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Seed Grant Projects

The following projects are those which have been supported through Criminal Justice Research Center seed funding. Some are currently being supported through external funding, others are currently seeking external funding.


Changes in the Age Structure of Rural Offending in Pennsylvania and Their Impact on the Age-Sentencing Relationship
Dr. Jeffery Ulmer (Professor of Sociology and Criminology and Criminal Justice Research Center Faculty Affiliate) will focus on assessing whether and how changes since the early-mid 2000s in Pennsylvania’s proportional age distribution of rural arrests, especially for drug crimes, have affected age-related sentencing patterns in rural Pennsylvania county courts.
How Family Members are Impacted by Opioid Addiction
Dr. Jennifer Murphy (Commonwealth Faculty Affiliate at Penn State Berks) will assess how individuals have managed opioid addiction in their family. Qualitative interviews with family members who have been impacted by opioid addiction will illuminate the methods that they have used to cope with addiction issues and related problems, including stigma.
Public Perception of White-Collar Crime Offenses and Punishments
Dr. Miranda Galvin (PA Commission on Sentencing Postdoctoral Scholar) will conduct a public opinion survey about white-collar crime together with Dr. Matthew Logan (California State University, San Bernardino). The survey will tap into public conceptualizations of “white-collar crime” and beliefs about the appropriate punishment for white-collar offenders using a multifactorial vignette design.
Women and Opiate Involved Violations in Rural Communities: Gendered Profiles and Pathways
Drs. Pamela Wilcox with Darrell Steffensmeier (Professors of Sociology and Criminology and Criminal Justice Research Center Faculty Affiliates) will establish offense profiles for opiate-involved violations overall as well as profiles associated with different types of opiates and also establish law violations for opiates and non-opioids.


Actionable Assessment of Effectiveness of Community versus Case Processor Models of County Prosecution in Addressing Opioid Epidemic in Pennsylvania and New Mexico
Drs. Darrell Steffensmeier (Sociology and Criminology), Jeffery T. Ulmer (Sociology and Criminology) and Noah Painter-Davis (University of New Mexico, Sociology) will document the epidemiology of opioid epidemic in rural and semi-rural counties in Pennsylvania and New Mexico using multiple markers of opioid abuse, identify models of county-prosecutor response/s to the Opioid Epidemic –including “community” versus “caseprocessing,” and assess the impact of variation in prosecutor responses on actionable outcomes.
Doing Time? A Life-Course Approach to the Prison Experience
Drs. Holly Nguyen and Tom Loughran (Sociology and Criminology) will examine the incarceration experience through a life-course approach and patterns of in-prison experiences are associated with post- release outcomes.
Improving Education Outcomes for Justice-Involved Individuals: Toward A Behavioral Outreach Campaign
Drs. Royel Johnson (Higher Education and African American Studies) and Kelly Rosinger (Higher Education) will assess the feasibility of designing, implementing, and evaluating an outreach campaign to improve educational outcomes for justice-involved individuals. The outreach will focus on reducing informational, behavioral, and psychological barriers that justice-involved individuals face in reentering their communities and pursuing education.
Moral Institutions and Judicial Sentencing
Drs. Eric Silver (Sociology and Criminology) and Jeffery T. Ulmer (Sociology and Criminology) will measure the influence of judges’ moral intuitions on sentencing outcomes and submit a proposal to NSF’s Law and Social Sciences Program aimed at extending the pilot study to include a larger sample of judges from across PA.
Pennsylvania Active Shooter Preparedness
Dr. Lacey N. Wallace (Department of Criminal Justice, Penn State Altoona) will address public perceptions of mass shootings, by collecting data from Pennsylvania residents. Topics to be examined include public awareness, public beliefs about policy effectiveness, media consumption, self-protective measures, and perceived risk, as well as variation by community context. The study will also investigate the degree to which views vary by subgroup, including differences between parents and non-parents, between rural and urban areas, and between students and non-students.
Read to Your Child/Grandchild: Family Literacy for Incarcerated Parents in Pennsylvania
Drs. Esther Prins (College of Education) and Anna Kaiper (College of Education) will examine experiences and perspectives of incarcerated fathers in the Read to Your Child/Grandchild (RYCG) program at an SCI. This study will help inform potential outcomes of a family literacy program such as RYCG and examine which of these outcomes are most salient for inmates and their families.
RiseUptown: A Comprehensive Community Collaboration to Reduce the Adverse Effect of Poverty on Urban Adolescents
Drs. Martha Wadsworth (Professor of Psychology and Criminal Justice Research Center Faculty Affiliate); Jonathan Lee & Siyu Liu (PSU-Harrisburg, School of Public Affairs); Jarl Ahlkvist (Sociology and Criminology) will evaluate the efficacy of the RISEUP program in reducing youth crime and violence in Harrisburg.
Understanding Patterns of Terrorism using Social Networks and AI- Machine Learning
Drs. Diane Felmlee (Sociology and Criminology) and Scott Sigmund Gartner (School of International Affairs) will merge social network analysis with artificial intelligence to develop new ways to analyze terrorism data in order to identify factors that drive terrorist-based, criminal violence.


Effects of Permanency on the Adult Criminality of Former Foster Care Youth
Dr. Sarah Font (Assistant Professor of Sociology) will ascertain whether, and under what circumstances, adoption produces superior outcomes as compared with aging out of care among youth who enter the foster care system as adolescents.
Evaluating the Harms of Adolescent E-Cigarette Use
Drs. Jeremy Staff (Sociology and Criminology) and Jennifer Maggs (Health and Human Development) will rigorously test negative sequelae of adolescent e-cigarette use (Including delinquency) in the context of early life child and parent risk factors, and examine whether these risk factors exacerbate or attenuate potential harms of e-cigarette use on combustible cigarette use and other health risk behaviors.
Illuminating the Opioid Drug Crisis in Pennsylvania: Trends, Patterns, and Correlates of Drug and Opioid Law Violations across Rural and Urban Pennsylvania Counties from 2000 to the present
Drs. Darrell Steffensmeier and Jeffery Ulmer (Professors of Sociology and Criminology and Justice Center for Research Faculty Affiliates) will provide an assessment of the patterns and trends in opioid-drug law violations over the 2000-2017 period across a rural-continuum of counties in Pennsylvania as based on major markers of opioid abuse and/or social control responses to this abuse: arrests, convictions, imposition of intermediate punishments (e.g., treatment programs), and incarcerations.
Linking Accidental Overdoses to Medical Professionals and Pharmacies: A Population-Based Social Network Analysis
Drs. Oren Gur (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, PSU Abington) and Glenn Sterner (Justice Center for Research Postdoctoral Scholar) will provide needed insight into the relationship between legitimate dispensations of prescription opioid painkillers via medical professionals and pharmacies, and fatal overdoses from opioids.
Mechanisms of Firearm-Related Family Violence
Dr. Amy Marshall (Associate Professor of Psychology) will build a foundation for a uniquely externally-valid examination of two alternative mechanisms by which firearms may contribute to violent behavior: psychological priming and threat reactivity.
The Ethics of Policing
Dr. Eduardo Mendieta (Professor of Philosophy, Associate Director of the Rock Ethics Institute) will provide an interdisciplinary and international conference on the ethics of policing that brings together political scientists, criminologists, philosophers, legal experts, and others. The Rock Ethics Institute will host this conference September 20-22, 2018, at PSU’s University Park Campus.