What We're Doing

Congratulations to CJRC Affiliate Warden Al Lazaroff who has been selected as the Ohio Warden of the Year and the Co-Warden of the Year by the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents!

Lazaroff began his career with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) in 1987 as a labor relations officer for the Madison Correctional Institution. Over the past 29 years, he has served in various capacities including DRC staff counsel;  chief inspector; special assistant with the Governor’s Office of Criminal Justice, labor relations administrator and human resources chief. He has served as a deputy warden of Operations and warden at five DRC facilities.  Of Ohio’s 27 wardens, Lazaroff is currently the most senior active duty warden in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Lazaroff currently manages an inmate population of approximately 2,500 inmates and 600 staff at the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Mansfield, Ohio.

Project Focuses on Paroling Authorities at the National Level

The Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota's Law School is currently engaged in a Parole Release and Revocation Project centering on paroling authorities at the state and federal level. It recently completed a national survey of parole boards and will be issuing a report highlighting the results over the next few months. Project staff  are also working with the Colorado State Parole Board on-site to revise the parole guidelines that inform discretionary parole release. Longer-term, the project plans to publish parole profiles showcasing the statutory framework, legal jurisdiction and substantive reach of paroling authorities for each state. The Parole project director is CJRC affiliate Ed Rhine. The profiles once completed will be posted on the Robina Institute's website which can be accessed at  http://www.robinainstitute.org/parole-release-revocation-project/.

This past month the co-director of the Robina Institute, Kevin R. Reitz, and the Parole Project dDirector, Ed Rhine (CJRC Affiliate and OSU Faculty), co-authored with Joan Petersilia (Stanford University) an article called "Improving Parole Release in American," Federal Sentencing Reporter, Volume 28, No. 2, pp. 96-104, December 2015

TEDx Talk at OSU

CJRC Faculty Affiliate Hollie Nyseth Brehm, Professor of Sociology, performed at TEDxOhioStateUniversity, Saturday, March 5 in Mershon Auditorium. Her role was titled: Idealist

To see the list of speakers and to learn more about what she was presenting click here

Dana Haynie published “Toward a Criminology of Inmate Networks” in Justice Quarterly

Full Citation: Derek Kreager, David Schaefer, Martin Bouchard, Dana L. Haynie, Sara Wakefield, Jacob Young and Gary Zajac. “Toward a Criminology of Inmate Networks. Justice Quarterly. Published online, March 2015

Abstract: The mid-twentieth century witnessed a surge of American prison ethnographies focused on inmate society and the social structures that guide inmate life. Ironically, this literature virtually froze in the 1980s just as the country entered a period of unprecedented prison expansion, and has only recently begun to thaw. In this manuscript, we develop a rationale for returning inmate society to the forefront of criminological inquiry and suggest that network science provides an ideal framework for achieving this end. In so doing, we show that a network perspective extends prison ethnographies by allowing quantitative assessment of prison culture and illuminating basic characteristics of prison social structure that are essential for improving inmate safety, health, and community reentry outcomes. We conclude by demonstrating the feasibility and promise of inmate network research with findings from a recent small-scale study of a maximum-security prison work unit.

American Society of Criminology 71st Meeting

Several CJRC Faculty Affiliates presented sessions and papers at the American Society of Criminology 71st Meeting held in Washington, DC. These included:

Dana Haynie - “The Antecedents of Respect in an Inmate Network”

Co-Authors: Jacob Young; Derek Kreager; David Shaefer; Gary Zajac; Martin Bouchard

Abstract: Seminal qualitative studies of prison culture established competing hypotheses for the origins of status in inmate society. The deprivation perspective held that inmates who alleviated the pains of imprisonment through greater prison experience, protection or the provision of material goods and services would hold the highest status positions in the informal structure. Alternatively, the importation perspective argued that inmates’ behavioral and sociodemographic biographies (e.g., criminal history, race, community ties) were paramount in structuring prison status hierarchies. In this study, we take a network approach to measuring perceived respect among approximately 200 inmates held in a unit of a Pennsylvania medium-security men’s prison. We use a statistical network model (i.e., exponential random graph model) to estimate the correlates of respect in the unit and test the longstanding hypotheses of deprivation and importation theories.

“Social Networks and Health among the Incarcerated”

Co-Authors: Derek Kreager; Sara Wakefield

Abstract: A number of studies suggest that serving time in prison can have important health consequences, reducing both physical and mental health outcomes for inmates. Additional research also suggests that social support (usually measured by out-of-prison family support or visitations) can buffer inmates from the physical and mental health consequences of imprisonment. Yet none of these studies have been able to directly measure inmates’ social supports by peers inside the prison and how those ties connect to out-of-prison support and health. Using newly collected data from a Pennsylvania men’s medium security prison and social network methodology, we examine how inmates’ positions within the prison social structure relate to their mental and physical health outcomes and out-of-prison ties.

