Off the Street

Kevin Lewis

August 13, 2021

How Does Incarceration Affect Reoffending? Estimating the Dose-Response Function
Evan Rose & Yotam Shem-Tov
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming


We study the causal effect of incarceration on reoffending using discontinuities in North Carolina’s sentencing guidelines. A regression discontinuity analysis shows that one year of incarceration causes a reduction in the likelihood of being reincarcerated within three, five, and eight years from sentencing by 44%, 29%, and 21%. To parse the potentially heterogeneous dose-response relationship underlying these effects, we develop an econometric model of prison sentences and recidivism. We find that incarceration has meaningful reoffending-reducing average effects that diminish in incarceration length. As a result, budget-neutral reductions in sentence length combined with increases in incarceration rates can decrease recidivism.

A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Academy Socialization on Police Integrity
Amie Schuck & Cara Rabe-Hemp
Police Quarterly, forthcoming


The objective of this study was to examine changes in American recruits’ perceptions of the seriousness of behaviors related to police integrity from the beginning to the end of their academy training. Using a sample of 655 recruits from multiple academies in the United States, multilevel growth models were used. The results showed that the recruits rated scales related to misconduct, code of silence, and a noble cause less seriously at the end than at the beginning of their training. The results also showed that ethics training mitigated the effects of socialization, while organizational injustice intensified the effects of socialization. Female recruits rated the behaviors more seriously at the beginning and the end of training compared to male recruits. The results confirm the role of the academy in socializing officers into the negative aspects of the traditional police culture and highlight important avenues for police reform.

The thin blue waveform: Racial disparities in officer prosody undermine institutional trust in the police
Nicholas Camp et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


How do routine police encounters build or undermine community trust, and how might they contribute to racial gaps in citizen perceptions of the police? Procedural justice theory posits that officers’ interpersonal communication toward the public plays a formative role, but experimental tests of this hypothesis have been constrained by the difficulties of measuring and manipulating this dimension of officer-citizen interactions. Officer-worn body camera recordings provide a novel means to overcome both of these challenges. Across five studies with laboratory and community samples, we use footage from traffic stops to examine how officers communicate to drivers and whether racial disparities in officers’ communication erode institutional trust in the police. Specifically, we consider the cumulative effects of one subtle interpersonal cue: an officer’s tone of voice. In Studies 1A, 1B, and 1C, participants rated thin slices of officer speech. Participants were blind to the content of the officer’s words and the race of their interlocutor, yet they evaluated officers’ tone toward White (vs. Black) men more positively. By manipulating participants’ exposure to repeated interactions, we demonstrate that even these paraverbal aspects of police interactions shape how citizens construe the police generally (Study 2), and that racial disparities in prosodic cues undermine trust in institutions such as police departments (Study 3). Participants’ trust in the police, and personal experiences of fairness, in turn, correlated with their perceptions of officer prosody across studies. Taken together, these data illustrate a cycle through which interpersonal aspects of police encounters erode institutional trust across race.

Lexipol's Fight Against Police Reform
Ingrid Eagly & Joanna Schwartz
Indiana Law Journal, forthcoming


We are in the midst of a critically important moment in police reform. National and local attention is fixed on how to reduce the number of people killed and injured by the police. One approach — which has been recognized for decades to reduce police killings — is to limit police power to use force. This Article is the first to uncover how an often-overlooked private company, Lexipol LLC, has become one of the most powerful voices pushing against reform of use-of-force standards. Founded in 2003, Lexipol now writes police policies and trainings for over one-fifth of American law enforcement agencies. As this Article documents, Lexipol has refused to incorporate common reform proposals into the policies it writes for its subscribers, including a use-of-force matrix, policies requiring de-escalation, or bright-line rules prohibiting certain types of behavior — like chokeholds and shooting into cars. Lexipol has also taken an active advocacy role in opposition to proposed reforms of police use-of-force standards, pushing, instead, for departments to hew closely to Graham v. Connor’s “objectively reasonable” standard. Finally, when use-of-force reforms have been enacted, Lexipol has attempted to minimize their impact. Local governments, police departments, and insurers have long viewed Lexipol as a critically important partner in keeping policies lawful and up-to-date. This Article makes clear that they should take a closer look. Lexipol’s aggressive efforts to retain wide officer discretion to use force may ultimately expose officers and agencies to liability instead of shielding them from it. It is time for advocacy groups seeking policing improvements to train their sights on Lexipol. Unless and until Lexipol changes its approach, the company should be viewed as a barrier to reform.

Restrictive deterrence and the scope of hackers’ reoffending: Findings from two randomized field trials
David Maimon, Jordan Howell & George Burruss
Computers in Human Behavior, forthcoming


Extensive criminological research has investigated the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts to prevent offenders' reoffending and effect changes in criminal behavior patterns. However, no research has quantified the influence of gossip regarding law enforcement operations and its effect on repeat offending. Moreover, only scant research has studied these relationships in the cyber-environment. The current work addresses this gap by studying the effect of online messages sent to active hackers that describe law enforcement efforts against website defacement activity. In two field experiments, we randomly assigned self-identified hackers with active Facebook accounts into control and treatment groups. We then sent subjects in the treatment group a gossip message (via Facebook) alerting them to law enforcement efforts in cyberspace. Following the intervention, we compared the control and treatment groups in terms of changes in the proportion of reoffending, number of website defacements, and severity of website defacements. Findings reveal that when the gossip was sent to a hacker's private inbox, it prompted a reduction in the proportion of hackers who reoffend, the frequency at which they reoffend, and the severity of attacks they generate. However, posting similar gossip on the hacker's Facebook wall was ineffective in restricting malicious hacking activity. Theoretical implications and practical recommendations for law enforcement operations in cyberspace are discussed.

