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  SAC Spotlight:  Vermont

Research Projects

A sample of research projects in which the VCJR is currently involved include the following:

Race and Sentencing in Vermont
In light of concerns about differential treatment of African American defendants by the criminal justice system in Vermont, this study examines issues surrounding the effect of race on sentencing practices in Vermont. The following three research questions are the focus of this project: 1) When compared to white defendants, are African American defendants sentenced to more restrictive sentences in terms of sentence type and/or sentence length?; 2) When compared to white defendants, do African American defendants who are sentenced to the supervision of the Department of Corrections serve longer periods of time in prison and/or receive services in more restrictive environments?; and 3) If disparate sentencing patterns and/or disparate service patterns exist for African Americans, what variables included in the study design explain the disparity?

Developing a Statewide Capacity for Program Evaluation
Major hurdles to conducting evaluation research to support evidence-based programming include the lack of sufficiently experienced criminal justice researchers in Vermont and the cost of evaluations. The VCJR is working to develop a statewide capacity in the State of Vermont to conduct cost-effective criminal justice evaluation research by: 1) developing a strategy to enhance collaborative criminal justice evaluation research among social science researchers statewide; and 2) providing technical assistance and training to criminal justice program staff to assist them in collecting and analyzing program data for evaluation purposes.

Evidence-Based Programs for DUI Offenders
The Vermont legislature continues to wrestle with the issue of reducing the number of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) incidents in Vermont. In light of the interest in evidence-based programs in Vermont, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee requested that the VCJR conduct a national literature review of evidence-based programs that have been successful in reducing recidivism for DUI offenders. The literature review will include a report to the legislature.

Treatment Court Control Group Outcome Evaluations
The VCJR is working to evaluate two treatment courts in Vermont using a quasi-experimental, matched-group design methodology. The post-program behavior of Treatment Court participants will be compared with the post-program behavior of subjects who did not participate in the program but are matched to program participants on 14 criminal history and demographic variables obtained from the subjects' criminal history record.

Chittenden County Rapid Intervention Community Court Process Evaluation
The VCJR is conducting a process evaluation for this innovative pre-charge, rapid intervention program managed by the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office. The process evaluation will involve an analysis of the program's policies, procedures, and documentation along with interviews of program staff, service providers, and clients to identify the key program elements necessary for replicating the program with fidelity.

Statewide Criminal Justice Cost-Benefit Analysis
The VCJR introduced legislation this legislative session to create a Justice Cost-Benefit Working Group. The Group will work collaboratively to develop a criminal and juvenile justice cost-benefit model for the State of Vermont which will be used to estimate the costs related to the: 1) arrest, prosecution, defense, adjudication, and correction of criminal and juvenile defendants; and 2) victimization of citizens by defendants. The Group will be convened and staffed by the VCJR. S.1 has passed the Vermont Senate and is currently under discussion in the Vermont House of Representatives.

Disproportional Minority Contact
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) requires states participating in the formula grants program to "address juvenile delinquency prevention efforts and system improvement efforts designed to reduce, without establishing or requiring numerical standards or quotas, the disproportionate number of juvenile members of minority groups who come in contact with the Juvenile Justice System." The goal of this project is to conduct a formal study to explore whether there are indicators of disproportional minority contact at three points in the juvenile/criminal justice system -- referrals to Juvenile Court, Adult Court, and Court Diversion -- and to examine the relationship between Court Diversion and Community Justice Center "pre-charge" referrals in three counties (Bennington, Chittenden, and Rutland).

Evidence-Based Policing
With increasing demands from the public for government to be more effective and transparent, it is imperative for law enforcement to develop operating models which are based on evidence-based practices. The Vermont Center for Justice Research (VCJR) is currently conducting a program of training, planning, technical assistance, and ongoing dialog with law enforcement agencies statewide to assist them to develop evidence-based policing strategies, programs, and curricula.

Sentencing Recommendations
The VCJR is working in cooperation with the Vermont Supreme Court to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether an automated set of sentencing recommendations based on the seriousness of the offense, risk, and probability of recidivism can be developed and implemented in Vermont. The study is based on the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission's statewide on-line sentencing tool. The VCJR is currently conducting the statistical analysis to develop the policy decisions necessary for the sentencing matrixes. The analysis focuses on five crimes prosecuted in Vermont District Courts during a two-year period. During this phase of the project the VCJR is evaluating the availability and quality of data which would be required to generate sentencing recommendations similar to those used in the Missouri model.

NIBRS Data: A Bridge to Understanding Domestic Violence Criminal Case Processing and Sentencing
The purpose of this project is to merge NIBRS data with court data to determine: 1) the extent to which citations to appear vs. custodial arrests affect sentencing outcomes in domestic violence cases in Vermont; and 2) the extent to which the gender differences in domestic violence sentencing in Vermont are related to characteristics of the crime. By extending earlier studies conducted by the VCJR using NIBRS data merged with court data, the VCJR hopes to illustrate the usefulness of NIBRS data for informing analysis of criminal court case processing and sentencing practices.

Domestic Violence Homicide Reduction Demonstration Initiative
The VCJR was recently named as a research partner with Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to develop a needs assessment and evaluation design to support this grant. The VCJR will work to identify gaps and strengths in addressing homicide reduction in Rutland County through a comprehensive needs assessment. The VCJR will also work to establish and strengthen collaborations with criminal justice, domestic violence, legal services and other community stakeholders.

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