Kevin Lewis

August 01, 2012

Does Tort Law Deter Individuals? A Behavioral Science Study

Jonathan Cardi, Randall Penfield & Albert Yoon
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, September 2012, Pages 567-603

For nearly four decades, economic analysis has dominated academic discussion of tort law. Courts also have paid increasing attention to the potential deterrent effects of their tort decisions. But at the center of each economic model and projection of cost and benefit lies a widely accepted but grossly undertested assumption that tort liability in fact deters tortious conduct. This article reports the results of a behavioral science study that tests this assumption as it applies to individual conduct. Surveying over 700 first-year law students, the study presented a series of vignettes, asking subjects to rate the likelihood that they would engage in a variety of potentially tortious behaviors under different legal conditions. Students were randomly assigned one of four surveys, which differed only in the legal rules applicable to the vignettes. In summary, the study found that although the threat of potential criminal sanctions had a large and statistically significant effect on subjects' stated willingness to engage in risky behavior, the threat of potential tort liability did not. These findings call into question widely accepted notions about the very foundations of tort law.


Testing for Racial Prejudice in the Parole Board Release Process: Theory and Evidence

Shamena Anwar & Hanming Fang
NBER Working Paper, July 2012

We develop a model of a Parole Board contemplating whether to grant parole release to a prisoner who has finished serving their minimum sentence. The model implies a simple outcome test for racial prejudice robust to the inframarginality problem. Our test involves running simple regressions of whether a prisoner recidivates on the exposure time to the risk of recidivism and its square, using only the sample of prisoners who are granted parole release strictly between their minimum and maximum sentences and separately by race. If the coefficient estimates on the exposure time term differ by race, then there is evidence of racial prejudice against the racial group with the smaller coefficient estimate. We implement our test for prejudice using data from Pennsylvania from January 1996 to December 31, 2001. Although we find racial differences in time served, we find no evidence for racial prejudice on the part of the Parole Board based on our outcome test.


Putting a price on prisoner release: The history of bail and a possible future of parole

Shadd Maruna, Dean Dabney & Volkan Topalli
Punishment & Society, July 2012, Pages 315-337

In this article, we argue that the history of bail foretells the future of parole. Under a plan called the Conditional Post-Conviction Release Bond Act (recently passed into law in three states), US prisoners can secure early release only after posting ‘post-conviction bail'. As with pre-trial bail, the fledgling model would require prisoners to pay a percentage of the bail amount to secure their release under the contractual responsibility of a commercial bail agency. If release conditions are breached, bounty hunters are legally empowered to seize and return the parolee to prison. Our inquiry outlines the origins of this post-conviction bond plan and the research upon which it is based. Drawing on the ‘new penology' framework, we identify several underlying factors that make for a ripe advocacy environment and set the stage for widespread state-level adoption of this plan in the near future. Post-conviction bail fits squarely within the growing policy trends toward privatization, managerialism, and actuarial justice. Most importantly, though, advocates have the benefit of precedent on their side, as most US states have long relied on a system of commercial bail bonding and private bounty hunting to manage conditional pretrial release.


Becoming a Man (BAM) - Sports Edition

University of Chicago Crime Lab, July 2012

While non-academic or "social-cognitive" skills are important predictors of student outcomes, schools (particularly secondary schools) devote little explicit attention to such skills after the first few grades - perhaps partly because of uncertainty about whether these types of skills are actually amenable to policy intervention. A randomized field experiment in the Chicago Public Schools assigned 2,740 disadvantaged males in grades 7-10 to one year of social-cognitive skill development through in-school and after-school programming, or to a control group. Participation increased schooling outcomes by 0.14 standard deviations during the program year and 0.19 standard deviations in the subsequent year, effects which may translate to a 10 to 23 percent increase in graduation rates relative to the control group once the youth are old enough to graduate. The intervention also reduced violent-crime arrests during the program year by 8.1 per 100 youth, or 44 percent. Student surveys provide suggestive evidence that social-cognitive skills mediate these impacts. Dollar-valued benefits to society range from 3 to 31 times the $1,100 per-participant program cost.


