In my programs of research, I take a multidisciplinary approach. Particularly, I draw from the fields of criminal justice, law and society, psychology, and public policy. I use a policy lens to examine one central issue: legal decision-making. Specifically, how do citizens and criminal justice actors navigate the legal system?
My research focuses on two interrelated issues, often pertaining to the implementation and evaluation of programs and policies: (1) Court and Adjudication Processes and Practices, including plea bargaining and sentencing, court and legal reforms, indigent defense, pretrial services and diversion practices, and law enforcement programs and practices; and (2) Individual Differences in the Criminal Justice System, including juvenile justice issues, racial bias and inequalities, gender differences in legal decision-making, and sexual assault policies. These areas of study address citizens’ access to justice, criminal justice actors’ and defendants’ decision-making, policy reforms, cultural sociology, and inequalities in the criminal justice system. My published work appears in peer-reviewed journals, law reviews, white papers, magazines, and book chapters. I have also collaborated on six grant-funded projects, with a central role on three. Almost all of the projects I have worked on have been funded by federal or state grants, which has been quite educational. And if you’re interested, you can check out summaries of my publications here.
Before graduate school, I worked as a research analyst for Control Risks, a securities and investigations firm. Prior to that, I worked as a research assistant for Hennington and Associates, a trial and jury consultation firm.
Currently, I am a Senior Research Assistant and Research Assistant Supervisor for the Counsel at First Appearance (CAFA) Project, which is funded by a grant awarded by the National Institute of Justice (Award NIJ2014-IJ-CX-0027): “Early Intervention by Counsel: A Multi-Site Evaluation of Counsel at First Appearance” (PI: Dr. Alissa Pollitz Worden, University at Albany, SUNY; Co-PI: Dr. Andrew L.B. Davies, NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services). This project examines the implementation of individualized CAFA programs in six upstate NY counties, which include rural and urban jurisdictions, and assesses the impact of CAFA on direct and indirect legal and extralegal outcomes. If you would like to learn more, check out the UAlbany Press Release on the CAFA Project, its amazing research interns, and our recent paper about the impact of not being represented by counsel at the first court appearance on misdemeanor bail and pretrial detention decisions.
(UAlbany Press Release, October 23, 2018; Photo by Patrick Dodson)
I am also a Research Analyst for the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc. (Director: Dr. Robert E. Worden; Associate Director: Dr. Sarah J. McLean), where I conduct research analysis and consultation for three separate projects: (1) the Family Court Needs Assessment and Feasibility Evaluation study, funded through a New York state-level grant, uses focus groups, court observations, surveys, interviews, and legal research to understand the needs of assigned counsel providers (attorneys, staff, and administrators) and indigent defendants when representing them in family court (Project Supervisor: Dr. Alissa Pollitz Worden); (2) the Police Interactions with Victims of Violence project, funded by NIJ, analyzes the nature of police-victim and police-citizen interactions by coding incident characteristics and citizen roles, including the behaviors of officers and victims in a sample of incidents based on in-car, dash cam recordings (Project Supervisors: Dr. Robert E. Worden, Dr. Sarah J. McLean, and Ms. Danielle L. Reynolds); and (3) the Supervisory Coaching of Law Enforcement project, supported by a grant awarded from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, examines the potential of body-worn cameras to enhance the performance of the supervisory role. This project uses body-worn camera recordings to conduct systematic social observation coding of police-citizen interactions (Project Supervisors: Dr. Robert E. Worden, Dr. Sarah J. McLean, and Ms. Danielle L. Reynolds).
Prior to joining the CAFA Project in Spring 2015, I was the Research Lab Project Director for the Modeling Decision-Making in the Legal System (MoDiLS) Lab (Lab Director: Dr. Allison D. Redlich), and was responsible for managing the MoDiLS Labs’ ongoing research projects and research assistants. I was also the Graduate Research Assistant for Dr. Allison D. Redlich’s NSF-funded experimental research project “Creating and Transferring Knowledge on Guilty Pleas,” the second phase of which examines juvenile and young adult plea decision-making. After data collection for that project was completed, I worked as the Graduate Research Assistant for the NSF-funded Research Coordination Network (RCN) on Understanding Guilty Pleas (PI: Dr. Shawn D. Bushway; Co-PIs: Dr. Allison D. Redlich, Dr. Brian D. Johnson, and Dr. Anne M. Piehl). The explicit goal of this RCN is to foster new research on the process that generates guilty pleas and is organized around three research cores: the prosecutorial decision-making core (by modeling the process that generates plea bargains), the defense decision-making core (to understand the defendant’s and defense attorney’s role), and the workgroup decision-making core (by modelling organizational influences).
My dissertation research examines plea decision-making through a ‘courtnography’ (court observations of county, city, and town and village courts and conversations with members of the courtroom workgroup) and semi-structured interviews with defendants, defense attorneys, and prosecutors to investigate how they perceive and understand the choices and imperatives with which they are faced as they navigate the legal system. The focus of this research is to triangulate and examine the factors affecting, and rationales underlying, the plea decision from the points of view of the defendant, defender, and prosecutor. This research and its resulting materials are based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #1625527. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
For a copy of my CV, click here.
If you do the Twitter thing, here’s mine: @CJSresearcher