Law of the street

Kevin Lewis

January 14, 2013

How Much Difference Does the Lawyer Make? The Effect of Defense Counsel on Murder Case Outcomes

James Anderson & Paul Heaton
Yale Law Journal, October 2012, Pages 154-217

One in five indigent murder defendants in Philadelphia is randomly assigned representation by public defenders while the remainder receive court-appointed private attorneys. We exploit this random assignment to measure how defense counsel affect murder case outcomes. Compared to appointed counsel, public defenders in Philadelphia reduce their clients' murder conviction rate by 19% and lower the probability that their clients receive a life sentence by 62%. Public defenders reduce overall expected time served in prison by 24%. We find no difference in the overall number of charges of which defendants are found guilty. When we apply methods used in past studies of the effect of counsel that did not use random assignment, we obtain far more modest estimated impacts, which suggests defendant sorting is an important confounder affecting past research. To understand possible explanations for the disparity in outcomes, we interviewed judges, public defenders, and attorneys who took appointments. Interviewees identified a variety of institutional factors in Philadelphia that decreased the likelihood that appointed counsel would prepare cases as well as the public defenders. The vast difference in outcomes for defendants assigned different counsel types raises important questions about the adequacy and fairness of the criminal justice system.


Efficacy of Frequent Monitoring With Swift, Certain, and Modest Sanctions for Violations: Insights From South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Project

Beau Kilmer et al.
American Journal of Public Health, January 2013, Pages e37-e43

Objectives: We examined the public health impact of South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Project, an innovative program requiring individuals arrested for or convicted of alcohol-involved offenses to submit to breathalyzer tests twice per day or wear a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet. Those testing positive are subject to swift, certain, and modest sanctions.

Methods: We conducted differences-in-differences analyses comparing changes in arrests for driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI), arrests for domestic violence, and traffic crashes in counties to the program with counties without the program.

Results: Between 2005 and 2010, more than 17 000 residents of South Dakota - including more than 10% of men aged 18 to 40 years in some counties - had participated in the 24/7 program. At the county level, we documented a 12% reduction in repeat DUI arrests (P = .023) and a 9% reduction in domestic violence arrests (P = .035) following adoption of the program. Evidence for traffic crashes was mixed.

Conclusions: In community supervision settings, frequent alcohol testing with swift, certain, and modest sanctions for violations can reduce problem drinking and improve public health outcomes.


A time-series analysis of the effectiveness of sex offender notification laws in the USA

Kimberly Maurelli & George Ronan
Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, forthcoming

Archival crime data of forcible rapes for all 50 states of the United States dating from 1960 to 2008 were analyzed using an interrupted time-series design. For each state, rates of forcible rape prior to the passage of sex offender legislation were compared to rates of forcible rape after the passage of sex offender registration and notification laws. The results were mixed, with 17 states demonstrating a significant drop in rates of forcible rape following implementation of sex offender notification laws, and 32 states demonstrating no discernable change. Potential explanations for the obtained results were explored including the effect of differences in notification practices, registration practices, and the availability of sex offender treatment. Implications for future research are discussed.


The Dangerous Drug Offender in Federal Court: Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culpability

Cassia Spohn & Lisa Sample
Crime & Delinquency, February 2013, Pages 3-31

This study examines the complex relationships among stereotypes about crime, the offender's race/ethnicity, and sentencing decisions. Using data on White, Black, and Hispanic male drug offenders sentenced in three U.S. district courts and a definition of the dangerous drug offender appropriate to the federal sentence system, the authors explore the degree to which stereotypes about dangerous drug offenders influence sentence length. The results reveal that fitting the stereotype of a dangerous federal drug offender (i.e., a male drug trafficker with a prior trafficking conviction who used a weapon to commit the current offense) affected the length of the prison sentence for Black offenders but not for White or Hispanic offenders. Further analysis revealed that this effect was confined to Black offenders convicted of drug offenses involving crack cocaine. The results provide further evidence that the focal concerns guiding judicial decision making may vary depending on the offender's race or ethnicity.


