The Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice is dedicated to engaging in research and education that intersects with policy and practice, specifically, in the areas of sentencing, probation, and parole. Each year, staff at the Robina Institute look forward to reuniting with other scholars studying these areas at the American Society of Criminology to ensure that Robina Institute research is informed by the most current findings. And, like many other attendees at the conference, we are eager to spend time exploring another city and catching-up with friends and colleagues we don’t get to see very often.
The Robina Institute is involved in many research activities that are designed to inform criminal justice policies and practice. For example, we partner directly with criminal justice agencies to help them understand their systems better by providing research and analysis support. The parole revocations project is an example of this, where we partner with a parole board/commission to research and analyze the revocations process, then develop recommendations to reduce revocations and improve parole supervision policies. Another essential way to use research to improve policy and practice is to develop and disseminate public reports on the lessons learned and research findings discovered in the course of our work at the Robina Institute. These reports are designed for practitioners, policymakers, and the community to read and learn about new findings in the field. In addition to partnering with criminal justice agencies directly and sharing research findings in accessible reports, the Robina Institute contributes to the policy, research, and practice of criminal justice by communicating with other attendees at conferences who are conducting similar research or working in the field. The American Society of Criminology (ASC) provides a great venue to accomplish this.
This year, faculty and staff from the Robina Institute are presenting a variety of papers on topics related to sentencing, probation, and parole. On Wednesday, November 15, Alexis Watts, Ed Rhine, and Kevin Reitz will present “A Comparative Analysis of Release, Supervision, and Revocation in Systems Without Discretionary Parole.” On the same day, a panel exploring risk assessment at sentencing will include the following papers: Richard Frase and Kelly Mitchell “Criminal History and Recidivism: How Well Does the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Criminal History Score Predict Risk of Reoffending?”; Julia Laskorunsky, “The Relationship Between Risk of Recidivism and Sentencing Outcomes”; and former Robina Research Fellow Rhys Hester “Prior Record, Offender Age, and Recidivism Risk.” On Friday, Richard Frase is leading a roundtable “Prior Record Sentencing Enhancements and Prison Racial Disproportionalities” with other discussants who also conduct research that examines racial disparities in sentencing. Finally, on Saturday, November 18, Ebony Ruhland, former Research Director and current University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice faculty member is presenting “Probation Conditions: Do They Serve the Purpose of Probation?” These presentations draw on the expansive research the Robina Institute has been conducting in the areas of sentencing, probation, and parole. Additionally, the research examines the impact of policy and practice on important criminal justice issues while also contributing to the academic knowledgebase.
ASC is a valuable opportunity for researchers to come together and disseminate their work. The panels allow us who conduct criminal justice research to share our current analyses and findings, while interacting directly with an audience of other scholars engaging in similar efforts. The panels are a great opportunity to share how our findings may impact the field or allow us to exchange ideas with others studying similar topics. So often, we are left reacting to the studies we read in journals and publications, but at the conference we can hear questions and input in the moment. We can also attend other panels of researchers from around the world and glean important developments on sentencing, parole, and probation.
While we know that ASC allows us to connect with other researchers in academia, we also value the opportunity to engage with staff who work in criminal justice agencies and in organizations working with policymakers. As researchers, we often spend a lot of time focusing on the state of the field by considering how we might replicate a study or test a criminological theory. However, it is not very often that we get to present and converse with those who have responsibility for understanding our research and translating it into policy and practice. There are many attendees at ASC who come from sentencing commissions, departments of corrections, parole boards, probation departments, and other agencies. The staff at these agencies are the individuals who know first-hand what the limitations to our research are because they are often tasked with implementing our findings. Finally, we are fortunate that there are policymakers out there who are interested in staying up-to-date on the research so they can use it to inform and craft criminal justice policies. ASC also provides an opportunity for us to share and translate our research into policies. We also get to learn from policymakers the very challenges and questions that they face implementing the findings and recommendations from our research. Often, when we conduct research we design our studies as a result of funding proposals or datasets we have access to. We are not always aware of the questions that decision-makers and practitioners have about our scholarly work. Fortunately, we are able to come together at ASC to discuss the intersection of research, policy, and practice.
We look forward to seeing researchers, practitioners, and policymakers at ASC so we can learn more about the state of the field in sentencing, probation, and parole. And, we hope you take advantage of some opportunities to learn more about the research developing with the Robina Institute – we have a lot to share!