Harsh Sentences

“Not failure, but low aim, is crime.” (James Russell Lowell 1819-1891). …and the Criminal Justice Undergraduate Summer Research Institute (USRI) team is aiming high. The Department of Criminal Justice is proud to say that its first year participating in the USRI at St. Ambrose is off to a compelling start!


Tonya hard at work!

Over the past three weeks, SAU senior Tonya Boots has been working with Dr. Grant Tietjen, learning how to use the SPSS database through the GSS (General Social Survey), to conduct a quantitative research study of her choice related to criminology. During the first two weeks, Tonya experimented with different variables that interested her, such as if children who receive medical treatment for behavior problems are less likely to get into trouble with the law later in life, or if courts are sentencing juvenile offenders too harshly. With the variables she found interesting, she created and examined crosstabs and correlation tables of these variables with demographic and socio-economic variables (i.e., age, highest education level, race, gender, and income).
So far, Tonya has found intriguing outcomes in the crosstab tables she constructed that report 4% of white people believe courts sentence criminals too harshly compared 14% of blacks who believe courts are sentencing criminals too harshly. Also, Tonya has found that as a person’s income increases, they are somewhat more likely to think that courts are not dealing with criminals harshly enough.

Dr. Tietjen and Tonya examining the data

Dr. Tietjen and Tonya examining the data

Tonya is now in the process of finding articles related to her topic on if juvenile delinquents are more likely to be sentenced more harshly as an adult in adult criminal court. By the end of this week, Tonya will have constructed introduction and literature review sections, thus writing the beginning of her final research paper. In the remaining three weeks, Tonya will interpret and write-up the results of her statistical analysis of GSS data. This process will include constructing tables to include in the methods and results sections of her report (i.e., descriptive table, crosstab tables, and correlation tables). Finally, Tonya will discuss her results, integrating relevant literature and research from her literature review into her discussion section of her paper, and work on constructing an academic quality presentation.

Dr. Grant Tietjen
Tonya Boots


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