Statistical Analysis Centers Win Awards for Outstanding Publications

JRSA Forum. December 2012. Volume 30, Number 4.

SACs in Minnesota, New Mexico, Utah, and West Virginia were awarded JRSA's Douglas Yearwood National Publication Award, which recognizes outstanding efforts by SACs to publish useful and high quality reports. Awards are given to a large SAC (five or more full-time staff) and a small SAC (fewer than five full-time staff) in each of two categories: Statistical/Management and Research/Policy Analysis.

In the Statistical/Management category, West Virginia won in the large SAC division for Assessing the Validity of Hate Crime Reporting: An Analysis of NIBRS Data, written by Stephen M. Haas and Erica Turley of the SAC, and James J. Nolan and Jake Stump, West Virginia University. The purpose of the research in this report is to examine the degree to which classification error impacts the statistical accuracy of hate crime, as reported in official law enforcement statistics. The researchers randomly selected cases, which were included in the state's statistical data files, from designated offense categories for a detailed review of the officer's written narrative of the incident. According to the authors, "though this approach has been applied to examine error across general crime types, no study to date has systematically focused on a crime category as widely believed to be underreported as hate crimes." In addition, a focus group was held to gain insight into the thought processes used by frontline officers when they are deciding whether a specific incident constitutes a hate crime. One of the goals of the report is to use this information for training officers on the reporting of hate crimes.

Judges were enthusiastic in their praise for Assessing the Validity of Hate Crime Reporting. One judge said, "The report was clear, concise and to the point. The authors did a great job describing the methodology and issues." Another judge commented that, "A lot was done in a small space, providing a good model of terms and methodology for other states working with NIBRS and with hate crimes. It had a good mix of examples, qualitative and quantitative, with appropriate nuance given to considerations of each, and effectively used 'triangulation' to reinforce each approach's findings . . . solid work."

In the small SAC division, there was a tie: Minnesota won for Youth in Minnesota Correctional Facilities and the Effects of Trauma: Responses to the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey, and Utah received an award for Utah Crime Survey 2010: Victimization & Perceptions.

The Minnesota report was written by Dana Swayze and Danette Buskovick, and explores how youth in Minnesota correctional facilities who report having experienced trauma on the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS) are similar to or different from those who do not. In addition, the responses of a matched sample of youth who have the same age, gender, and racial attributes as the youth in correctional facilities but who took the MSS in a mainstream school are analyzed for their experiences with trauma. One judge commented on the importance of the topic and how the criminal justice "trauma-responsive" policies were described. Another judge appreciated the rec- ommendations in the conclusion of the report, and another commented on the clarity of the report: "The explanation and illustration of how to interpret the data and graphs/charts were much appreciated and easy to follow."

According to Utah Crime Survey 2010, written by Ben Peterson, the Utah SAC conducted the victimization survey (the fifth since 2000) to better understand the nature and extent of crime in Utah as well as public opinion on the topic of crime, such as respondents' perceptions of crime in the community, causes of crime, fear of crime, personal risk, and specific crime issues such as gangs. The survey also attempted to assess the impact of victimization, reporting of crime, and the use of services. The survey covered crimes that occurred between May 2009 and May 2010. Judges liked how the information in this publication was presented; there was a brief narrative for each section followed by more detailed footnote-like bullets. They also appreciated that an explanation of the methodology and demographic characteristics of respondents were in the appendix. Said one judge, "This report was very reader-friendly and can likely be understood by an array of audiences."

In the Research/Policy Analysis category West Virginia was the large SAC winner again for Helping Others Pursue Excellence in Public Schools: Assessing the Impact of Hope CDC's Mentoring Program, and New Mexico took the small SAC award for New Mexico's Transition from Prison to Community Initiative: A Gaps Analysis.

The West Virginia report was written by Stephen Haas and Erica Turley, and describes the results of an impact evaluation of the HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Excellence) mentoring program, an initiative designed to improve the academic performance and behavior of at-risk youth by providing mentors in typically underperforming schools. The study goal was to assess if the program contained elements that would suggest the potential for program success. In addition to describing the HOPE program, discussing the methodology for the evaluation, and examining the results, this report also reviewed prior research studies involving mentoring programs, and based on these made recommendations on how to improve the design of the HOPE program. The judges commented on how important this piece of the report was. One judge wrote, "The authors did an excellent job of reviewing the literature and showing the importance of the topic they were researching. They followed the lead of previous work and used a strong research design to evaluate the program." Another remarked that, "The research is effective in addressing prior weaker research designs, and methods."

New Mexico's report, written by Kristine Denman, Lisa Broidy, Ashley Gonzales, Tomas Segovia, Dale Willits, Paul Guerin, and Tony Ortiz, highlights current progress toward, and outlines key gaps in, implementation of the Transition from Prisons to Community Initiative (TPCI) within the prison system in New Mexico. The national TPCI model, which aims to improve reentry success among prisoners, differs from other reentry models. The primary differences are the emphasis on risk reduction rather thanrisk management, collaboration within and across multiple agencies at many levels, and commitment of state government and leadership within the corrections agencies. The report documents the significant efforts made to implement reentry reform within New Mexico prisons and includes recommendations to facilitate the goal of fully implementing the model, emphasizing activities that should occur in the institutional setting. The report is accompanied by a separate Executive Summary, which was praised by the judges, one of whom noted the robust length of the full report. Another judge wrote, "This analysis was comprehensive, exceptionally organized and well written. The authors went into great detail on best practices and clearly identified the gaps in the program. They also made detailed recommendations on how the state could improve their program."

The awards were announced during JRSA's Annual Business Meeting webinar on October 17. For more information on the awards and links to the publications, go to www.jrsa.org/awards/publication-awards.htm.