Intergenerational Educational Effects of Mass Imprisonment in America

John Hagan & Holly Foster
Sociology of Education, July 2012, Pages 259-286

In some American schools, about a fifth of the fathers have spent time in prison during their child's primary education. We examine how variation across schools in the aggregation and concentration of the mass imprisonment of fathers is associated with their own children's intergenerational educational outcomes and "spills over" into the attainments of other students. We assess the association of this interinstitutional and intergenerational "prison through school pathway" with downward and blocked educational achievement. Educational and economic resources and other predisposing variables partially explain school-linked effects of paternal imprisonment on measures of children's educational outcomes. However, we find that the net negative school-level association of paternal imprisonment with educational outcomes persists even after we introduce school- and individual-level measures of a wide range of mediating processes and extraneous control variables. We discuss paternal imprisonment as a form of "marked absence." The significance of elevated levels of paternal imprisonment in schools is perhaps most apparent in its negative association with college completion, the educational divide that now most dramatically disadvantages individuals and groups in American society.


"Ex-Imprisoned Homicide Offenders: Once Bitten, Twice Shy?" The Effect of the Length of Imprisonment on Recidivism for Homicide Offenders

Pieter Baay, Marieke Liem & Paul Nieuwbeerta
Homicide Studies, August 2012, Pages 259-279

This study aims to examine recidivism patterns and the influence of imprisonment length for all homicide offenders who have been convicted in the Netherlands between 1996 and 2004. In addition, we tested whether imprisonment effects differed between homicide offenders with different characteristics. Analyses on 621 homicide offenders indicate that longer imprisonment systematically increases recidivism frequency, not recidivism speed. We find some indications that imprisonment length increases recidivism to a greater extent for offenders with an intimate partner, with a Western ethnic background and for offenders with a relatively shorter detention history prior to the homicide.


Sex Differences in Criminal Behavior: A Genetic Analysis

Danielle Boisvert et al.
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, August 2012, Pages 293-313

Criminologists have long debated whether the risk factors for criminal behavior differ for males and females. Previous studies have predominantly focused on whether environmental risk factors for criminal behavior vary by gender, with little to no investigation of the impact of genetic sex differences. That is, whether the same genetic risk factors are relevant to offending for males and females and whether genetic risk factors have a stronger effect on criminal behavior for one gender (versus the other). Using data from the Add Health (140 MZ males, 135 MZ females, 124 DZ males, 118 DZ females, and 186 DZ opposite-sex twin pairs), the results from the qualitative and quantitative sex difference analyses revealed that the same genetic factors are influencing criminal behaviors in males and females and that the magnitude of the genetic effects on criminal behavior does not differ across the sexes. The implications of these findings are discussed from a biosocial approach to the study of criminal behavior.


Gender Disparities in Sentencing Departures: An Examination of U.S. Federal Courts

Jill Doerner
Women & Criminal Justice, Summer 2012, Pages 176-205

Using data from the United States Sentencing Commission, the present study examines the role of guideline departures in the sentencing of male and female defendants in federal courts. Findings indicate that female defendants continue to have lower odds of incarceration and to receive shorter sentence length terms, even after legal, extralegal, and contextual factors are controlled. The largest gender difference in the odds of incarceration was found for defendants who received substantial assistance departures, while male and female defendants in this same category were given the most similar sentence lengths. When departure status was examined as a dependent variable, it was found that female defendants were more likely to receive a sentencing departure. Finally, for both males and female defendants sentenced on multiple counts, those who went to trial and had prior criminal histories were less likely to receive sentencing departures. But defendants with higher guidelines sentences, those who had committed drug offenses, and those with more education were more likely to receive a sentencing departure.


The Foreclosure Crisis and Crime: Is Housing-Mortgage Stress Associated with Violent and Property Crime in U.S. Metropolitan Areas?

Roderick Jones & William Alex Pridemore
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine if the housing-mortgage stress caused by the foreclosure crisis is associated with violent and property crime in U.S. metropolitan areas.

