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MACJ students partner with BPD and Plymouth IPS

May 9, 2013


MACJ Capstone Presentation 2013

Bill Massey thanks Interim Chief
Tim Norris and Sandra O'Brien
of Plymouth Probation for their
collaboration on the IPS project.

Students in Curry College's Master of Criminal Justice (MACJ) program recently partnered with the Boston Police Department (BPD) and the Plymouth Intensive Probation Supervision (IPS) Court to consult on burglary prevention and recidivism analysis projects.

Cohort teams from Plymouth and Milton reported their findings to an audience of faculty, staff, family, friends, and representatives from partnering agencies during a Capstone Presentation held in the Keith Auditorium in Milton on May 9, 2013.

Photo Gallery: MACJ Capstone Presentation, May 2013

The Capstone is the final course of the MACJ curriculum, whereby students apply what they've learned toward a real-world situation.

"Students learn the foundation of criminal justice science and apply a problem-solving approach to address a contemporary criminal justice issue, while community agencies benefit from collaborating with an academic partner," explained MACJ Co-Director Dr. Rebecca Paynich in her opening remarks.

Plymouth Students Assess "Drug Court"

The Plymouth cohort conducted an evaluation and assessment of the Plymouth IPS Court, also known as "drug court".  They sought to learn if evidence exists to show reductions in re-offense by IPS Court participants compared to non-participants, and to determine if program resources are being used efficiently.

Presentations included Bill Massey providing an overview of the project objectives, Flojona Desroches speaking to the existing relevant literature , Brian Cranshaw reporting on process evaluation  which chronicled the program's design strengths and weaknesses , and Kevin Manuel detailing the outcome evaluation which examined IPS Court participant success rates with a matched sample of offenders

"We did find statistical significance when comparing IPS graduates to the comparison group," said Kevin Manuel.  "The key variable here is graduating IPS.  IPS graduates will recidivate less than a similarly situated probationer."

In his address on resource allocation, Bill Massey reported that "Research revealed that currently allocated resources of the program are being used very efficiently...our objective then shifted to finding ways to make a good thing better." 

Among their recommendations, the cohort suggested an increase in the frequency of IPS meetings - something that Judge Rosemary Minehan of the Plymouth Court later acknowledged as she took to the podium.

"This study has helped us so much understand what it is we're doing and given us positive ideas on how to improve what we do - we're in the process of meeting more often," said Minehan.

Minehan was cited as key to the program's success, often using positive reinforcement in her leadership role. It was Minehan's frequent phrase "worth its weight in gold" - a comment she made to IPS participants who had stayed sober for extended periods of time-which served as the inspiration for a coin presentation led by cohort member Laura Lincoln.

"In addition to a diploma, the court could also provide graduates of the IPS program with a small coin, a small token of success that they could carry with them at all times to continually remind them of their great strides." These coins are similar to military challenge coins or AA chips.

The Curry College Plymouth Cohort and several local businesses and organizations partnered together to provide funding for the IPS ''worth its weight in gold'' challenge coin, a symbol to represent that the community supports IPS graduates and are behind them in all their future endeavors.

Bill Massey noted that the diversity of his fellow cohort members was a great advantage in conducting the project.  He said researchers in the cohort represented a cross section of ages and ethnicities with a variety of backgrounds in law enforcement and correctional occupations including patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants, detectives, treatment center coordinators, substance abuse professionals, and social insurance specialists.

"One aspect of our project that I'm most appreciative of - is the professional development opportunity that came from our group working together. We discovered that our professions not only gave us a unique view of drug and alcohol issues, but also that they cross paths with much more frequency than we realized," said Massey.

"I now have a much better understanding of how other agencies serve the justice system. This project better connected us as professionals, better informed us as concerned citizens, and likewise as professional students. It made us more effective as researchers ‑ and I'm happy to report - closer as friends."

Milton Students Assist BPD in Burglary Prevention

The second Capstone presentation of the evening featured a burglary prevention project: the Milton cohort analyzed three years of burglary data for the Allston-Brighton area.

"Burglary is the #1 Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Part 1 type crime in that district," said Sergeant Sam Silta of the Boston Police Department, who provided an introduction for the Milton cohort.

An alumnus of Curry College, Sgt. Silta was assigned the task of coming up with a set of best practices and a plan of action to combat the issue of burglary in the Allston-Brighton area. His resourcefulness led him back to Curry to form a partnership.

"The best part about [our partnership with] Curry College is the fact that its graduate program consists mainly of practitioners who can take theory and apply it in an everyday fashion."

Michael Whittaker reported on the review of criminological theories to answer three key questions: Why do criminals pick certain areas to commit their crime? Why are some homes targeted more than others?  How do criminals know which homes to burglarize?

The notion of "predictive policing" was further emphasized with a report from Carrie Hormanski. She and her team applied their skills in coding and inputting data (including the arduous task of cleaning the data) and geocoding the data utilizing several programs including Excel, SPSS, and ArcGIS. Students then completed a thorough spatial and statistical analysis of the burglary problem. The students subsequently followed up on this work by employing a CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) analysis, observing hotspot and non-hotspot areas, and recording and coding the observation data for analysis.

Bret Labelle provided details on how the quantitative research was utilized in real-life scenarios.  The team visited hotspot area properties, while also conducting interviews with property owners and tenants to provide a deeper understanding of the problem.

Franklin Davis concluded the Milton cohort's presentation by detailing several of the overall recommendations for policy to help make the neighborhood safer.

MACJ Program Capstone Illustrates Reflective Practice

Both the Milton and Plymouth cohort teams completed their projects with the goal of becoming "reflective practitioners."

MACJ Program Co-Directors Dr. Rebecca Paynich and Dr. Jennifer Balboni, along with other faculty recently updated the MACJ curriculum to include the Capstone course to incorporate the group work.  The new curriculum reflects  advances and innovations of the field as well as the challenges within criminal justice in the 21st century.

"We wanted to enhance our program on the bedrock of a reflective practitioner model," said Dr. Balboni. "The model asks those of us working in the field to engage in a process of reflection to improve upon what we do as professionals in criminal justice - to be better at what we do and to be more humane in the pursuit of justice."


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