Crime & Justice

The Rose Institute has an active research program on criminal justice topics, led by Rose Faculty Affiliates:  Joseph M. Bessette, the Alice Tweed Tuohy Professor of Government and Ethics in the Government Department at CMC; Jennifer Walsh, former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of Political Science at Azusa Pacific University; and J. Andrew Sinclair, Assistant Professor of Government at CMC.

How Many Americans Support the Death Penalty (Results of National Surveys in 2019 and 2020)
by Joseph M. Bessette and J. Andrew Sinclair | 2021 June

IN THE NEWS: Bessette-Sinclair article in Real Clear Policy on Capital Punishment


Professors Joseph Bessette and Jennifer Walsh directed students in the following projects that focused on crime and public policy:

Time Served in State Prisons for Serious Offenses 1981-2009
by Lane Corrigan’17 and Wesley Whitaker’18 | 2018 October

This report focuses on the severity of the punishment inflicted by measuring the length of time served in state prison before the inmate’s first release from his prison sentence. After collecting data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP), we compiled graphs to display and analyze the changes in the criminal justice system over the last two decades.

A Broken Justice System: Examining the Impact of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and Public Law 280
by Sophia Helland’20 | 2018 April

Since 1953, the United States government has taken deliberate aim at decreasing crime on Native American reservations through a variety of legislative and regulatory efforts. One of the most recent and significant pieces of legislation was passed in 2010: the Tribal Law and Order Act. The Act had far-reaching implications for criminal justice reforms on tribal lands, but little research has been done on the act, particularly pertaining to states that have criminal jurisdiction over law enforcement and crime prevention on reservations in place of the federal government. The aim of this paper is to examine how the Tribal Law and Order Act has been implemented in California and provide context for its successes and failures by gathering crime statistics for a select group of reservations to gauge whether there the Act has been successful at decreasing crime. The county sheriffs’ departments responsible for tribes with their own courts or police were contacted for statistics, as these tribes would be most affected by the Act. This paper will begin by explaining the legislative history of justice reforms on tribal lands in Section I, then discuss how California has implemented the Act and how tribes have responded to it in Section II. Section III outlines the data collection and methods used. Section IV presents the findings of this research. Read more…

Three Strikes Analysis: Comparison of Offense Types in Urban Counties
by Jessica Jin’16, Katie Hill’18 | 2016 May 5

In 1994 California voters enacted the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” initiative in response to the murder of Kimber Reynolds. Spearheaded by Reynolds’ father, the initiative focused on imposing life sentences for crimes if the defendant had two prior convictions that fell under California Penal Code definitions of “serious” or “violent.” Although this initiative passed with an overwhelming majority, growing controversy over the disproportionate impact on defendants who had committed low-level felonies prompted voters to enact Proposition 36 in 2012. This initiative eliminated
a major feature of the law that triggered strike sentences for non-serious and non-violent felonies.

The purpose of this report is to analyze the data we have compiled to determine which county among the top ten most populous is responsible for the most two and three strikers (as a percentage of the population) for each offense category. This allows us to examine whether there are observable differences in how the Three Strikes sentencing law is distributed across urban jurisdictions. In addition, we examine the short-term effects of Proposition 36 on the distribution of offense types within the two- and three-strikes population.  Read more…

Three Strikes Analysis: Urban vs. Rural Counties
by Jessica Jin’16 | 2016 May 3

The Three Strikes Law, originally titled Three Strikes and You’re Out, was passed by California voters in 1994 with an overwhelming majority. The law attempted to isolate career criminals by
imposing lifetime sentences for conviction of their second or third offenses. Under the law, offenders with one serious or violent felony conviction would face a doubled sentence upon conviction of any second felony, and offenders with two serious or violent felonies would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25-years-to-life for any subsequent felony offense. In 2012, voters passed Proposition 36, which narrowed the strike zone for the third strike, requiring that also be serious or violent.  Read more…

Three Strikes Analysis: Second and Third Striker (Offense Category)
by Andrew Nam’15, Jessica Jin’16 | 2016 April 29

This research project builds a database, using reports published by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, to examine the type of sender typically sentenced under the Three Strikes law. In our analysis, we look at the distribution of the second and third striker population across different crime categories from 2001 to 2015. Examining the crime categories (Crimes Against Persons, Property Crimes, Drug Crimes, and Other Crimes) allows us to analyze how Three Strikes treatment differs for serious crimes and less serious crimes. We expect to find that there are more second strikers than three strikers incarcerated for less serious offenses since the punishment for a second strike is shorter and less severe.  Read more…

Three Strikes Analysis: Demographic Characteristics of Strike Offenders
by Jessica Jin’16, Francesca Hidalgo’17 | 2016 April 26

Although crime rates did fall after the Three Strikes law went into effect, analysts expressed concern that statute might negatively impact racial and ethnic minority groups. Men and racial and
ethnic minorities are overrepresented in California’s correctional system when compared with the general population and it was unknown whether the Three Strikes law would exacerbate this effect. In the following report, we seek to assess whether Three Strikes contributes to the overrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities and whether the racial/ethnic characteristics of the second and third strike offenders have changed over time. Read more…

The Crime Funnel
by Elise Hansell ’15, Charlotte Bailey ’16, Nina Kamath ’16, Lane Corrigan ’17 | 2016 April

A crime funnel is a succinct way to display the likelihood that the commission of a crime will result in an arrest, a felony conviction, incarceration (in a local jail or state prison), and imprisonment. While every serious crime should ideally result in the conviction of the offender and the imposition of an appropriate sentence, there is a drop-off at each stage of the process because not all crimes result in an arrest, not all arrests lead to a felony conviction, and not all convictions result in an appropriate sentence. Together, these drop-offs can be displayed as a graph in the shape of a funnel. Read more…