Method: Using a sample of 142 metropolitan statistical areas and controlling for other structural factors thought to be associated with urban violence rates, we employ weighted least squares regression to estimate the association between the Housing-Mortgage Stress Index (HMSI) and six serious crimes: homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.

Results: Our results showed no evidence of an association between the HMSI and any of the crime rates.

Conclusions: Despite anecdotal evidence of and growing fear that the foreclosure crisis was accompanied by increasing crime rates in cities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, we found no evidence that metropolitan areas with higher levels of housing-mortgage stress had higher rates of violent or property crime.


A Multicity Neighborhood Analysis of Foreclosure and Crime

Eric Baumer, Kevin Wolff & Ashley Arnio
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: We examine whether there is a significant effect of foreclosure on robbery and burglary across neighborhoods, and whether this varies systematically across cities. Specifically, we consider whether several city-level attributes-overall foreclosure rates, levels of socioeconomic disadvantage and prior vacancy rates, the degree of recent new housing construction, housing affordability, and the quantity and quality of policing-moderate the relationship between neighborhood levels of foreclosure and crime.

Methods: We examine our research questions with a rich database on foreclosure, crime, and other attributes for 5,517 census tracts situated within 50 large U.S. cities. We estimate multilevel overdispersed Poisson regression to explore city-level variability in the neighborhood-level effects of foreclosure on crime.

Results: We find significant between-city variation in the estimated effects of neighborhood-level rates of foreclosure on crime. High neighborhood foreclosure rates yield elevated robbery rates primarily in cities with relatively low foreclosure rates and high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage. Foreclosure is more strongly related to burglary rates in cities with little new home construction and declining police forces.

Conclusions: The broader city-level context in which neighborhoods are located is important for shaping whether high rates of foreclosure yield elevated crime rates.


Home Foreclosures and Community Crime: Causal or Spurious Association?

David Kirk & Derek Hyra
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: Aggregate crime rates continue to decline in the United States despite the depth and breadth of the current foreclosure crisis. This trend calls into question conventional wisdom and prior research that suggest a causal, positive relationship between foreclosures and crime. The objective of this article is to consider an alternative argument, that foreclosures and crime are part-and-parcel of the same community-level dynamics, and thus are not causally related.

Methods: We use random effects models to analyze community crime and foreclosure data from Chicago between 2004 and 2009.

Results: Findings reveal that crime and foreclosures are spuriously related; controlling for confounding factors such as concentrated disadvantage and the political hierarchy of communities renders the foreclosure-crime association nonsignificant.

Conclusion: Foreclosures and crime are each explained by antecedent community characteristics. To understand why social problems are unevenly distributed across geographic space, it is necessary to investigate why power and political influence are unevenly distributed.


The Effect of Foreclosures on Crime in Indianapolis, 2003-2008

Thomas Stucky, John Ottensmann & Seth Payton
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: Until recently, few studies have examined the relationship between home foreclosures and crime. Foreclosures are one major source of neighborhood instability and can be expected to affect crime from several theoretical perspectives. Some recent research has found conflicting results on whether foreclosures cause crime.

Method: This study examines whether foreclosures are a robust predictor of crime and whether the effect of foreclosures on crime varies across neighborhood contexts. We estimate fixed-effects negative binomial models using geocoded Indianapolis foreclosure and crime data for 2003-2008 to predict crime counts in 1,000 feet × 1,000 feet square grid cells.

Result: Foreclosures exhibit consistent positive effects on indices of overall, property, and violent UCR-reported (where UCR is Uniform Crime Report) offenses in a cell and rape, aggravated assault, and burglary counts. In addition, foreclosures had greater effects on reported UCR crimes in stable neighborhoods, especially those with more owner-occupied homes.

Conclusion: Foreclosures were a robust predictor of crime in the current study.


The Impact of Foreclosures on Neighborhood Disorder Before and During the Housing Crisis: Testing the Spiral of Decay

Danielle Wallace, E.C. Hedberg & Charles Katz
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objectives: The objectives of this study were to examine whether an increasing number of foreclosures in a neighborhood subsequently increase disorder and whether the temporal relationship between foreclosures and disorder is different before and during the housing crisis.