Ryan King – “Rethinking Economic Conditions and Punishment: Economic Insecurity and Prison Admissions”

Co-Author: Chad A. Malone

Abstract: Two macro-sociological trends have become apparent during the past forty years: one is the rise of mass incarceration, and the second is increasing economic insecurity. Yet no scholarship has explored whether these two factors are causally related. In this paper we first offer a critical assessment of the traditional labor market approach to punishment, often called the Rusche and Kircheimer thesis. We then make a theoretical argument for examining the association between economic insecurity as a determinant of harsh sanctions. We empirically test the association using a series of fixed effects regression models. Results support the theoretical notion that higher levels of economic insecurity produce higher prison admissions rates over time and across states.

Ed Rhine – “Prisoners' Gatekeepers: The National Story of Contraction, Resiliency, and Continuing Leverage of Paroling Authorities”

Co-Authors: Mariel Alper; Ebony Ruhland; Kevin Reitz

Abstract: In the 1970s and 80s, parole boards were harshly criticized and lost a great deal of legitimacy. Subsequently, as the criminal justice system become more focused on retribution in the mid-1980s and 90s, the role of parole boards continued to be curtailed in many states. Over the past decade, however, parole authorities have reached some stability and even growth in functionality. Partly as a result of this legacy, parole authorities have largely been left out of the current sentencing reform movement. However, throughout these changes, parole authorities had and still maintain an influential, though understudied, role in imprisonment decisions. This presentation draws on a recent national survey of paroling authorities, on-the-ground experiences with paroling authorities and the available national and state-level data to examine current practices and functions of parole boards and bring parole back into the current criminal justice reform discussions.

“Rethinking Paroling Authorities: Toward Greater Fairness, Public Safety, Professionalism and Accountability”

Co-Authors: Joan Petersilia; Kevin Reitz

Abstract: During the 1970s-1980s-1990s, parole boards experienced a precipitous loss of legitimacy reflected in a marked diminution in the scope of their discretionary authority to release. Yet the reality remains that a majority of states have retained the function of parole release housed within indeterminate sentencing systems. The parole decision is itself a “sentencing” decision, defining the severity of punishment, and affecting the rehabilitative and crime-control purposes of the criminal law. This paper focuses on how parole boards should exercise their release discretion and how indeterminate sentencing systems should be constructed to facilitate an approach to decision-making that promotes greater fairness, public safety, professionalism, and accountability. A 10-point action plan is provided offering proposals targeting the institutional structure of paroling authorities; the grounds for determining offenders’ release eligibility; procedural rights informing the hearing process; victims’ rights of participation; the use of decision tools; including risk assessment; and the who, how long, and setting of conditions informing parole or post-release supervision. The paper concludes emphasizing the importance of revisiting and engaging the role of parole boards within the larger context of ongoing national conversations calling for the reform of the nation’s penal and criminal sanctioning policies.

Hollie Brehm – “Women Perpetrators: Theorizing Gender and Genocide”

Co-Authors:Evelynn Ann Gertz; Sara Elise Brown

Abstract: Connecting Punitive and Restorative Responses to Genocide with Long-Term Crime Patterns”  Following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, gacaca courts served as a transitional justice mechanism to process the cases of approximately one million suspected perpetrators. These courts had the authority to dispense both punitive justice (in the form of prison sentences) and restorative justice (in the form of community service sentences). This paper asks whether and how the degree of punitive and restorative justice affects community social cohesion today. Our analysis of gacaca court data and contemporary social indicators shows an intriguing pattern of relationships. In particular, we observe significantly higher crime rates today in those areas that made more extensive use of life sentences — the most punitive sentencing option available. In contrast, we see less tolerance for spousal abuse in areas that made greater use of restorative justice.

“Connecting Punitive and Restorative Responses to Genocide with Long-Term Crime Patterns”

Co-Authors: Lindsay Blahnik; Christopher Uggen

Abstract: Following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, gacaca courts served as a transitional justice mechanism to process the cases of approximately one million suspected perpetrators. These courts had the authority to dispense both punitive justice (in the form of prison sentences) and restorative justice (in the form of community service sentences). This paper asks whether and how the degree of punitive and restorative justice affects community social cohesion today. Our analysis of gacaca court data and contemporary social indicators shows an intriguing pattern of relationships. In particular, we observe significantly higher crime rates today in those areas that made more extensive use of life sentences — the most punitive sentencing option available. In contrast, we see less tolerance for spousal abuse in areas that made greater use of restorative justice.

