NIJ Journal 272: NIJ Bulletin

Publications in Brief

Understanding Elder Abuse: New Directions for Developing Theories of Elder Abuse Occurring in Domestic Settings

Although awareness of elder abuse is increasing, there are few theory-based explanations about the causes of this type of victimization and how best to respond to it.

In a new Research in Brief, Shelly Jackson and Thomas Hafemeister discuss two NIJ studies on elder abuse in domestic settings. Compared with other types of family violence, research on elder abuse has lagged behind in theory development and instead has adapted theories from other fields. Jackson and Hafemeister describe the findings from the two studies in this context, emphasizing the importance of developing new theories of elder abuse and looking critically at current theories to increase our understanding and guide future research.

Read the report (PDF, 40 pages).

The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers

Properly handling and accounting for evidence — from collection through final disposition — are key components of the criminal justice system. The new Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers offers guidance for individuals involved in collecting, examining, tracking, packaging, storing and managing the disposition of biological evidence.

The report covers:

  • Retaining biological evidence
  • Biological evidence hazards and handling
  • Packing and storing biological evidence
  • Chain of custody and evidence tracking
  • Evidence disposition

The report, published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology with support from NIJ, was produced by the Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation, a group of experts in biological evidence preservation who research and document the best advice that current technology allows.

Forensic Science Resources on Your eReader

Some of NIJ's most popular forensic science guides and resources are now available for your iPad, Kindle or other eReader:

News & Events

American Statistical Association Elects Ridgeway a Fellow

NIJ Acting Director Greg Ridgeway has been elected a 2013 American Statistical Association (ASA) Fellow. Ridgeway is being recognized for his outstanding contributions in the deployment of empirical analysis in criminal justice and policing research, his scientific leadership in government, and his service to the profession.

The designation of ASA Fellow has been a significant honor for nearly 100 years. ASA members nominate their peers within the association, and then ASA's Committee on Fellows evaluates the nominees based on their contributions to the advancement of statistical science, their published works and their professional position, among other factors.

Ridgeway and the other 58 ASA Fellows were honored during a ceremony at the annual Joint Statistical Meetings on Aug. 6, 2013.

Read the press release (PDF, 8 pages)

Article Follow-up: Collecting DNA From Arrestees — What Are the Practical Implications of Maryland v. King?

On June 3, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Maryland's law allowing DNA to be collected from people who have been arrested for a serious crime. At the time this issue of the NIJ Journal goes to press, 28 states and the federal government have laws authorizing the collection of DNA samples from individuals arrested or charged with certain qualifying offenses.

What ramifications do states face when implementing arrestee DNA collection laws? How do these laws affect the collecting agencies and the state crime laboratories that are responsible for implementing these laws? In Issue 270 of the NIJ Journal, Julie Samuels and her colleagues describe their NIJ-funded study that examined arrestee DNA collection laws around the nation, including lessons learned to date about implementation challenges.

This article was based on the interim report. Read the final report (PDF, 126 pages).


Interviews With the Researchers: Domestic Radicalization

NIJ is funding a series of studies into the causes, effects and prevalence of domestic radicalization. During a recent roundtable with grantees, NIJ had the chance to sit down with the lead researchers for three of the studies. They discuss how their work might affect policy and law enforcement practice in the future.

  • Lone Wolf Terrorism in America: Mark Hamm defines "lone wolf" and discusses the prevalence of this type of terrorism in the U.S. and some of the ways that such terrorists become radicalized. Hamm makes distinctions between mass violence and terrorism and points out that many lone wolf terrorists broadcast their intent to commit terrorist acts through very public forums. Watch Mark Hamm's interview.
  • Empirical Assessment of Domestic Radicalization: Through large-scale empirical analysis and small-scale life study analysis, Gary Ackerman is looking to determine what factors may cause an individual to make the leap from illegal terrorist behavior to violent terrorist behavior. Watch Gary Ackerman's interview.
  • Community Policing Strategies for Countering Violent Extremism: David Schanzer notes that although Islamic terrorism gets the majority of media attention, a wide variety of terrorist ideologies actually exist — from religious to environmental to economic. Schanzer hopes to discover whether certain community policing strategies are more effective in countering certain types of terrorism. Watch David Schanzer's interview.

