Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Summer

School is out for the summer. If you are in summer school, then please remember to stay on top of your studies. Summer classes can be intense since they do not have as many weeks to cover the material. Many of these summer courses will be offered online. One thing to remember about online courses is that they require more self-discipline. For instance, my online courses are reading-intensive and students need to make time to read the assigned material. Also, do not be afraid to ask other students or the professor for help if you are confused about any material. The more proactive you are with your studies, the more success you should have in your courses.

Enjoy the summer, and be safe.

Monday, April 24, 2017

White-Collar Crime: More Local than you Think

White-Collar Crime: More Local than you Think

When people think of "White-Collar Crime" they think of giant banks, stock markets, Enron, and millions of dollars. While this is not far from the truth, there are smaller forms of white-collar crime that cause huge problems for local communities. One issue routinely discussed in newspapers is the punishment associated with white-collar crimes. Some people wonder why so few white-collar criminals see the inside of a prison, despite the fact that their crimes caused greater social harm to society than many people currently in prison. Still, others note that the same racial disparities that exist in street crimes can be observed when analyzing white-collar offenses. Worse yet, these racial disparities persist throughout the criminal justice process that deals with white-collar offenders. For example, a 2006 article in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology found that race was significantly associated with white-collar offense sentencing. The research specifically found that whites were more likely than blacks to receive lesser sentences, and that this relationship was tied closely to one's ability to pay fines. 
Downward departures from sentencing guidelines in white-collar cases is quickly becoming a hot topic for media outlets, especially local cases that can have significant impacts for small communities. For instance, I was recently featured in the Greenwood Index-Journal answering questions about that very topic. Greenwood had sentenced multiple white-collar offenders to pay fines, rather than prison, but allowed payments that would take each offender hundreds of years to pay back. In essence, these men will never see the inside of prison, and will likely never pay back what they fully owe or stole from their community. Many community members responded on social media about the meager sentences. Their comments highlight a debate the society and politicians seem unwilling to have. If they are able to forego prison sentences with the hopes of collecting restitution, then realistic payment schedules should be established and suitable punishments afforded for not sticking to these payment schedules. Likewise, social media comments the need for debate concerning our general philosophy towards dealing with white-collar offenders. If we are not likely to see a great deal of restitution, then should we simply imprison these offenders (retribution)? Why is it that we are more punitive towards  drug-users than individuals that steal millions of dollars?
I will not pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I do urge society, citizens and lawmakers alike, to think about the questions I have posed.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cellphones, Internet, and the Classroom


Cellphones, Internet, and the Classroom


Monday, April 10, 2017

Criminology Graduate Programs

Criminology Graduate Programs

Since the bulk of my readers appear to be from Illinois and Upstate South Carolina. This post will outline some options criminology students may consider when thinking about applying for graduate school. One thing to remember, you don't just want to be accepted into a program, you want the program to offer you an assistantship. I will make another post at a later date outlining the steps and tips for applying to graduate programs. This post will focus on simply highlighting the graduate school options for criminology students in the aforementioned regions. Below is a list of colleges I strongly suggest graduating criminology and criminal justice undergraduates from Illinois and South Carolina should consider. I have also listed a few top-tier programs that you may also want to consider. That being said, receiving funding from a more local university may be more beneficial than attending a "top-tier" program. Furthermore, many of these programs are growing. Southern Illinois University and UMSL, for example, have great faculty and smaller cohorts. This allows for more one-on-one attention between faculty advisors and graduate students. Myself, I strongly recommend the MA/PhD Criminology and Criminal Justice programs at  Southern Illinois University.

Upstate South Carolina & Surrounding Areas







Illinois






Top Tier Graduate Programs



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Importance of Attending Professional Conferences

The Importance of Attending Professional Conferences

There are many types of professional conferences in the fields of criminology and criminal justice. These conferences are sponsored by professional organizations. Two of the biggest organizations are the American Society of Criminology (ASC) and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). These are both international conferences with members from all over the world. ACJS is further organized into five different regions: Midwestern Criminal Justice Association, Northeastern Association of Criminal Justice Sciences, Southern Criminal Justice Association, Southwestern Association of Criminal Justice, and the Western Association of Criminal Justice. These regional organizations also host smaller regional conferences. ASC does not have regional conferences, but they do have interest-specific divisions within the organization that helps students and faculty members better network with other scholars that share similar research interests. Other organizations that host professional conferences for students and faculty to attend are the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, Alpha Phi Sigma (The National Criminal Justice Honor Society), and the Western Society of Criminology.

