School of Justice Research Program Reports and Updates

The School of Justice Research Program is an important Program of Distinction initiative which helps to support faculty and graduate students to produce cutting-edge research-based knowledge that will be used in the classroom, and that is relevant and beneficial to the Commonwealth. Many of these projects involve graduate and undergraduate students, facilitating an important avenue for faculty/student collaboration and publication. Below are the summary reports of 2011-2012 awards. Please note that some of these projects are ongoing and will be updated as the projects progress.

Kristie R. Blevins, Ph.D. and Conrad M. Lanham, B.S.

Occupational Roles and Practices of Kentucky Conservation Officers

Conservation officers are well known, highly visible law enforcement individuals serving communities of all sizes (Weisheit, Falcone, & Wells, 2006). Much like the poachers they pursue, conservation officers and their law enforcement activities have been grossly understudied by the social science community (Carter, 2004; Eliason, 2003; Eliason, 2007; Eliason, 2008; Falcone, 2004; Forsyth, 1993a; Forsyth, 1993b). Within the last two decades there has been an increase of scholarly literature devoted to the study of conservation officers and poachers, but the topic remains understudied. The body of work presented here will help fill an important gap in the literature, by examining the law enforcement practices of Kentucky conservation officers during a six year period. The few studies concerning the roles and responsibilities of conservation officers have noted expanded/expanding law enforcement responsibilities of conservation officers that are no longer limited to the realm of wildlife crimes (Benoit, 1973; Carter, 2004; Eliason, 2003; Eliason, 2007; Falcone, 2004; Forsyth, 1993a; Sherblom, Karanen, & Withers, 2002; Weisheit et al., 2006). A few studies suggest that, although they have the authority to enforce traditional legal violations, conservation officers tend to focus more on fish and wildlife violations (Carter, 2004; Eliason, 2007; Shelley & Crowe, 2009). These types of studies, however, are scarce. The purpose of this study is to examine the types of violations cited by conservation officers in Kentucky from 2006 to 2011. Comparisons of these types of violations across time and space will be helpful in describing how conservation officers spend some of their time and will assist the agency in determining if past and current directives have impacted enforcement priorities of officers. 


 Avi Brisman

Civic contradictions and criminalization in the management of everyday life

Since the early 1990s when first proposed by Lynch (1990), “green criminology” has been concerned with environmental crimes and harms affecting human and non-human life, ecosystems, and the planet as a whole.  Green criminologists have devoted the preponderance of their attention to illuminating and describing different types of environmental harm and to identifying the causes, contributors, and perpetrators of injurious activities, behaviors, and practices—from individual “ordinary acts that contribute to ecocide”(Agnew 2013) to business/corporate violations and state transgressions.  To varying degrees, green criminologists have also examined the presence of environmental injustices and the possibility of environmental justice (see, e.g., Brisman, 2008; Lynch and Stretesky, 1998, 1999, 2003; Lynch et al., 2002; Pellow 2004, 2013; Schelly and Stretesky, 2009; Simon, 2000; Stephens, 1996; Stretesky, 2003; Stretesky and Hogan, 1998; Stretesky and Lynch, 1999, 2011; Stretesky et al., 2003, 2011).   In “The indiscriminate criminalisation of environmentally beneficial activities” (Brisman (2010), I argued that green criminology needs to consider not just activities that harm the environment and that are unregulated or underregulated (such as those listed above), but also activities that are proscribed yet benefit the environment.  To support this assertion, I offered two examples of environmentally beneficial activities that are criminalized: (1) junk poaching, recyclable rustling, street scavenging, dumpster diving, and other forms of trash picking (which temper rampant production and consumption, and reduce the amount of garbage thrown into landfills and incinerators); and (2) pedicab driving in New York City (which serves as an environmentally friendly alternative to automobiles), little attention has been devoted to activities that are proscribed yet benefit the environment. 


 Chuck Fields

Economic Impacts of Marijuana Decriminalization in Kentucky

As we all know, marijuana production and use is currently prohibited by federal and state law and is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. Schedule I substances are categorized by the government as those with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use and no safe level of use even under medical supervision. Although local, state and federal laws vary substantially, it is illegal throughout the United States to possess or distribute any amount of marijuana for any non-medical reason (except for federally approved research). Some state do, however, recognizes the drug’s medical benefits by allowing patients with specified medical conditions to use marijuana with their physician’s recommendation. Kentucky currently has legislation proposed to allow marijuana to be prescribed for medical purposes, as well as for the cultivation and production of industrial hemp.  The number of marijuana arrests taking place in the United States each year has skyrocketed in the past few decades. Police made 853,838 arrests in 2010 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released late last year. The annual arrest total is among the highest ever reported by the agency and is nearly identical to the total number of cannabis-related arrests reported the year before. Today, nearly half (42 - 46%) of the annual drug arrests now involve marijuana.


