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Few would dispute that in advancing corrections, or progressive criminal justice policy more generally, we should be guided by ‘evidence’. We keep hearing the refrain that what we do should be evidence-based. But what evidence should we be using, where is it, how do we find it, and how do we try to understand it. A major disconnect in the field is that ‘what we know’ is published mostly in academic journals, read mostly by other academics and researchers. But evidence is of little value unless it is understood and put into action. What we know has difficulty becoming ‘what we do’ if it can’t be easily digested and appreciated by practitioners, managers, policy-makers and other corrections and criminal justice professionals.
For years now this challenge has been taken up by the Criminology Department at the University of Toronto with an initiative under the direction of Dr. Anthony Doob, one of the most noted criminologists in Canada. The idea is simple – scan academic journals for interesting (and sometimes controversial) research findings and summarize these studies in a way that can be easily absorbed and appreciated by non-researchers. Dr. Doob and his colleagues and graduate students have been providing this invaluable service for quite some time and their work deserves further dissemination.. In the latest edition of ‘Criminological Highlights’ (Volume 15 March 2016) the topics summarized include:
1) Where do gangs get their guns?
2) What kinds of strategies can the police use to reduce crime in specific neighbourhoods?
3) Can employment programs for those being released from prisons reduce reoffending?
4) Who has a bigger effect on criminal sentences: the judge or the prosecutor?
5) Can we assume correctional programs that sound as if they should be effective will do no harm?
6) How do risk assessments affect the pretrial release process?
7) Did the softening of drug laws in Portugal change dramatically drug use in that country?
8) How do different types of conservatives differ in their views of the police?
Back issues of Criminological Highlights can be found on the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies website. http://criminology.utoronto.ca/criminological-highlights/.
We hope you enjoy reading some ‘evidence’ on topics you might be interested in.
In addition to announcing future editions of Criminological Highlights in this section of the ICPA e-Bulletin, members of the ICPA Research & Development Expert Group are committed to providing their own short summaries of research that can be turned into action! Stay tuned in.