Unpolicing the Urban Poor: Consequences of Third-Party Policing for Inner-City Women

Matthew Desmond & Nicol Valdez
American Sociological Review, forthcoming

Recent decades have witnessed a double movement within the field of crime control characterized by the prison boom and intensive policing, on the one hand, and widespread implementation of new approaches that assign policing responsibilities to non-police actors, on the other. The latter development has been accomplished by expansion of third-party policing policies; nuisance property ordinances, which sanction landlords for their tenants' behavior, are among the most popular. This study, an analysis of every nuisance citation distributed in Milwaukee over a two-year period, is among the first to evaluate empirically the impact of coercive third-party policing on the urban poor. Properties in black neighborhoods disproportionately received citations, and those located in more integrated black neighborhoods had the highest likelihood of being deemed nuisances. Nearly a third of all citations were generated by domestic violence; most property owners abated this "nuisance" by evicting battered women. Landlords also took steps to discourage tenants from calling 911; overrepresented among callers, women were disproportionately affected by these measures. By looking beyond traditional policing, this study reveals previously unforeseen consequences of new crime control strategies for women from inner-city neighborhoods.


Community organization moderates the effect of alcohol outlet density on violence

William Alex Pridemore & Tony Grubesic
British Journal of Sociology, December 2012, Pages 680-703

There is growing evidence from multiple disciplines that alcohol outlet density is associated with community levels of assault. Based on the theoretical and empirical literatures on social organization and crime, we tested the hypothesis that the association between alcohol outlet density and neighbourhood violence rates is moderated by social organization. Using geocoded police data on assaults, geocoded data on the location of alcohol outlets, and controlling for several structural factors thought to be associated with violence rates, we tested this hypothesis employing negative binomial regression with our sample of 298 block groups in Cincinnati. Our results revealed direct effects of alcohol outlet density and social organization on assault density, and these effects held for different outlet types (i.e., off-premise, bars, restaurants) and levels of harm (i.e., simple and aggravated assaults). More importantly, we found that the strength of the outlet-assault association was significantly weaker in more socially organized communities. Subsequent analyses by level of organization revealed no effects of alcohol outlet density on aggravated assaults in organized block groups, but significant effects in disorganized block groups. We found no association between social (dis)organization and outlet density. These results clarify the community-level relationship between alcohol outlets and violence and have important implications for municipal-level alcohol policies.


The effect of poverty and social protection on national homicide rates: Direct and moderating effects

Meghan Rogers & William Alex Pridemore
Social Science Research, forthcoming

Social protection is the ability of a government to insulate its citizens from the problems associated with poverty and market forces that negatively affect their quality of life. Prior research shows that government policies that provide social protection moderate the influence of inequality on national homicide rates. Recent research, however, reveals a strong association between poverty and national homicide rates. Further, theory and evidence suggest that social protection policies are meant to aid in providing a subsistence level of living, and thus to alleviate the vagaries of poverty not inequality. To this point, however, no studies have examined the potentially moderating effect of social protection on the strength of the association between poverty and homicide rates cross-nationally. We do so in the present study. Employing data for the year 2004 from a sample of 30 nations, we estimate a series of weighted least squares regression models to test three hypotheses: the association between poverty and homicide will remain significant and positive when controlling for social protection, social protection will have a significant negative direct effect on national homicide rates, and social protection will diminish the strength of the poverty-homicide association. The results provided evidence supporting all three hypotheses. We situate our findings in the cross-national empirical literature on social structure and homicide and discuss our results in the theoretical context of social protection.


Herding and Homicide Across Nations

Irshad Altheimer
Homicide Studies, February 2013, Pages 27-58

This article examined the extent that Nisbett and Cohen's herding hypothesis can account for cross-national variation in homicide. Three research questions were addressed. First, to what extent does herding influence homicide cross-nationally? Second, do different types of herding influence homicide differently? Third, are the effects of herding on homicide more pronounced in weak nation states? Little support was found for the proposition that herding influences homicide. Additionally, no consistent support was provided for the notion that the effects of herding on homicide are more pronounced in weak states. These results lend no support to Nisbett and Cohen's proposition that there is a worldwide link between herding and violence.


An Examination of the Interactions of Race and Gender on Sentencing Decisions Using a Trichotomous Dependent Variable

Tina Freiburger & Carly Hilinski
Crime & Delinquency, February 2013, Pages 59-86

This study examined how race, gender, and age interact to affect defendants' sentences using a trichotomized dependent variable. The findings indicate that the racial and gender disparity found in sentencing decisions was largely due to Black men's increased likelihood of receiving jail as opposed to probation. The results also show that being young resulted in increased odds of receiving probation over jail for White men and for women but resulted in decreased odds for Black men. Separate analysis of incarceration terms to jail and prison further reveal that legal factors had a greater impact on prison than on jail sentence length. Overall, the results strongly support the argument that sentencing research needs to consider sentences to jail and prison separately.