“Gender Based Violence in Darfur”

Co-Authors: Gabrielle Ferrales; Michael Englehart

Abstract: Gender-based violence during mass conflict has garnered increasing attention in the last decade. Yet, we know little about the forces driving gender-specific patterns in violence. In this article, we draw upon the United States Atrocity Documentation Survey data, consisting of 1,136 field interviews collected in the Darfur region of Sudan, to analyze gender-based violence against women and girls. First, we document many forms of victimization — including rape, forced nudity, and many forms of marking women as morally impure — and argue that the violence reinforces a gender ideology that positions “authentic” Sudanese women as responsible for the biological and cultural reproduction of the nation. Next, we assess patterns in this violence across communities in the Darfur region and theorize what may account for differences in these patterns. Broadly, this research informs our understanding of gender-based violence during mass conflict and notions of doing gender, though it also has policy implications for the prosecution of gender-based violence in criminal courts.

Paul Bellair - “Negative Social Capital in Prisoner’s Personal Networks and Its Relationship with Recidivism”

Co-Author: Ryan Light

Abstract: Social capital theory imagines that prisoners rely on their personal network for support, but the influence of negative social capital embedded within them remains speculative. We extend social capital and criminology literatures with descriptive analysis of prisoner’s personal networks and event history analysis of recidivism. Data are derived from face-to-face interviews with 250 minimum and medium security prisoners supplemented with data documenting return to prison. Results indicate that prisoners have relatively large, dense personal networks that are dominated by family ties. Many subjects are exposed to  with some prior criminal involvement and who commit crime with subjects. For a smaller group, alters provide direct reinforcement of criminal behavior. Event history analysis indicates that personal networks comprising higher levels of crime with alters and greater perceived alter reinforcement are associated with an increased risk of recidivism among older but not younger subjects. We conclude that prisoner’s personal networks are a double edged sword. They are potential sources of critical material support, but may also obstruct the aging out process and hence prolong criminal careers. 

“The Impact of Persistent Socioeconomic Disadvantage on the Trajectory of Violence in Childhood”

Co-Author: Thomas L. McNulty

Abstract: Neighborhood and family socioeconomic disadvantage underlies many sociological models of delinquency. Its putative role in etiological discussions has been intensely debated and, for a period of about twenty years, prominent sociologists developed models that were explicitly independent of a social class-crime relationship. Yet research has re-established the centrality of socioeconomic disadvantage and many life course models view it as a fundamental element. We go beyond previous research by examining the relationship between persistent socioeconomic disadvantage (relative to other patterns) and trajectories of violence in childhood. The data are drawn from the three, five and nine-year follow-ups of the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study. Group based modeling distinguishes differing trajectories, and multinomial regression examines the consequences of varying patterns of socioeconomic disadvantage. Fa

Joseph Donnermeyer - “Without Place, Is It Real?”

Abstract: Like those proverbial “ships passing in the night,” place-based theories and concepts in mainstream criminology mostly are not critical, and variants of critical criminology mostly ignore the significance of place. The purpose of this paper is to reconsider place-based criminological theory, but from a critical point of view, utilizing the growing corpus of rural criminology for its examination. What would the guiding principles and conceptual views of crime at rural places look like? This paper and presentation explores these possibilities, proposing a new look at a place-based criminology through the lens of critical criminology.

Brian Kowalski (CJRC Affiliate, Ohio Statefaculty and ODRC Research Division) and Brian Martin – ODRC Research Division - “Fourth Generation Risk Assessment and Prisoner Reentry”

Abstract: The Role of Prison Misconduct-Ohio has recently adopted a series of fourth generation risk assessment tools for use across state, county and local criminal justice entities, collectively referred to as the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS). While these tools have improved case management and the targeted use of programming and treatment resources, their utility is potentially undermined by over-classification of offenders, marginal levels of inter-coder reliability, and over-reliance on face to face offender interviews. Further, the incremental validity of standard dynamic need domains compared to static risk variables and recent incarceration experiences is an emerging concern in the risk assessment literature especially in relation to longer term inmates in a prison context. Based on a recent prison release cohort in Ohio, this study assesses the relative importance of both a wide range of institutional misconduct measures and key reentry-based dynamic domain items in predicting recidivism, controlling for static risk scores obtained separately at the time of admission. Findings are considered in terms of their implications for incorporating direct measures of institutional adjustment into the reentry risk assessment process.

Steve Vandine (CJRC Affiliate and ODRC Research Division) - “Life and Death in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction”

Abstract: As a result of the variety of changes to sentencing policy over the past several decades, most states, and the federal system, have seen a dramatic increase in the use of life sentences for those crimes deemed the most heinous. At the same time, several factors, including diminishing public support, have led to a decrease in the use of the death penalty. This project examines trends in the use of death penalty, life with the possibility of parole, and life without parole sentences in the state of Ohio over the last two decades. Additionally, we examine life expectancy and mortality for inmates with these sentences. Policy implications for the use of the death penalty and life with and without parole will be discussed.