Research for the Real World: The Neurobiology of Sexual Assault: Implications for First Responders in Law Enforcement, Prosecution and Victim Advocacy

What happens to the brain during a sexual assault? How does trauma affect victim behavior during and after an assault?

Rebecca Campbell discusses the neurobiology of trauma and the criminal justice response to sexual assault. She explains how the emotional and physical manifestation of trauma can impact the investigation process and the prosecution of sexual assaults. Campbell outlines best practices for first responders, law enforcement, nurses and prosecutors on how to question and care for victims to minimize "secondary victimization" and victim-blaming behaviors. She also discusses how research on the neurobiology of trauma can inform a long-standing problem in the criminal justice system — sexual assault case attrition.

Watch and listen to Campbell's Research for the Real World seminar.

Interview With the Researcher

How law enforcement officers question victims of sexual assault can affect the quality of victim statements. In an interview, Campbell explains why law enforcement can get better evidence when they allow victims to tell their stories at their own pace instead of forcing victims to try to nail down all the details immediately in precise order.

Watch Campbell's interview.

Research for the Real World: Wrongful Convictions: The Latest Scientific Research and Implications for Law Enforcement

What does science tell us about case factors that can lead to a wrongful conviction? In this Research for the Real World seminar, Jon Gould discusses the findings of the first large-scale empirical study that has identified 10 statistically significant factors that distinguish a wrongful conviction from a "near miss." (A "near miss" is a case in which an innocent defendant was acquitted or had charges dismissed before trial.) Gould is joined by John R. Firman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), who talks about implications for law enforcement, including recommendations based on IACP's 2012 summit on wrongful convictions.

Watch and listen to the seminar.

Interview With the Researcher

Gould discusses the variables uncovered in his research that work in concert to create systemic error in erroneous convictions: the strength of the prosecution's evidence, the quality of the defense, and whether the prosecution turned over exculpatory evidence.

Watch Gould's interview.

Recent Research Findings

An Exploratory Study of Juvenile Orders of Protection as a Remedy for Dating Violence

Some states are expanding order of protection (OP) laws to allow teens to secure orders for dating violence without parental involvement. New York State expanded its OP laws in July 2008, and NIJ funded the first study to examine systematically the implications of this change.

A key finding was that limited knowledge and understanding of OPs by teen dating violence victims were barriers to their use. Another barrier was a lack of police assistance in learning about or being encouraged to seek OPs, as compared with adult victims of intimate partner violence. Teens also reported concerns about being labeled a "snitch" by their peers, fears that OPs would not work, and ambivalence about giving up on the abusive relationship.

Researchers analyzed all petitions filed by teen dating violence victims (18 and younger) obtained from New York Family Courts, as well as criminal histories and police domestic violence incident files from the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services for all alleged offenders. They also conducted focus groups and individual interviews with youth who may have been at risk for experiencing dating violence as well as with those who had attempted the process of trying to secure an OP.

Read the final report (PDF, 172 pages).

Second Chance Act: Evaluation of Second Chance Act Adult Reentry Courts: Program Characteristics and Preliminary Themes From Year 1

The Second Chance Act (SCA) authorizes federal funding for services to former offenders who are returning to the community after being in prison or jail. The first report from an evaluation of SCA adult re-entry courts is now available.

The report examines eight re-entry courts funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance under SCA and describes the target populations, enrollment (e.g., risk levels) and services offered. The researchers are developing a program logic model for re-entry courts. A final report for the evaluation is expected by fall 2015 and will include findings based on impact and cost analyses.

Read the report (PDF, 24 pages).

Measuring the Effect of Defense Counsel on Homicide Case Outcomes

This year marked the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark Supreme Court decision that determined the right to counsel to be a fundamental right, essential to a fair trial. Gideon guaranteed representation in the court of law, but research funded by NIJ and conducted by James M. Anderson and Paul Heaton of RAND shows that not all representation is created equal.

Researchers used natural randomization of attorney assignment for indigent murder defendants in Philadelphia to examine how defense lawyers affect murder case outcomes. In a sample of 3,412 defendants charged with murder between 1994 and 2005 in Philadelphia, the data showed striking differences in case outcome depending on the type of defense counsel involved. Compared to private appointed counsel, public defenders reduced the murder conviction rate by 19 percent. They reduced the probability that their clients would receive a life sentence by 62 percent and the overall expected time served in prison by 24 percent.

Read the final report (PDF, 59 pages).

Date Created: September 3, 2013