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Justice Center Supported Projects

The following projects are those which been supported through the Justice Center Faculty Resource Program, or which Center staff are otherwise involved in. Some are currently being supported through external funding, others are currently seeking external funding.

Pennsylvania State Police TRIAD Program

Prescription pain relievers and heroin (opiates) abuse is a growing epidemic in the United States. Of all drug-related overdose deaths in 2013, 43% were due to prescription opioids and 22% were due to heroin, representing an increase of over 300% since 1999 (NIDA, 2015). In Pennsylvania, opiate overdose rates have increased over 470% over the past two decades, and the state now ranks 7th in the US for drug-related overdoses (Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 2014). Additionally, over half of all arrests in Pennsylvania in 2014 involved heroin (Center for Rural PA, 2014). The cities of Harrisburg and York were recently ranked 25th and 33rd, respectively, amongst the most dangerous cities to live in the US (NeighborhoodScout.com, n.d.). During the last three years, drug-related deaths increased 69.05% in Dauphin County (which houses Harrisburg) and 69.64% in York County (which houses York). Due to the critical and prevalent nature of this issue, we are proposing an innovative project – the TRIAD program – that will disrupt the flow of these illegal substances into our communities through three components: increased patrols, technological advancement, and community partnerships.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigators: Pennsylvania State Police
  • Co-Investigators: Jennifer Gibbs, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice Program, Penn State Harrisburg; Jonathan Lee, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice Program, Penn State Harrisburg; Glenn Sterner, Post-Doctoral Scholar, Justice Center for Research, Department of Sociology and Criminology, ges5098@psu.edu

About the Project

  • Proposal to the Bureau of Justice Assistance

Project Details

To combat the rise in drug-related crime and deaths, PSP will utilize Smart Policing Initiative FY2016 Competitive Grant (SPI) funds, under Purpose Area 1: Smart Policing Innovation, to develop “The Triad Program.”  The Triad Program (TRIAD) is a mitigation strategy driven by arrest and overdose data, to be evaluated for effectiveness by the research partners at Penn State University, utilizing measurable performance metrics.

TRIAD will synchronize innovative enforcement strategies, driven by cutting-edge technology, while leveraging information received by community input and outreach, along with police-gathered intelligence.  TRIAD is named for the three main component parts that will be brought to bear on the problem of drug-related crime and deaths: Incident Response Team, Technological Dashboard, and Community Partnership.

The TRIAD program will be assessed through a quasi-experimental design using Harrisburg City and York City as target areas, and two respective comparison areas which will be determined based on demographic characteristics.  Pre-intervention and post-intervention data collection will be implemented through PSP database sharing and resident surveys at both the target and comparison areas.  Crime analysis will deliver hot-spot identification and examine situational factors associated with high odds of criminal incidents.  Surveys will shed light on individual perceptions of drug activities and police enforcement, among others.

Project Objectives

  1. Mitigate overdose rates in York and Harrisburg and their surrounding counties.
  2. Increase disruption of opiate distribution networks through increased surveillance and arrests.

Implications

This project has great potential for sustainability after the SPI funding period.  Once the Technical Dashboard is purchased, PSP will have the resources to continue the TRIAD program.  Additionally, the PSP Commissioner has encouraged police-researcher partnerships to ensure evidence-based practices, and Penn State Harrisburg has a commitment to promoting evidence-based practices in policing.  Further, PSP has networks and influence with other jurisdictions across the Commonwealth, and PSP fully intends to introduce the TRIAD program to other areas if it is effective.  This includes presenting the project at various regional and national conferences (e.g., IACP, Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association).  Finally, the research partners will attend academic conferences and produce academic publications to disseminate results to the academic community, who can promote the TRIAD program to other jurisdictions.

Project Products

  • BJA Grant Proposal submitted April 12, 2016 for $697,473

Incentives and Money Generating Activities

This is a pilot project that seeks to understand the relationship between legal employment, informal employment and money generating criminal activities. Specifically, we are interested in how various sources of income overlap and the incentive structures associated with these sources.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Holly Nguyen, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology (hollynguyen@psu.edu)
  • Co-Investigators: Jeremy Staff, Ph.D., Gary Zajac, Ph.D. Derek Kreager, Ph.D., Thomas Loughran, Ph.D. (University of Maryland)

About the Project

  • Seed funding was provided by the Justice Center to support the collection of pilot data.
  • External funding will be sought to expand the scope of this work.

    Research Questions

    The project is driven by three main research questions:

    1. What are the patterns associated with participation in legal employment, informal employment and money generating crimes?
    2. How are earnings from legal, informal and crime related to participation in each?
    3. How are perceptions of rewards (monetary, intrinsic and social) associated with participation in legal, informal, and money generating criminal activities?

      Project Details

      • This project will focus on interviewing selected inmates within a State Correctional Institution in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
      • Inmates within the selected institution will be recruited for participation in the summer of 2016.
      • This project has the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

        Implications

        • Results from this project have the potential to inform 1) theories on decision making and desistance from crime 2) the design of policies that increases the efficacy of custodial and noncustodial employment programs, and 3) improve the general understanding of offenders’ conceptualizations of “work".

        Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills (BaSICS) Program

        This is a randomized control trial to study BaSICS, a program designed to teach low-income and racial/ethnic minority youth healthy ways of coping with stress, develop positive personal and cultural identities and engage in efforts to strengthen their communities.

        Project Team

        • Principal Investigator: Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D., Department of Psychology (mew27@psu.edu)
        • Co-Investigators: Mark Feinberg, Ph.D. (PSU), Jarl Ahlkvist, Ph.D. (PSU), Gina Brelsford, Ph.D. (Penn State Harrisburg), and Damon Jones, Ph.D. (PSU)

        About the Project

          • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) awarded Penn State $2,800,000 to support this project for the period May 2016 – April 2018 and May 2018-April 2021 pending successful completion of the first two years’ goals.
          • Testing the efficacy of BaSICS for promoting adaptation among at-risk preadolescents.
          • Seed funding was provided by the Justice Center to support the development of the funding application.

          Research Questions

          • Does BaSICS lead to acquisition and use of adaptive individual and collective coping strategies?
          • Do children who complete BaSICS show improved physiologic stress regulation in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) in comparison to children who do not receive the intervention (control)?
          • Do children who complete BaSICS show lower levels of anxiety, PTSD, and depression than control children at post-test and follow-up?  Are improved coping skills and HPA regulation mechanisms of these differences?

          Project Details

          • Conduct pre- and post-intervention and follow-up assessments measuring proposed mechanisms that contribute to maladaptation in youth facing adversity, including regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and acquisition of adaptive ways to cope with chronic, uncontrollable stress (SAM).
          • Implement and evaluate BaSICS using a randomized control trial.

          Implications

          • Findings will elucidate how psychosocial interventions can improve preadolescents’ physiologic regulation, how long-lasting such changes are, and the extent to which physiologic change is necessary and/or sufficient to prevent anxiety and depression in at-risk youths.
          • There are important implications of this work for eradication of income- and race-based health disparities.