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Volume 12 Issue 1

Decision making of inmates: Testing social information processing concepts using vignettes.

Bowen, K. N., Roberts, J. J., & Kocian, E. J.

Empirical research has established social information processing (SIP) theory as a prominent theory of youth aggression. However, little research on the theory exists in the criminological research. The purpose of this study is to conduct a partial test of SIP theory on a sample of 330 adult offenders using vignettes. Specifically, utilizing hierarchical generalized linear modeling (HGLM), we examine self-reported situational decision making (anger, intentions, goals, and response generation) and person-level variables (anger and hostile attribution bias) in predicting reported outcomes to high risk for violence vignettes. Results indicate that SIP and anger variables are important to further examine with the adult criminal population.

Correctional officers and work-related environmental adversity: A cross-occupational comparison.

Trounson, J. S., Pfeifer, J. E., & Critchley, C.

This study explores differences in perceived work-related environmental adversity between correctional officers and those in other occupations in order to gain a clearer understanding of how prisons may impact those who work there. The Work-Related Environmental Adversity Scale (WREAS) was developed in order to assess the perceptions of employees across a range of occupations, including correctional officers. The instrument was completed by 440 participants and, as hypothesized, results indicate that correctional officer perceptions of work-related environmental adversity were significantly higher than the perceptions of those employed in all other occupations assessed (with the exception of police and emergency service workers). Further analyses of sub-scales indicated that correctional workers identify a number of specific environmental factors that impact their perceptions and subsequent well-being. The results of this study identify the importance of empirically assessing occupational workplace adversity as a component of the overall understanding of correctional officer well-being.

The impact of knowledge of defendant's character present in pretrial publicity varies by defendant race.

Mannes, S.

Pre-trial publicity may interfere with a defendant's Sixth Amendment right by producing bias in jury decisions. As such, it has been the focus of a plethora of experimental studies. The present research investigated the role of positive and negative pre-trial publicity containing information about the defendant's character. Participants viewed a photograph of a white businessman and read one of three sets of fictitious newspaper articles accusing him of murdering his wife. They then rated the defendant's guilt and recalled what they could about the trial. In the first study, negative pre-trial publicity about the defendant's character (e.g., greedy) was shown to increase ratings of guilt and to be associated with increased perceived guilt for an unrelated crime. Positive pre-trial publicity (e.g., generous) did not decrease ratings of guilt when compared to a neutral, crime-irrelevant condition. Negative factual information was recalled more often than positive information, and recall was greater in the negative pre-trial publicity condition. In a second study, the photograph of the defendant was of an African American businessman. In that study, positive pretrial publicity was shown to decrease ratings of guilt beyond that of the control condition. Negative facts were no more likely to be recalled than positive facts, and recall in the negative pre-trial condition was only marginally greater than in the positive pre-trial publicity condition. Differences in findings for the two races are interpreted with respect to aversive racism, stereotypes, and disfluency.

Changing students' perceptions of people with mental illness.

Frailing, K., & Slate, R.

Research reveals negative attitudes toward people with mental illness among the general public and among people who work with this group. However, there is a dearth of literature on criminal justice and criminology students' attitudes toward this group. The present research reports on the measurement of criminal justice and criminology students' attitudes toward people with mental illness before and after a class on the criminalization of this group. Results reveal significantly more positive attitudes toward people with mental illness at the conclusion of the class. These results are encouraging; current criminal justice and criminology students are likely to encounter people with mental illness in their future field or academic work, and more positive attitudes are an important step in stigma reduction.