 Kishonna Gray and A.E. Raza

Public Perception, Modern Racism and Anti-Immigration Policy:  Examining Racialized Discourse Surrounding AZSB1070 in Online News Forums

The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent of racialized discourse inherent in mediated discussions surrounding Arizona Senate Bill 1070 in online news forums. Specifically, we examine both overt and covert forms of racism, more commonly known as modern or symbolic racism. By employing critical discourse analysis, we examined the virtual public forum in two Arizona newspapers. By using the following coding categories, we identified instances of overt and modern racism present in the comments: economic threat/protect jobs; threat to public/protect welfare; federal laws are inadequate. We found that in fact, overt and modern racism was present in the comments posted in the days leading up to the passage of AZ SB1070. Public pressure led legislatures to pass this bill despite national and international criticism.


 Betsy Matthews and Kristie Blevins

Preliminary Observations from an Assessment of a Multi-Agency Response to Domestic Violence

The issue of domestic violence in the United States has received a great deal of attention over the past three decades.  While many acts of domestic violence go unreported, or are recorded as other acts such as simple assault (Buzawa & Buzawa, 2002; Ohlin & Tonry, 1989), it is estimated that about two million individuals—overwhelmingly women—are victims of this crime each year (Durose, Harlow, Langan, Motivans, Rantalla, & Smith, 2005; Johnson & Ferraro, 2000).  Many victims of intimate partner violence face not only immediate suffering from physical injury but also long-term psychological consequences (Brush, 1990; Dobash, Dobash, Wilson, & Day, 1992; Gradin, Lupri, & Brinkerhoff, 1998; Johnson & Ferraro, 2000).    A recent development in the response to domestic violence is the implementation of Coordinated Community Response Teams (CCRTs) designed to promote victim safety and batterer accountability.  Although the limited evidence concerning CCRTs’ capacity for reducing subsequent victimization is promising (Sullivan & Bybee, 1999; Sullivan, Bybee, & Allen, 2002), more research is needed to uncover the factors associated with a CCRT’s successful implementation, the way in which CCRTs change a jurisdiction’s response to domestic violence, and the impact that associated practices have on both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. In this report we provide a brief overview of the history of and research on CCRTs and describe a study we are conducting on a newly implemented CCRT in Madison County.  We then share some preliminary observations based on case file reviews, court observations, and victim interviews.


 Judah Schept

(Un) Seeing like a Prison: Counter-Visual Ethnography of the Carceral State

Building on work conducted through a 2011-12 School of Justice Studies Research grant, my work during the past year inquired further into the material and symbolic growth of incarceration in Kentucky communities. Consulting with photographer, Georgia State University Lecturer, and Kentucky native Jill Frank, I integrated visual methods into my inquiry and developed an analysis more attuned to the ocular-ideological work of mass incarceration in structuring the visual register of prisons in the landscape. My work occurred in diverse settings across the state, including a Bed and Breakfast I call The Guard’s Guesthouse,built on and in an old county jail and gallows and haunted by the ghosts of its former prisoners, and Appalachian towns aiming to recuperate deindustrialized economies through prison siting. It was in these rural communities that I observed prisons built on top of old farms, former sites of strip mining, and coal ash dumpsites, and heard the familiar refrain of prison growth as the only economic development alternative to a coal industry in its fourth decade of decline. Seeing the inseparability—physical, political economic, and cultural—between coal and prison in eastern Kentucky directed me to place both in the same analytical orbit. Both ‘dirty’ industries rely on the same people—literally—to perform their ‘dirty’ work in places that elude any kind of democratized gaze: under the ground, inside the mountain, and behind the barbed wire and walls. The prison’s place after and literally on top of coal—their historical, spatial, and economic continuity—suggests that the narrow narrative of rural economic development (which is itself a dubious tale that existing research contradicts) buries other stories that could be told about these two industries. In both Appalachia and the Guard’s Guesthouse, my research focused on the way that carceral ideology works through space and times to structure its own common sense.


 Tyler Wall

Securing Suspicion:  The Visual Economies and Vigilant Subjects of the US Security State

Haunted by the figure of insecurity and disorder, the contemporary US security state is increasingly asking and recruiting citizens to be vigilant in observing and reporting “suspicious activities.”  Central to this project is the fusing together of organized campaigns of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other public safety agencies that ask subjects to be the “eyes and ears” of the state.   For instance, in 2010 the DHS adopted from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NYMTA) a high-profile public relations campaign called “If you see something, say something.”  This program utilizes Public Service Announcements (PSAs) such as Hollywood-esque video commercials, glossy print advertisements, posters and flyers, and various reporting methods such as phone hotlines and cell phone applications.  The point is to encourage US citizens to identify and report people, things, or activities deemed “out of place” so that the authorities might better “secure” what DHS refers to as “hometowns” and “the homeland.”  Authorities in Los Angeles, California have developed a similar program called iWatch.  Likewise, the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security has launched the “Eyes and Ears on Kentucky” campaign, not unlike the “Eyes on Laredo” police campaign in Texas – both of which has designed and created an iPhone app so that citizens can more easily report their suspicions of terrorism and crimeas they go about their day.  In addition, the US Army has recently launched the iSalute program that encourages soldiers to report “suspicious activity” within their own ranks. 


