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Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

NSF REU Site: Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in the study of Disparities in the Criminal Justice System (DCJS) is a 10-week summer program that engages 9 selected undergraduate students with faculty and graduate students from the department  in research addressing the role of race/ethncity, class, and gender in explaining criminal behavior and understanding criminal justice practices. The DCJS-REU site is funded by the National Science Foundation with a goal of advancing undergraduate student interest in research (Award #: 1851955). The program aims to introduce students to the prospect of graduate school and foster evidence-based practices among the next generation of academics, lawyers, policymakers, and practitioners within criminal justice.

The application for the 2023 summer program is now closed. Finalists will be contacted in the next couple of weeks to schedule a virtual interview. We plan on releasing decisions by the first week of April.

The main objectives of the DCJS-REU site are to provide program participants with opportunities to ask compelling research questions and recognize how studies can inform our understanding of crime and criminal justice polices. We seek to achieve this objective by

  • Exposing students to the research process through mentoring from faculty and graduate students
  • Providing first-hand experiences in conducting research
  • Offering students opportunities to learn how to disseminate research findings, including involvement in an undergraduate research symposium and work on a publishable paper
  • Enhancing learning and skill development through discipline-specific training, university workshops, and interactions with criminal justice professionals
  • Focusing on participation from underrepresented students, including racial/ethnic minorities, women, and first-generation college students
  • Preparing students to apply and attend graduate programs or work in the field of criminology/criminal justice or related fields

Those selected for the program will serve as junior researchers on one of three research teams. They will also participate in enrichment activities and workshops to supplement the research experience, including opportunities to interact with criminal justice professionals and researchers, as well as GRE preparation. Students will engage in several social and cultural activities (e.g., lunches hosted by the department, recreational trips, concluding ceremony).

Each student will receive a stipend of $500 per week (for at total of $5,000) plus money for travel ($500) and meals ($1,000). We will also provide on-campus housing for the duration of the program.

There are a total of three research teams, with 3 students selected to serve on each team.

Assessing the Relationship of Social Determinants of Health Disparities and Firearm Violence

Research has examined the adverse health outcomes related to various social determinants of health (SDOH). Importantly, this scholarship highlights that residents within certain areas/neighborhoods are more (or less) likely to suffer from adverse SDOH. However, scholars have yet to document the connection between SDOH and firearm violence. Guided by multiple theoretical frameworks, this study will geospatially examine concentrations of both adverse SDOH and firearm violence within block-groups across the state of South Carolina. Students will collect incident-level data (e.g., suspect/victim demographics, firearm types) of violent firearm events that occurred within South Carolina. Next, students will collect socio-demographic and SDOH data from various data sources. Data will be used to identify the clustering of both firearm incidents and SDOH across spatial areas. Additionally, analyses will identify the SDOH that predicts firearm victimization. This multi-disciplinary study will assess which areas are “doubly disadvantaged,” whereby residents suffer from both adverse SDOH and firearm violence.

The faculty mentor for this project is Dr. Hunter Boehme.

Evaluating Sentiments Toward Reallocating Funds from Policing Post-George Floyd

Some scholars would suggest that there is a current legitimacy crisis in policing. In the context of several controversial police-involved deaths over the past years, discussion has mounted as to whether there should be a reallocation of funds from policing to other crime prevention services. Various public opinion polls have assessed this issue to gauge public receptivity. This project will consider public sentiment regarding reallocation of police money using survey data taken from a national sample of US citizens in the summer immediately following George Floyd’s murder. Students will assess levels of support found for reallocation of funds at that time, as well as concerns respondents expressed if funds were to be reallocated. Students will also determine whether there are differences in sentiments across race/ethnicity.

The faculty mentor for this project is Dr. Christi Metcalfe.

Processing Domestic Violence Cases: Examining the Influence of Court Actors

Domestic violence is a considerable problem in the United States, yet there is limited research examining the processing of court cases. One notable gap involves our understanding of how domestic violence cases may vary by the court actors involved in the case (e.g., prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and victim advocates). The existing research suggests that prosecutorial experience, victim advocate role, and attitudes may play a part in understanding how domestic violence cases are processed. For the current project, undergraduate scholars will develop a better grasp of the literature on domestic violence case processing and the importance of examining court actors. As part of a larger mixed-methods study on domestic violence case processing in South Carolina’s 14th Circuit Court, the current project will focus on the possible influence of court actors on case outcomes and decisions. 

The faculty mentor for this project is Dr. Barbara Koons-Witt.

Prospective sophomores and juniors from around the U.S. are encouraged to apply, although all students who will still be enrolled in their undergraduate institution in the fall of 2023 are eligible to apply and will be considered (this includes seniors who are not graduating before fall of 2023). We are particularly committed to expanding the participation of groups underrepresented within criminology and criminal justice graduate programs, including racial/ethnic minorities, women, and first-generation college students.

Applicants must be

  • Undergraduate students in good standing
  • Enrolled as undergraduate students at their home institution in the spring and fall of 2023 (i.e., students graduating before December 2023 are not eligible)
  • U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents of the United States
  • Willing to relocate to Columbia, South Carolina for the full 10 weeks

Student participants will be required to fully participate in all aspects and activities of the program.

In order to apply,

  • Complete and submit the application (the application for Summer 2023 is now closed).
  • Notify two people of your choosing to write letters of recommendation (you will be asked to provide their names and emails in the application and separate emails will be sent directly to them with a form to upload their letters).

After the selection committee reviews the applications, finalists will be contacted for a phone or Zoom interview.

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