Methods: We employ longitudinal data to examine the impact of foreclosure on crime in Glendale, Arizona, a city at the epicenter of the nation's foreclosure problem. We rely on three data sources: (1) foreclosure data, (2) Computer-Aided Dispatch/Police Records Management System data, and (3) U.S. Census and census estimate data.

Results: Our findings suggest that foreclosures do have a short-term, four-month effect on overall disorder and social disorder; however, that relationship only holds during the months preceding the housing crisis. During the housing crisis, there is no effect of foreclosures on disorder.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that instead of the long-standing negative impact that foreclosures have on disorder in communities, their negative effect is short lived and limited. Thus, foreclosures during the housing crisis do not signal disorder and decay as expected. A number of communities across the country have enacted prevention, enforcement, and reuse policies and programs aimed at foreclosure for the purpose of reducing disorder and subsequent crime; our results suggest that some of these policies and programs require substantial resources and might not have their desired impact.


Two heads are better than one? How to effectively use two interviewers to elicit cues to deception

Samantha Mann et al.
Legal and Criminological Psychology, forthcoming

Background: We examined the effect of a second interviewer's demeanour on cues to deception. We predicted that a supportive demeanour would be the most beneficial for eliciting verbal cues to deceit, as it would encourage truth tellers, but not liars, to say more. In addition, we examined the extent to which interviewees deliberately made eye contact with the interviewers. Liars take their credibility less for granted than truth tellers, and therefore have a greater drive to be convincing. Liars are thus more likely to monitor the interviewer to determine if the interviewer appears to believe them.

Method: Participants appeared before two interviewers: the first asked all the questions and the second remained silent. The second interviewer exhibited either a supportive, neutral, or a suspicious demeanour.

Results: Truth tellers provided significantly more detail than liars, but only in the supportive second interviewer condition. The effect of a second interviewer's demeanour on detail was perhaps remarkable given that the interviewees hardly looked at the second interviewer (less than 10% of the time). Liars displayed more deliberate eye contact (with the first interviewer) than truth tellers did.

Conclusions: A supportive second interviewer has a positive effect on interviewing. We discuss this finding in the wider contexts of investigative interviewing and interviewing to detect deception.


Imposing cognitive load to elicit cues to deceit: Inducing the reverse order technique naturally

Aldert Vrij, Sharon Leal, Samantha Mann & Ronald Fisher
Psychology, Crime & Law, Summer 2012, Pages 579-594

In two experiments, we tested the hypotheses that (i) the difference between lying and truth telling will be greater when respondents report their stories in reverse order than in chronological order, and (ii) instructing respondents to recall their stories in reverse order will facilitate detecting deception. In Experiment 1, 31 professionals told the truth and lied about a route they took and did this by describing the route in chronological order and reverse order. The reverse-order answers contained more prominent cues to deceit than did the chronological-order answers. In Experiment 2, 68 observers read the transcripts of the verbal statements given in Experiment 1 and made veracity judgments. Observers detected deception better when judging the routes that respondents had described in reverse order than in chronological order. We recommend the use of the reverse order technique as a tool to detect deceit.


AMBER Alerts: Are School-Type Photographs the Best Choice for Identifying Missing Children?

Vicki Silvers Gier, David Kreiner & William Jason Hudnell
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, April 2012, Pages 9-23

We investigated how well adults could recognize the faces of children when they differed in appearance from photographs shown in an alert. College students in three studies saw a mock AMBER Alert while watching a television show. The children appeared either well-groomed with positive affect (as in a school photograph) or disheveled with poor affect (as abducted children might appear). Recognition accuracy and confidence were significantly lower when the faces differed in appearance from the alert displayed during the television show. Thus, AMBER Alerts may be more effective if they are accompanied by more than one type of photograph of a missing child, particularly if a photograph is shown in which the child does not appear well-groomed and happy.


