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West Virginia researchers win top honors


West Virginia researchers win top honors


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia criminal justice researchers have again swept national awards that recognize outstanding efforts to inform justice policy.


The Statistical Analysis Center (SAC) at the Division of Justice and Community Services won both categories of the Douglas Yearwood National Publication Award for 2018 from the Justice Research and Statistics Association.


The agency is part of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (DMAPS). Its team was honored by their peers for evaluating the Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) Program and for measuring contacts between minority youth and the state’s juvenile justice system. The resulting reports were each published in January, and won in the research-policy analysis and statistical-management categories, respectively.


“The intelligence, research, and education provided by Justice and Community Services gives all West Virginia first responder agencies an edge in preventing and fighting crime,” said DMAPS Secretary Jeff Sandy. “I assure the public that every day, Governor Justice and every agency within DMAPS perform outstanding services to keep West Virginia safe from both foreign and domestic threats to our way of life.”


West Virginia’s PRO program goes beyond the widespread practice of assigning law enforcement to schools. It trains and certifies officers to “prevent students from committing crimes, mentor youth, provide a safer environment, improve student attitudes and knowledge of criminal justice, and combine safety and child advocacy,” that report noted. The researchers examined three years of data from all but eight of West Virginia’s 238 middle and high schools, with 87 of those hosting a PRO during at least one of those years.


The resulting analysis found that schools with PROs present for all three years had lower rates of violent crime and disorder than schools that did not have a PRO. The researchers also found that the presence of a PRO during any of those years increased the number of both reported drug crimes and out-of-school suspensions for drug crimes.


One of the judges praised the report in the scoring sheets for its “clear explanation of the statistical techniques used and rationale for using them” and “good discussion of policy implications of findings,” adding that it had no weaknesses worth mentioning. “Easily the best paper I reviewed,” another judge wrote.


The report “Measuring Disproportionate Minority Contact in West Virginia’s Juvenile Justice System” concluded that minority youth are more likely than white juveniles “to be arrested, detained, adjudicated, and placed in secure residential facilities.” The researchers also found that minority youth were less likely to receive probation or a diversion from the normal filing of formal charges.


“The total number of minority juveniles experiencing arrests, detentions, and adjudications has declined significantly in recent years, but these decreases have not reduced racial disparities in rates of justice system involvement,” this report said.


The researchers crunched numbers for 2016 reflecting nine different indicators of contact with the juvenile justice system. The judges found the results “very effectively done” and with “a more concise and pleasing visual format.”

Excellent that you have highlighted some areas for lawmakers/policymakers to ponder,” one judge commented in the scoring.


The SAC competed among similar agencies with five or more full-time staff. It previously won both categories in 2012, 2014 and 2016.  Winners are ineligible to enter in the same category the following year.


Both reports are available online:


·         An Evaluation of the Prevention Resource Officer Program in West Virginia Middle and High Schools


·         Measuring Disproportionate Minority Contact in West Virginia's Juvenile Justice System


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