Revisiting the Guilty Mind: The Neutralization of White-Collar Crime

William Stadler & Michael Benson
Criminal Justice Review, December 2012, Pages 494-511

Since Sutherland first addressed the topic, it has been well known that white-collar offenders do not regard themselves or their actions as criminal. Almost without exception white-collar offenders deny that they had a guilty mind when committing their offenses. Indeed, a distinguishing feature of the psychological makeup of white-collar offenders is thought to be their ability to neutralize the moral bind of the law and rationalize their criminal behavior. Although white-collar offenders are assumed to be different than other types of offenders in how they think about their crimes, no research has compared white-collar to other offenders on this matter. The current study fills this gap in the literature by comparing a sample of federal prison inmates convicted of white-collar offenses with a sample convicted of other types of offenses. Findings indicate that white-collar offenders may not have different thinking patterns as previously thought.


The Curious Case of George: A Case Study of a Career Criminal

Paul Cromwell & Michael Birzer
Criminal Justice Review, December 2012, Pages 512-526

This research is a case study of a "semiretired" career criminal. The subject, George, an 82-year-old career offender admits to over 200 arrests and numerous convictions between age 16 and the present. He has served over 20 years in state and federal prisons for racketeering, arson, burglary, and other serious offenses. The authors conducted in-depth interviews with George regularly over a 6-month period. Despite his openness regarding his criminal career and attachment to the criminal subculture in which he flourished, he readily made use of techniques of neutralization and despite his reputation as a local criminal godfather, considers himself a good person. George was unusual in that he was proud of his criminal reputation but also thought of himself and wished to be perceived by others as a good person. The use of neutralizations allowed him to maintain these two diametrically opposed perceptions of self. The authors conclude that due to over 60 years of cognitive distortions through the use of techniques of neutralizations, the subject has compartmentalized his diametrically opposed perceptions of self to the point where he believes them both. The authors borrow the term doublethink from George Orwell's book, 1984, to describe this phenomenon.


Racial Variation in the Effect of Incarceration on Neighborhood Attainment

Michael Massoglia, Glenn Firebaugh & Cody Warner
American Sociological Review, forthcoming

Each year, more than 700,000 convicted offenders are released from prison and reenter neighborhoods across the country. Prior studies have found that minority ex-inmates tend to reside in more disadvantaged neighborhoods than do white ex-inmates. However, because these studies do not control for pre-prison neighborhood conditions, we do not know how much (if any) of this racial variation is due to arrest and incarceration, or if these observed findings simply reflect existing racial residential inequality. Using a nationally representative dataset that tracks individuals over time, we find that only whites live in significantly more disadvantaged neighborhoods after prison than prior to prison. Blacks and Hispanics do not, nor do all groups (whites, blacks, and Hispanics) as a whole live in worse neighborhoods after prison. We attribute this racial variation in the effect of incarceration to the high degree of racial neighborhood inequality in the United States: because white offenders generally come from much better neighborhoods, they have much more to lose from a prison spell. In addition to advancing our understanding of the social consequences of the expansion of the prison population, these findings demonstrate the importance of controlling for pre-prison characteristics when investigating the effects of incarceration on residential outcomes.


Social capital and crime: A cross-national multilevel study

Sunghoon Roh & Ju-Lak Lee
International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, forthcoming

Numerous studies have repeatedly supported the negative influence of social capital upon crime rates. Although the relationship between social capital and crime is theoretically persuasive and empirically robust, only a handful of studies have looked into its cross-national variation. Furthermore, no research in social capital has yet applied a multilevel approach to take into account both macro- and micro-level determinants of crime. In an attempt to fill in this research gap, we conducted multilevel analyses of country-level and individual-level factors of criminal victimization. Following the lead of previous studies, it was hypothesized that social capital - estimated as generalized trust, social norms, and civic engagement - reduces criminal victimization, net of individual-level determinants, and other well-established country-level factors. The results revealed that while a higher level of social capital was found to reduce the likelihood of robbery victimization, no significant impact was observed on burglary victimization. With regard to the three dimensions of social capital, generalized trust and social norms exerted significant effects on robbery victimization in the expected direction.


‘Cycle Thieves, We Are Watching You': Impact of a Simple Signage Intervention against Bicycle Theft

Daniel Nettle, Kenneth Nott & Melissa Bateson
PLoS ONE, December 2012

Background: Bicycle theft is a serious problem in many countries, and there is a lack of evidence concerning effective prevention strategies. Displaying images of ‘watching eyes' has been shown to make people behave in more socially desirable ways in a number of settings, but it is not yet clear if this effect can be exploited for purposes of crime prevention. We report the results of a simple intervention on a university campus where signs featuring watching eyes and a related verbal message were displayed above bicycle racks.