 Judah Schept

Carceral Contours of the Commonwealth Representations of Mass Incarceration in Kentucky

Curiously little work has examined how communities relate to and through the dramatic rise of mass incarceration in the state and nation. While still in an exploratory phase, the present research investigates the material and symbolic representations of incarceration in Kentucky. Despite it’s early stage, this study has led to fascinating discoveries: a Bed and Breakfast constructed on and in an old county jail and gallows and haunted by the ghosts of its former prisoners; Appalachian mountain towns hit hard by both the departure of capital and natural disaster and yet sporting multi-million dollar new prisons; and online and print media that purport to show the faces of crime in the eastern part of the state. These encounters with the carceral state confirm the perspective that mass incarceration is a phenomenon that is both work—as in a set of material and symbolic products shaped by various relations of production—and is something that performs work—as in an active and dynamic set of logics and practices that inscribe themselves in public and private bodies.  In excavating some of the geographical and cultural contours of mass incarceration in Kentucky, this research aims to make visible the ghosts of racialized regimes past and the trans-historical and trans-local circulation of carceral logics and epistemologies that structure the contemporary empirical realities we observe, record, and analyze.


Here, in the bucolic backyard of the Bed and Breakfast, visitors - "inmates" or "offenders" as the proprietors refer to their guests - are treated to an amazing breakfast in the same location where the gallows once stood.


Two business on Main St. in an Appalachian town remain devasted in the middle of the summer after a late winter tornado wreaked havoc on parts of eastern Kentucky.  The town sits between two large state prisons, one just a mile and a half outside of town.  The other sits 20 miles up the road and is the state's most recent and technologically sophisticated prison, opened in 2005.  Together, these prisons cost the state $30 million annually to operate.


Kishonna Gray

Moral Panic, Race, and SB6:  Examining the Mediated Response to Kentucky’s Immigration Bill

The purpose of this research is to examine the extent of modern racism in mediated discussions surrounding recent anti-immigration legislation, specifically, Kentucky Senate Bill 6 (SB6).  Expressions of overt racism have almost all but disappeared in media and from public discourse generally (Entman, 1990).  However, researchers have found that racism still exists in many forms, both overt and covert (see Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986).  A particular arena where overt racist still permeates is virtual spaces where anonymity disinhibits individuals leading them to act in manner they would not in person.  This online disinhibition compels some people to say and do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do (Suler, 2004).


Ken Tunnell

Situating Eugene V. Debs Within the Criminological Canon

Eugene V. Debs is America’s most well-known socialist.  This preliminary report describes his biography, his politics, and his writings on crime and punishment.


Tyler Wall

Vertical Policing & Drone Enthusiasts:  A Qualitative &Theoretical Exploration of Unmanned Aerial Drones on the US Homefront

In the name of “security,” battlefronts bleed into homefronts as military technologies charged with the surveillance and maiming of foreign others “outside” national space are tasked with the surveillance and policing of domestic others on the “inside.”  This is perhaps most recently pronounced with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or military aerial surveillance drones, as they migrate from the securityscapes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to the “homeland” of the United States.  This exploratory research project traces the political and visual economies circumscribing the adoption of military drones by US domestic policing agencies as these security commodities extend the coercive looking practices of the US security apparatus.  The rise in the US of “unmanned” vertical policing highlights the ways in which security industries partner with the security state, including the local police, to promote, utilize, and fetishize a visual prosthetic of the aerial variety  that has proven so vital to US state violence abroad.  Although at the time of this writing (September 2012) unmanned vertical policing is yet widespread in the US and hence my analysis admittedly speculative and the research ongoing and still in-progress, the purpose of this project is to critically think through the prospective consequences of “domesticated” drones for routine forms of life at “home”.


Peter Kraska and Steven Chapman

Militarizartion and Contemporary Video Gaming

This project examines the influence of militarism, and the involvement of the U.S. military itself, in contemporary video gaming. The military’s involvement includes developing its own, free of charge, video game title used as a recruitment tool, employing a host of training games many of which are used to desensitize new soldiers to the war environment and the act of killing, and participating in numerous consulting and marketing activities associated with the most popular war-oriented games for mass consumption. Surrounding this direct involvement by the military is a massive and increasingly lucrative gaming industry that markets war and killing in a “realistic” yet intensely glorified manner.  Aside from documenting and describing in detail this phenomenon, we examine the macro-cultural and societal implications of this phenomenon.

Gaming     COD



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