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 2013-2014 awards. Please note that some of these projects are ongoing and will be updated as the projects progress.


Avi Brisman, MFA, JD, PhD

Water Security and Governance:  An Exploration of Emerging Issues in the Twenty-First Century

Water pollution, whether from point sources (e.g., 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) or non-point sources (e.g., quotidian stormwater runoff), exhibits local, national, regional and global dimensions, and constitutes one of the most pervasive threats to global ecological health.  Inadequate access to safe and sanitary supplies of freshwater causes over three percent of all human deaths worldwide and is the leading cause of death for children under five years old (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). Although developing nations bear the brunt of insufficient access to clean water, problems of accessibility are less likely to impact the developed and post-industrial world unless they affect agricultural production (e.g., droughts that crippled Midwestern U.S. farmers in 2012) or recreation (e.g., the closure of unsustainable golf courses). Thus, water pollution and access to clean water are often conceptualized as problems with different socioeconomics and geopolitics; while pollution is conceptualized as a problem affecting the Global North, issues of access are conceptualized as primarily impacting the Global South. This distinction, though, is likely to blur as a result of ongoing processes of globalization and the unique challenges brought about by climate change, demanding that new conceptual approaches be taken that reflect emerging water issues and related concerns.



Collins, Victoria, PhD and Pujol, Melissa, BS

Secrets Exposed?:  Selective State Concern and the Prosecution of “Notorious” Arms Trafficker Viktor Bout

Estimates indicate that there are approximately 875 million small arms in circulation worldwide (United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs 2013), manufactured by one thousand different companies, and located in nearly one hundred countries (Small Arms Survey 2013). Small arms are defined as “civilian, private, and military weapons that fire a projectile with the condition that the unit or system may be carried by an individual, a small number of people, or transported by a pack animal or a light vehicle” (United Nations General Assembly 1997). They are used by a wide array of actors involved in various criminal enterprises including, but not limited to, insurgents, drug lords, street gangs, pirates, as well as “traditional” street criminals (United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, 2013).  Viktor Bout, made famous by the 2005 Hollywood movie Lord of War, and nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,”is a Russian born private arms dealer who was apprehended in Bangkok, Thailand in 2008, for offenses related to arms trafficking. Most often associated with brokering arms deals in Sub-Saharan Africa, Bout has been accused of “making a career of arming bloody conflicts and supporting rogue regimes across multiple continents, [and] even using the US banking system to secretly finance a private fleet of aircraft” (Bharara as cited in Gendar 2010). Bout, and his network, are said to have supplied arms to many countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan, and Bosnia (Control Arms 2006).


Gray, Kishonna, PhD

The Dilemma Facing Law Enforcement in Policing or Protecting Immigrants in Kentucky

The purpose of this research is to examine the perception of police and law enforcement administrators towards anti-immigration policies.  Specifically, this research sought to uncover the conflict that may exist between law enforcement policing immigrant populations and also having to protect them from victimization.   The present study builds on this literature by exploring the perspectives of law enforcement officials in Kentucky through their proposed anti-immigrant policy, Senate Bill 6 (SB6).  Although SB6 was not passed into law, the support for this type of law suggests a need to examine the issue further.  Additionally and most importantly, because of the punitive nature of Kentucky’s bill, police perception needs to be gauged in order to assess the feasibility and logic behind a bill of this magnitude.


Schept, Judah, PhD

Picturing the Careceral Landscape: Ideology, Industry, and Impending Prison Growth in Appalachia

In eastern Kentucky, prisons built on top of coalmines and marketed through a familiar refrain of rural economic development suggest their place as the economic future of the region. Using this dubious claim as a point of departure, my work examining sites of prison growth has suggested that the landscape of the region can be mobilized to confirm this rather narrow narrative but also can be understood, through a particular counter-visual approach, as narrating a much broader material history of the uneven development that has resulted in the contemporary carceral moment. In the 2013-2014 SJRP grant cycle, I broadened my analysis to include the possible future carceral landscape alongside its durable present. The central Appalachian region is already home to 16 prisons, half of which are in eastern Kentucky. Despite the saturation of facilities, the political and legislative attention to prison reform, and the mounting evidence that prisons do not, in fact, bring the rural economic development that they promise, eastern Kentucky may well get its 9th prison imminently. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is considering building its fourth facility in eastern Kentucky and has narrowed down six potential sites to one: a 700 acre plot in Upper Mountain County, KY that would straddle and consume multiple private properties.[i] As Upper Mountain County awaited (and is still waiting on) the results of the BOP’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS), the site under consideration offered a fascinating opportunity to conduct a historical and cultural geography of place with an informed eye towards it probable carceral future.


Soderstrom, Irina, PhD, Blevins, Kristie, PhD, and Owen, Brenna, BS

Assessing Mental Health and Substance Abuse Needs and Services among Jail Inmates: A Two-Phase Study of a Local County Detention Center

It has been well-established that the deinstitutionalization movement that began in the 1960s has resulted in unfortunate outcomes for persons with mental illnesses, as well as the criminal justice system (Slate, Buffington-Vollum, & Johnson, 2013). Stated briefly, the deinstitutionalization movement instigated the closure of state mental hospitals in favor of community-based treatment for individuals with mental illnesses (Lamb & Weinberger, 2005). The movement also brought about some procedural changes, including more stringent standards and processes for involuntary commitments to mental health treatment facilities (Race, Yousefian, Lambert, & Hartley, 2010).  Unfortunately, because of issues such as funding and a lack of local support, most of the

expected local treatment agencies did not emerge. Consequently, a multitude of individuals were released into the community with nowhere to turn for needed mental health services (Slate et al., 2013).  Today, there continues to be a shortage of community mental health treatment services available, especially for individuals who do not have medical insurance or for those who have a criminal record (Slate et al., 2013). Left untreated, individuals with mental illnesses might act out in ways that draw the attention of law enforcement.  Ultimately, many of these persons are arrested and processed through the criminal justice system. Upon release, the cycle—arrest, jail, court, jail or prison, release—is likely to start again and repeat many times without proper treatment (Freudenberg, 2004; Lamb & Weinberger, 1998).


Wall, Tyler, PhD

The Bloody Teeth of the Law:  The Police K-9 Unit as Terror as Usual?

The police K-9 unit is a common feature of most modern police departments. Yet despite the important roles the police dog plays in the routine operation of state power there has been little critical discussion of this beastly form of police power. For the 2013-2014 school year, I received a SJRP grant called the “The Bloody Teeth of the Law: The Police K-9 Unit as Terror as Usual?” This project was envisioned as an exploratory project that would engage the police K-9 through historical, political, and theoretical investigations. The goal is to unpack what the police dog might tell us about the cultural and political dynamics of state power in the administering of capitalist order. My specific focus was to be on the politics of the police K-9 bite. Interestingly, the contemporary police dog is most often associated with the sniffer dog, or the “drug dog” that sniffs out drugs from a personal vehicle. Yet the police dog also is tasked with the violent function of pursuing and apprehending suspects through sinking its teeth in human flesh.


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