right ideological victims were similar or different to any of the comparison groups. After presenting the empirical results, theoretical propositions of far- right ideological victimization were formally stated, focusing on the concept of differential identity. It is argued that the presence and magnitude of differential identity on multiple levels of analysis can help to explain and predict ideological victimization risk. The study ends with a discussion of its contributions, limitations, and policy implications.

  • American Sports Fans: What Makes Them Tick, and Sometimes Explode, and What Attributes of the Arena Contribute to Fan Incidents

    Author:
    Meredith Patten
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Joshua Freilich
    Abstract:

    This study of fan behavior at professional sporting events in select United States (U.S.) cities addresses three points: theoretical explanations of fan violence (from Europe and the U.S.); amount and type of fan violence/aggressive behavior occurring at professional sporting events and what characteristics of the arena contribute to incidents (examined across sport and city); and suggested measures for individual organizations and cities to combat the problem. In the U.S., fan violence is typified by a November 2004 incident during a National Basketball League game at the Auburn Hills Arena in Michigan that involved fans and players and led to multiple arrests and the suspension of some National Basketball Association players. This event is now commonly referred to as the "Basketbrawl." Yet, despite increased attention paid to fan behavior in the U.S., little research has been conducted on the behavior of spectators at professional sporting events. This study begins to fill this gap by examining the seriousness (assault versus non-assault) of arrests at sporting events in the U.S. Using a binary logistical regression model; the research shows that offender demographics are predictors of crime seriousness. However, the characteristics of the stadium, such as parking structure and whether the stadium was indoor or outdoor, were not. The research serves as a starting point to examine other attributes of the stadium and implement policies to keep incident numbers down and less serious.

  • INMATE-, INCIDENT-, AND FACILITY-LEVEL FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH ESCAPES FROM CUSTODY AND VIOLENT OUTCOMES

    Author:
    Bryce Peterson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Jeffery Mellow
    Abstract:

    Introduction: Preventing escapes from custody is a critical function of prisons, jails, and the individuals who run these correctional facilities. Escapes are a popular topic in the news, among lawmakers, and in public discourse. Much of this interest stems from the widespread notion that escapees pose a serious threat to public safety, as well to the safety of correctional staff and law enforcement officers tasked with preventing and apprehending them. However, despite the importance of preventing escapes and minimizing violence, there has been very little empirical research on these issues in the past several decades. Extant research has also been limited in terms of its depth, breadth, and methodological rigor. Thus, the current dissertation seeks to address the following research questions: 1. What jail-level factors are related to escape-proneness? 2. What prison-level factors are related to escape-proneness? 3. What inmate-level characteristics are associated with escape behavior? 4. How often and at what point does violence occur during escapes? 5. What facility-level factors influence the likelihood of an escape being violent? 6. What incident-level variables influence the likelihood of an escape being violent? 7. What characteristics of the escapee influence the likelihood of an escape being violent? Methods: To address these research questions, this study explores the degree to which facility-, incident-, and inmate-level factors are associated with two overall outcomes: 1) escapes from custody and 2) violent escape outcomes. To accomplish this, a series of analyses were conducted using several different sources of data. Specifically, the first two analyses used data from the 2011 Annual Survey of Jails (n=366) to examine how jail-level variables impact the number of escapes and attempted escapes from jails, and from the 2005 Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities (n=1821) to examine how prison-level variables impact the number of escapes and the number of walkaways from prisons. The third analysis used the 2008 and 2009 iterations of the National Corrections Reporting Program (n=7,300) to test whether relevant inmate-level characteristics were associated with the likelihood of an individual being an escapee. The final set of analyses examined the degree to which facility-, inmate-, and inmate-level factors were able to predict four violent escape outcomes: violence at the breakout, in the community, during recapture, and overall. These analyses used data from the Correctional Incident Database, 2009 (n=610). Findings: Several jail-level variables--including rated capacity, ethnic heterogeneity, percent noncitizens, and privately operated--were significantly associated with the number of escapes and escape attempts from jails. There were also many prison-level variables associated with the number of escapes and the number of walkaways from a facility, including measures related to the facilities' administration and management (e.g., rated capacity, percent capacity, inmate-staff ratio, inmates from other authorities, court order, secure perimeter, security level, region), inmate populations (e.g., percent male, percent noncitizens), and treatment and programming options (e.g., percent on work assignment, percent on work release, alcohol or drug treatment, inmates permitted to leave). At the individual-level, information about inmates' demographics (e.g., age, sex, race), criminal histories (e.g., prior time in prison and jail, prior escape), and current sentence (offense type and counts, sentence length, percent of sentence served) were associated with individual escape behavior. Finally, findings indicate that violence is, overall, a relatively rare outcome in escape incidents, though when it does occur it is precipitated by certain situational factors. Incident-level factors were the best indicators of violence, including whether the escape occurred in secure custody, the location of the incident, and the start time of the escape. The classification of the facilities was also associated with violence (i.e., escapees from higher security prisons and jails were more likely to use violence than escapees from minimum security facilities). Inmate-level factors were the least important for understanding when an escape would result in a violent outcome, though some of the findings indicate that young, male escapees, who were in custody for a violent offense and had a history of escaping, were more likely to use violence during their escapes than other escapees. Discussion and Implications: These findings demonstrated that opportunity- and place-based theories of criminal behavior, such as the situational crime prevention and routine activities frameworks, are most useful for understanding when escapes are likely to occur and when they are likely to result in violence. For example, higher security prison facilities had fewer escapes than lower security prisons, but prisons that permitted inmates to leave the facility (e.g., to study, participate in a rehabilitative program, or work) had a greater number of walkaways. At the individual level, inmates who were on community release were much more likely to have been escapees than those who were not on community release. Finally, inmates who escaped during transport were more likely to use violence than those who escaped under other circumstances. Based on these findings, this dissertation provided several recommendations for policy and practice. For example, it was recommended that correctional administrators adopt strategies for preventing escapes that are rooted in the situational crime prevention framework. These might include modifying the environment and enhancing certain types of security features, but could also include providing counseling to inmates, allowing more home visits and furloughs, offering more programming in the prison, and protecting inmates when their safety is threatened. It was also recommended that administrators identify and implement best practices for situations in which violence is most likely to occur, such as during inmate transport. Finally, given that most escapes are nonviolent and relatively minor incidents, it was recommended that administrators consider expanding their practice of punishing escapees internally rather than charging them with a new crime that could potentially add years to their sentence. Conclusion: Though there are several substantive and methodological limitations to the current dissertation, this research contributes to the literature by: analyzing the impact of a range of facility-, incident-, and inmate-level factors on escapes from custody and violence; examining a broader range of escapes from across the country; using more recent data and more rigorous analyses; clarifying some of the contradicting and confusing findings from previous studies; and providing a thorough analysis of the amount, scope, and predictors of violence escape outcomes.