Detecting anomalies in data on government violence
Kanisha Bond et al.
Political Science Research and Methods, forthcoming


Can data on government coercion and violence be trusted when the data are generated by state itself? In this paper, we investigate the extent to which data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) regarding the use of force by corrections officers against prison inmates between 2008 and 2017 conform to Benford's Law. Following a growing data forensics literature, we expect misreporting of the use-of-force in California state prisons to cause the observed data to deviate from Benford's distribution. Statistical hypothesis tests and further investigation of CDCR data — which show both temporal and cross-sectional variance in conformity with Benford's Law — are consistent with misreporting of the use-of-force by the CDCR. Our results suggest that data on government coercion generated by the state should be inspected carefully before being used to test hypotheses or make policy.

Eviction and Crime: A Neighborhood Analysis in Philadelphia
Daniel Semenza et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming


In this study, we use generalized estimating equation (GEE) models to analyze how rates of eviction correspond to homicide, robbery, and burglary rates across all residential neighborhoods in Philadelphia from 2006 through 2016. We assess the moderating role of neighborhood poverty accounting for residential mobility, economic disadvantage, and community composition. We find that eviction is associated with all three types of crime in fully controlled models. Additionally, neighborhood poverty significantly moderates this relationship for robbery and burglary, but not homicide. We discuss the implications of these results with attention to policy opportunities to reduce eviction and suggestions for future research.

Police Enforcement of Sex Work Criminalization Laws in an “End Demand” City: The Persistence of Quality-of-Life Policing and Seller Arrests
Kris Rosentel et al.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, July 2021, Pages 1973–1990


The purported goals of commercial sex work criminalization policies in the United States have shifted over the past two decades as local jurisdictions have adopted End Demand reforms. These reforms aim to refocus arrest from individuals who sell sexual services to buyers and facilitators, representing a departure from the quality-of-life, nuisance-focused approach of the late twentieth century. This article presents a case study examining enforcement of commercial sex laws in Chicago, a city that has been heralded as a leader in End Demand reforms. Our case study utilized annualized arrest statistics from 1998 to 2017 and individual arrest reports (n = 575) from 2015 to 2017. Commercial sex arrests by the Chicago Police Department have declined substantially over the past two decades, falling 98.4% from its peak. However, our analysis suggests that sellers of sexual services continue to face the heaviest burden of arrest (80.5%) and officers generally continue to approach commercial sex as a quality-of-life issue. We argue that this divergence between the goals and implementation of End Demand are the result of three institutional factors: street-level bureaucracy, logics of spatial governmentality, and participatory security. Our results suggest that the ideals of End Demand may be incompatible with the institutional realties of urban policing.

The Racially Disparate Effects of Drug Arrest on High School Dropout
Mariam Ashtiani
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, July 2021


Racial biases in law enforcement over the past three decades have been linked to the racialized policies of the war on drugs. The author examines the educational consequences of the war on drugs on the lives of youth by analyzing racial differences in the impact of a juvenile drug arrest on high school dropout. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent and Adult Health, the author finds that juvenile drug arrests are more consequential for Black and darker phenotype Latinx youth, who are less likely to be involved in delinquent and criminal behaviors than white youth with drug arrests. The author suggests that racial disparities in drug enforcement may be creating a racialized selection bias among drug arrestees, leading to racially disparate consequences for drug arrests, but not for other types of arrest. The results hold important implications for how drug arrests can produce and sustain racial disadvantages in educational attainment.

The Topography of Robbery: Does Slope Matter?
Cory Haberman & James Kelsay
Journal of Quantitative Criminology, September 2021, Pages 625–645

Objectives: To examine the influence of street block slope on robbery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Methods: Data visualizations were used to examine how street block slope varies across the city. Negative binomial regression models were used to estimate the influence of street block slope on robbery net of betweenness, facility composition, and socio-demographics.

Results: A 1% increase in street block slope was associated with roughly 4.5% fewer street block robberies per foot of street block length. Street blocks with a higher expected usage potential, measured via betweenness, were also observed to have higher expected robbery levels. In addition, numerous facilities and neighborhood socio-demographic characteristics linked to higher robbery levels.

Sticky Stigma: The Impact of Incarceration on Perceptions of Personality Traits and Deservingness
Bridget Brew et al.
Social Forces, forthcoming


Stigma is often cited as a mechanism driving the consequences of incarceration for formerly incarcerated people and their families. Few studies, however, provide quantitative evidence of the nature and strength of stigma stemming from direct and indirect interaction with jails. In this article, we use an experimental vignette design to make two contributions. First, we use two nonincarceration control groups that allow us to differentiate the stigma attached to incarceration relative to one condition that is not stigmatized (colorblindness) from another that is (drug addiction). Second, we test whether having a partner or family member who has been incarcerated in jail generates stigma. We find that having a formerly incarcerated relative negatively impacts perceptions of personality traits, financial deservingness, and parenting quality. We also show that the stigmatized control condition is comparable with the prior incarceration of a male relative, but more favorable than one’s own prior incarceration, indicating unique incarceration stigma. These findings have implications for our understanding of social inequality because they demonstrate how members of marginalized groups who are most likely to experience incarceration or have an incarcerated loved one continue to face informal social exclusion and the attendant consequences long after the formal punishment.


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