Methodology and Principal Findings: We installed durable signs at three locations which had experienced high levels of bicycle theft, and used the rest of the university campus as a control location. Reported thefts were monitored for 12 months before and after the intervention. Bicycle thefts decreased by 62% at the experimental locations, but increased by 65% in the control locations, suggesting that the signs were effective, but displaced offending to locations with no signs. The Odds Ratio for the effect of the intervention was 4.28 (95% confidence interval 2.04-8.98), a large effect compared to other place-based crime prevention interventions.

Conclusions and Significance: The effectiveness of this extremely cheap and simple intervention suggests that there can be considerable crime-reduction benefits to engaging the psychology of surveillance, even in the absence of surveillance itself. Simple interventions for high-crime locations based on this principle should be considered as an adjunct to other measures, although a possible negative consequence is displacement of offending.


Disproportionate Minority Confinement of Juveniles: A National Examination of Black-White Disparity in Placements, 1997-2006

Jaya Davis & Jon Sorensen
Crime & Delinquency, February 2013, Pages 115-139

Beginning in fiscal year 1994, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention included, as a requirement for a state to receive Federal Formula Grants, the determination of whether disproportionate minority confinement existed in its juvenile justice system, the identification of its causes, and the development and implementation of corrective strategies. The current study examined the extent to which U.S. juvenile justice systems have been successful in reducing disproportionate minority confinement - specifically, disproportionate African American incarceration - since the implementation of the office's initiative. The findings suggest that, on average, there has been a reduction of nearly one fifth in the disproportionate Black:White ratio of juvenile placements, controlling for the groups' rate of arrests during the past decade.


The Unintended Consequences of Penal Reform: A Case Study of Penal Transportation in Eighteenth-Century London

Ashley Rubin
Law & Society Review, December 2012, Pages 815-851

What were the consequences of penal transportation to the New World for eighteenth-century British criminal justice? Transportation has been described by scholars as either a replacement of the death penalty responsible for its decline, or a penal innovation responsible for punishing a multitude of people more severely than they would have been punished before. Using data from the Old Bailey Sessions Papers and the Parliamentary Papers, this study examines sentencing and execution trends in eighteenth-century London. It takes advantage of the natural experiment provided by the passage of the 1718 Transportation Act that made transportation available as a penal sentence, thus enabling one to assess the "effect" of transportation on penal trends. This study finds that the primary consequence of the adoption of transportation was to make the criminal justice net more dense by subjecting people to a more intense punishment. While it was also associated with a small decline in capital sentences for some types of offenders, the adoption of transportation was also associated with an increase in the rate at which condemned inmates were executed. The study closes with a discussion of the conditions that may lead to law's unintended consequences, including the mesh-thinning consequences observed here.


The Lasting Effects of Crime: The Relationship of Discovered Methamphetamine Laboratories and Home Values

Joshua Congdon-Hohman
Regional Science and Urban Economics, January 2013, Pages 31-41

This study estimates a household's willingness to pay to avoid the stigma of crime while minimizing concerns of omitted variable bias. By assuming methamphetamine producers locate approximately at random within a narrowly defined neighborhood, this study is able to use hedonic estimation methods to estimate the impact of the discovery of a methamphetamine laboratory on the home values near that location. Specifically, the analysis designates those closest to the site as the treated, while those slightly farther away act as the comparison group. The discovery of a methamphetamine laboratory has a significant effect on the property values of those homes close to the location that peaks from six to 12 months after each lab's discovery. The estimates found in this study range from a decrease in sale prices of ten to nineteen percent in the year following a laboratory's discovery compared to the prices for homes that are farther away but still in the same neighborhood.