These conferences provide many opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. The most obvious advantage these conferences provide for students are the networking opportunities they provide. Conferences provide opportunities for students to interview for jobs or graduate school. I strongly encourage students to attend regional conferences to present their research papers, especially if they have conducted original research. I have noticed that students are often hesitant to attend or present at these conferences. This intimidation possibly stems from their own expectations of who will be at theses conferences, their perceptions of the high quality of work that others will be presenting at the conferences (students can be their own worst enemies), and sometimes simply because of their fear of public speaking. However, these are all perfect reasons why students should attend professional conferences. In my experience, especially at regional conferences, faculty and practitioners are largely supportive of student presenters and do their best to support and motivate students. I have personally attended some spectacular student presentations at ASC, MCJA, and the Southern Sociological Society (SSS). I was extremely nervous at my first presentation as a graduate student, and it was far from perfect, but I learned a great deal from that experience and it greatly boosted my confidence for future presentations. I firmly believe that students will quickly overcome their fears of public speaking after a student presents for the first time.

Professional conferences also look great on a CV for students about to enter the job market or for undergraduates thinking about applying for graduate school. Graduate schools consider many things when evaluating applicants for their programs. Most students think about GRE scores and their GPA. However, membership with a few of the aforementioned professional organizations, a record of presenting at professional conferences, or a scholarly publication will make you significantly stand out among other applicants because these things show professional engagement and highlight that you are capable of independent original research. If you start presenting at conferences early, then your CV will be stronger than many of your peers when you enter the job market (Yes, graduate school does eventually end, believe it or not). These professional memberships can even allow you to stand out among other applicants when applying for positions immediately after completing your undergraduate studies.

I strongly suggest looking into attending or presenting at a regional conference because these are often located within driving distance of the colleges students attend and are more financially feasible for students living on a typical graduate student budget. Many universities will even provide funding for students to present original research. I am proud to say that the Political and Social Sciences Department at Lander University has provided exceptional undergraduate students with opportunities to present their original research at various regional research symposiums and conferences sponsored by SSS. The great news is that we are not alone. Check with your dean, department chair, or faculty advisor to inquire about any potential funding opportunities that may exist for students to present or attend these conferences. In conclusion, students, push past your fears and go attend a conference near you. You will not regret it, and you will likely have a lot of fun. What can be more fun than a gathering of deviants that all study deviance?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Intergenerational Transmission of Crime

Intergenerational Transmission of Crime

A few days ago in class we discussed the intergenerational transmission of crime. I was not able to get into as much detail as I would have liked due to time restrictions and our use of a textbook, but I wanted to provide additional reading materials for those interested in this topic. These could be useful sources if you need to write a research paper on this topic or just have a genuine interest in the topic.

The Need for Higher Pay for Law Enforcement...with a Catch

The Need for Higher Pay for Law Enforcement...with a Catch

 This post is going to make the case for increasing pay for law enforcement officers...with a catch. The catch is that increased pay for law enforcement must be accompanied for increased public scrutiny, accountability, and a concerted push to hire law enforcement that are college educated. We cannot simply increase the pay of law enforcement without simultaneously increasing our expectations. The public must continue to scrutinize their local law enforcement to ensure they are upholding their stated missions and purpose, new measures of police performance must be created that extend beyond the volume of arrests they make, and poor performing officers (some might say "bad apples") must be promptly removed from their positions or switched into non-patrol positions.

Empirical examinations have consistently found that college educations are correlated with improved police performance. Police performance can be measured using a number of indicators such as communication skills, report writing abilities, the number of citizen complaints, receptiveness to new training standards, and even decision-making abilities (See Smith & Amodt, 1997 for example). Many departments have made efforts to increase their recruitment of college educated individuals by offering pay incentives, but this does not go far enough. Some research has even suggested using federal funding to increase the education levels of police officers (See Roberg & Bonn, 2004).

I must point out that individual departments and police administrators should not be blamed for a lack of college educated officers in departments. Like K-12 teachers, police have been undervalued in society for far too long. This means that society must come together and push for increased pay for the entire occupation of policing. That being said, police must realize that with increased pay and benefits comes increased scrutiny and accountability. Training should begin to focus more on deescalation tactics, and community policing should be embraced and practiced in every department.

Another shift needed to aid police departments nationwide would be to change from a crime control model to a treatment model for dealing with drugs in the United States. All it takes is one look at the newspaper's crime section to see that a bulk of arrests are for drug possession and distribution. If heavy handed policing is to be used for drugs, then the target offenders should be large-scale suppliers, not users or low-level dealers. The war on drugs has contributed to more women in prison (See sentencingproject.org fact sheet), more children with parents in prison (See sentencingproject.org fact sheet), and racial disparities across the American criminal justice system (Bobo & Thompson, 2006). All of the negative financial and social costs of the war on drugs, but essentially no positive outcome of the so-called war waged. Instead, it could be argued that police are feared and not trusted because of their role in enforcing failed polcies associated with the war on drugs.

It is time to let police officers be heroes to all of the community, and not the enforcers of failed policies rooted in political propaganda. It is time police officers are expected to have a college degree. It is time we start holding police accountable for poor performance. Finally, it is time we start paying law enforcement officers what they deserve. It is a tough job, with tough hours, and they deserve to be better compensated for their public service.