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Westminster College Students and Professors Present Research at The American Society of Criminology Conference

Monday, December 9, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Two Westminster students and two professors presented research at the American Society of Criminology (ASC) Conference Nov. 21 in Atlanta.

"Probation and Recidivism - Does Everyone Come Back?" was co-presented by student Kirsten Hess; Dr. Kristenne Robison, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice studies; Dr. Shannon Smithey, associate professor of political science; and alumna Jennifer Duvall `12.

Twenty years ago reformers argued that the criminal justice system should move away from the sharp dichotomy between imprisoning criminals and releasing them on probation with minimal supervision. They recommended a series of intermediate punishments, such as fines, house arrest, and mandatory treatment programs, which they hoped would help reduce criminality. This group's study explores the implementation of such intermediate punishments in a typical probation office and the effects that such punishments are having. The results of their longitudinal analysis challenge the statement made by a probation officer that "everyone comes back."

Hess, a senior sociology/criminal justice major, is a daughter of Cynthia Hess of Johnstown and a graduate of Westmont Hilltop High School.

Robison, who joined the Westminster faculty in 2009, earned an undergraduate degree from Baldwin-Wallace College, master's degrees from Ohio State University and Syracuse University, and Ph.D. from Syracuse University.

Smithey, who has been with Westminster since 2003, earned undergraduate degrees from Southern Methodist University and a master's and Ph.D. from Ohio State University.

"`Eight in the Gate´: Organizational Impact of Prisons on Correctional Officers" was presented by student Tricia Johnston. This study examines interviews with correctional officers, investigating ways that the organizational structure of prison has impacted their personal and professional lives. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections employees were asked questions about their career paths leading them into corrections, the negative and positive aspects of their jobs, their relationships with coworkers and management, and their lives outside of the prison.

Their reflections were analyzed under four themes that were found: prison environments, interactions with staff, the role of management, and being a correctional officer.  None of the participants the exact same attitudes toward their job, but many of their experiences were similar.

Johnston, a senior sociology/criminal justice major, is a daughter of Korryn Berlin of Tionesta and a graduate of West Forest High School.

Contact Robison at 724-946-6033 or email for additional information.

Sociology/criminal justice majors Kirsten Hess and Tricia Johnston presented at The American Society of Criminology Conference.