Criminal Self-Efficacy: Exploring the Correlates and Consequences of a "Successful Criminal" Identity

Timothy Brezina & Volkan Topalli
Criminal Justice and Behavior, August 2012, Pages 1042-1062

Self-efficacy refers to the belief that one can perform successfully at a given task or endeavor. Previous research indicates that self-efficacy in relation to conventional pursuits (e.g., performance in school) is associated with positive social adjustment. However, the possibility that individuals may develop self-efficacy in relation to nonconventional pursuits - including crime and delinquency - remains largely unexplored. In this study, the authors adopt a multimethod approach to explore (a) offenders' personal judgments regarding their level of effectiveness or "success" at crime, (b) the factors that contribute to high criminal self-efficacy, and (c) the impact of self-efficacy judgments on offenders' future intentions. Results of quantitative and qualitative analyses reveal that many offenders maintain a strong sense of criminal efficacy despite past arrests, convictions, and incarceration. Moreover, criminal self-efficacy tends to reduce their intentions to desist from crime. Implications for punishment, deterrence, and criminological theory are discussed.


Um ... they were wearing ...: The effect of deception on specific hand gestures

Jackie Hillman, Aldert Vrij & Samantha Mann
Legal and Criminological Psychology, September 2012, Pages 336-345

Purpose: Non-verbal communication researchers have identified specific categories of hand gestures but deception researchers typically ignore these. This experiment refined and developed some of these categories and examined whether there is a difference in the frequency of speech prompting and rhythmic pulsing gestures between liars and truth tellers.

Methods: Twenty truth tellers and 20 liars (all undergraduate students) described a person who entered a room where they were playing a game with a confederate. Truth tellers gave a truthful description of an event they had participated in. Liars had previously taken money from a wallet in the room but had not played a game with the confederate, or seen anybody enter the room, they just pretended they did during their interview.

Results: Truth tellers made more rhythmic pulsing gestures than liars indicating this type of gesture may be connected with the prosodic flow of speech. Liars made significantly more speech prompting gestures than truth tellers, supporting the notion that greater cognitive load may be experienced during deceptive accounts.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the benefit of examining subcategories of gestures when investigating deceptive behaviour.


Can a witness report hearsay evidence unintentionally? The effects of discussion on eyewitness memory

Helen Paterson, Richard Kemp & Sarah McIntyre
Psychology, Crime & Law, Summer 2012, Pages 505-527

When eyewitnesses are exposed to misinformation about an event from a co-witness, they often incorporate this misinformation in their recall of the event. The current research aimed to investigate whether this memory conformity phenomenon is due to change in the witness's memory for the event, or to social pressures to conform to the co-witness's account. Participants were shown a crime video and then asked to discuss the video in groups, with some receiving misinformation about the event from their discussion partners. After a one-week delay some participants were warned about possible misinformation before all participants provided their own account of the event. In Study 1, participants made remember/know judgments about the items recalled, and in Study 2 they indicated the source of their memories. Co-witness information was incorporated into participants' testimonies, and this effect was not reduced by warnings or source monitoring instructions, suggesting memory change may have occurred. However, there was some indication that remember/know judgments may help distinguish between ‘real' memories and co-witness information.


A longitudinal analysis of reparative probation and recidivism

John Humphrey, Gale Burford & Meredith Huey Dye
Criminal Justice Studies, Spring 2012, Pages 117-130

Longitudinal data on 9078 probationers were used to assess the impact of Vermont's reparative probation program on criminal recidivism. A quasi-experimental design was employed to compare five-year reconviction rates of 6682 standard and 2396 reparative probationers sentenced during the years 1998, 1999, and 2000. Propensity score methods were used to address selection bias and to generate two equivalent groups of probationers for comparison. Results from a Cox regression model indicated that over the five-year period following the imposition of the original probationary sentence, reparative probationers evidenced a significantly lower risk of reconviction than standard probationers. This disparity in recidivism was maintained when holding constant probationer's prior record, type of offense, age, and gender. Implications for policy are discussed.


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