Health Promotion Messages in Entertainment Media: Crime Drama Viewership and Intentions to Intervene in a Sexual Assault Situation

Stacey Hust et al.
Journal of Health Communication, January 2013, Pages 105-123

Popular crime dramas have tackled sensitive issues such as sexual assault with increasing frequency over the past 20 years. These popular programs increasingly demonstrate the emotional and physical effect of sexual assault on its victims, and in some instances they depict individuals being rewarded for intervening to prevent or stop an assault in progress. It is possible that this content could affect attitudes related to sexual assault prevention. However, no previous research has examined this possibility. In the fall 2008 semester, 508 undergraduates at a large northwestern university completed a questionnaire about media use and bystander intervention in a sexual assault situation. Results from hierarchical regressions lend support for the integrative model of behavioral prediction in that instrumentality, rape myth acceptance, perceived social norms, perceived efficacy related to intervening, and exposure to primetime crime dramas were associated with participants' intentions to intervene in a sexual assault. The results suggest that crime dramas may be a useful venue for prevention messages as exposure to crime dramas uniquely contributed to intentions to intervene in a sexual assault.


Foot Patrol in Violent Crime Hot Spots: The Longitudinal Impact of Deterrence and Posttreatment Effects of Displacement

Evan Sorg et al.
Criminology, forthcoming

This study revisited the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment and explored the longitudinal deterrent effects of foot patrol in violent crime hot spots using Sherman's (1990) concepts of initial and residual deterrence decay as a theoretical framework. It also explored whether the displacement uncovered during the initial evaluation decayed after the experiment ended. Multilevel growth curve models revealed that beats staffed for 22 weeks had a decaying deterrent effect during the course of the experiment, whereas those staffed for 12 weeks did not. None of the beats had residual deterrence effects relative to the control areas. The displacement uncovered had decayed during the 3 months after the experiment, and it is theoretically plausible that previously displaced offenders returned to the original target areas causing inverse displacement. These results are discussed in the context of Durlauf and Nagin's (2011) recent proposal that prison sentences should be shortened, mandatory minimum statutes repealed, and the cost savings generated by these policy changes shifted into policing budgets to convey more effectively the certainty of detection. It is concluded that if Durlauf and Nagin's proposal is to succeed, then more holistic policing strategies would likely be necessary. Foot patrol as a specific policing tactic seems to fit nicely into a variety of policing paradigms, and suggestions for incorporating them to move beyond strictly enforcement-based responses are presented.


The Impact of Treatment on the Public Safety Outcomes of Mental Health Court Participants

Karli Keator et al.
American Behavioral Scientist, February 2013, Pages 231-243

Three mental health courts (MHCs) are included in this study of whether enrollment in MHC affects community treatment access, utilization, time to service, program outcome, arrests, and jail days. Researchers approached newly enrolled MHC participants (n = 296) and similar "treatment as usual" (TAU) jail detainees (n = 386) screened as eligible for study participation. Baseline and 6-month interviews were conducted, and respondents allowed researchers access to their mental health and criminal justice records. We found that on discharge from jail on target charges, MHC participants accessed community treatment more quickly than did the TAU respondents. Furthermore, prior to enrollment in MHC, this sample had twice as many crisis treatment episodes as the TAUs, and they received more therapeutic treatment episodes. One year after enrollment, the MHC sample had more intensive and therapeutic treatment episodes than the TAUs. We found no relationship between the type of treatment intervention received (or not) and whether the MHC enrollees were arrested or in jail following MHC enrollment.


Varying Impacts of Alcohol Outlet Densities on Violent Assaults: Explaining Differences Across Neighborhoods

Christina Mair et al.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, January 2013, Pages 50-58

Objective: Groups of potentially violent drinkers may frequent areas of communities with large numbers of alcohol outlets, especially bars, leading to greater rates of alcohol-related assaults. This study assessed direct and moderating effects of bar densities on assaults across neighborhoods.

Method: We analyzed longitudinal population data relating alcohol outlet densities (total outlet density, proportion bars/pubs, proportion off-premise outlets) to hospitalizations for assault injuries in California across residential ZIP code areas from 1995 through 2008 (23,213 space-time units). Because few ZIP codes were consistently defined over 14 years and these units are not independent, corrections for unit misalignment and spatial autocorrelation were implemented using Bayesian space-time conditional autoregressive models.

Results: Assaults were related to outlet densities in local and surrounding areas, the mix of outlet types, and neighborhood characteristics. The addition of one outlet per square mile was related to a small 0.23% increase in assaults. A 10% greater proportion of bars in a ZIP code was related to 7.5% greater assaults, whereas a 10% greater proportion of bars in surrounding areas was related to 6.2% greater assaults. The impacts of bars were much greater in areas with low incomes and dense populations.

Conclusions: The effect of bar density on assault injuries was well supported and positive, and the magnitude of the effect varied by neighborhood characteristics. Posterior distributions from these models enabled the identification of locations most vulnerable to problems related to alcohol outlets.

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