USA Today cites tPP

We’re very proud to see that the amazing work of our student researchers was quoted today by USA Today in their article, “AOC says she gets death threats after organizations air ‘hateful messages’ about her”.

We hope to be a resource to media, policy makers, researchers and advocates in the years to come as our data set grows and improves!

Have a question we can answer, let us know?

So what do tPP team members do?

As we begin recruiting for the next class of tPP students, I have been receiving a lot of emails asking what exactly being part of the team entails. Well, in the fall, tPP will be ran through SJS497 where we will learn data science and methodology skillsets in the classroom each Tuesday, and then practice them in the classroom each Thursday. For example, on a Tuesday we may learn how to verify a newspaper story via locating and interpreting a criminal indictment, and on Thursday, use that approach to verify and complete various cases under analysis.

Throughout the semester we plan to cover a wide range of tasks, including but now limited to:

  • Coding cases: This is one of the main tasks of tPP. This involves studying a particular criminal case, collecting the necessary source documents (e.g. Case Docket, Indictment, Criminal Complaint, Plea Agreement, Sentencing Memorandum, newspaper article) and then translating these texts into codes from our code book. For a bizarre cartoon explaining Qualitative Coding, check this out. Like all tPP skills, this will be taught in class and then practiced in a workshop style
  • Checking, improving and verifying cases already in our system. This is especially important as cases change–defendants are sentenced, fugitives are captured and tried, and arrests continue to occur
  • Helping to identify new cases for inclusion through reviewing and monitoring services of the Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, FBI and others.
  • ‘Scraping’ and ‘mining’ texts from large documents to help locate new cases for inclusion and to ensure all appropriate cases are counted
  • Evaluating cases marked for exclusion through investigating the facts of the cases and working them through a decision tree
  • Evaluating documents for accuracy, authenticity and reliability; rep-lacing poorly scoring sources with better sources
  • Reviewing the work of your fellow coders, providing peer-review and intercoder reliability and helping to refine the code book
  • Refining the data for analysis which involves ‘cleaning’ the data, shifting its format, exporting/importing and learning how to work with the materials in SPSS, R, Tableu, GIS and a variety of other tool suites.

So if this sounds like you, get in touch with us. Check out this post for information on SJS497 and the application process.

tPP’s brand new tri-fold pamphlet

Here at tPP, we believe in communicating. We want to be in communication with scholars, with journalists, with policy makers and anyone who would like to engage with complex questions. To that end, we have recently completed designing a tri-fold pamphlet in conjunction with Nando Zegarra, Kendall Erickson, and the folks at Miami University’s SLANT Marketing & Design.

We’ve already put these into the hands of a few noted scholars, a few students, and a reporter or two. We plan to use them to better communicate to students about the opportunities the project offers, and to make direct appeals to incoming students, and other prospective coders, analysts and team members.

To check it out, click here: tPP tri-fold pamphlet

tPP crunches the numbers for news report

In what we hope will be a recurring pattern, tPP was contacted by a reporter investigating threats against elected officials. Since we have a rather unique data set, we were able to provide the investigator with a quantitative breakdown of our relevant cases, as well as speak to him on the phone to provide context, background and help frame the data.

You can see the great reporting here: https://qz.com/1578862/arrests-for-death-threats-against-us-politicians-rose-in-2018/

You can also see the great findings and analysis report provided by tPP Steering Committee members Athena Chapekis and Lauren Donahoe here: tPP report on threatening public officials

tPP forms its Fall 2019 team!

Hello current & future tPP team members!
We are excited to announce that we will continue to build, refine and analyze the tPP data set this fall through a new course, SJS497, which Miami University students are welcome and encouraged to enroll in to serve on the project for the Fall 2019 semester.
This is a very exciting time to join the project as our completed case count nears 1,700, our first publications are about to come out, our Advisory Board forms, and our social media presence is getting more and more attention.
SJS497 (CRN:75594)…the class through which we’ll be running the Prosecution Project through for the Fall, will be held Tuesday and Thursdays, 10:05-11:25 in Upham Hall. You will need to register for the course to participate as part of the central coding, research and analysis team. If you plan to register for the class, you MUST get in contact with tPP’s Director, Dr. Loadenthal, and let him know. A few points of clarification:
  1. The class will be limited to 25 students, and with 20 students (as of 5 April) already asking to join, we are very encouraged. Soon we will be reaching out to invite applicants from Sociology/Criminology, pre-law, Political Science, International Studies, Global and Inter-Cultural Studies, and other programs. We expect these efforts to fill the remaining seats in the class. So if you are interested in the class, please let us know ASAP.
  2. If you have not been a part of the team in the past, you will need to complete the application online so we can see where best to place you in the project. The form should take less than 10 minutes and is available here: https://tpp.lib.miamioh.edu/want-to-join-the-team/. After completing the form, you’ll need to email your resume/CV to Dr. Loadenthal.
  3. We are also looking to recruit a small number of students for specific project roles. These students would not be expected to enroll in SOC497 but would instead work alongside the project Director via an Independent Study. If you have experience in any of the following areas and would like to take part in the project, contact Dr. Loadenthal
    • machine learning/Python
    • grant writing
    • mapping/GIS
    • database design (e.g. File Maker, SQL)
  4. If you use Twitter, please follow us (https://twitter.com/ProsecutionThe) so you can begin to see what types of cases make up the project. Casually following these updates between now and August will suit you well for engaging with tPP in the fall.
(our Spring 2019 team)

tPP in the news again! This time a short video interview with project Director

Following coverage of tPP by our university news, tPP Director Dr. Michael Loadenthal sat down with Sinclair Broadcast Group for a 30-minute interview about the project, the state of political violence in the US, and the challenges of researching these matters. From this interview we are happy to share a short segment produced by Sinclair below.

We were also happy to be mentioned in Miami University’s College of Arts and Science Alumni Update for November 2018 which you can see below:

tPP in the (Miami) news!

As hate crimes rise across the U.S., a Miami team researches political motivations and prosecution

by Shavon Anderson, university news and communications

Two weeks after a mass shooting in Pittsburgh, what’s being called the largest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirms bias-motivated attacks are on the rise.

The FBI recently released its 2017 Hate Crime Statistics report, revealing 7,175 criminal incidents were submitted by law enforcement agencies, a 17 percent increase from 2016 and a 21 percent increase since the 2013 report. A further breakdown of victim data shows motivations behind the attacks:

  • 59.6 percent of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias.
  • 20.6 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias.
  • 15.8 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias.
  • 1.9 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ disability bias.
  • 2.2 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ gender identity and gender bias.

“In just the last two weeks, we have seen the mailing of bombs to Democrats, a racially motivated shooting at a supermarket a state to the west, and the murder of 11 Jews attending morning services in the state to the east,” said Miami University’s Michael Loadenthal.

Loadenthal, visiting assistant professor of sociology and social justice, researches political violence and attributes the increase to shifts in U.S. political discourse, which he said is moving toward authoritarianism, nativism and nationalism. Such rhetoric brings racist tropes into issues like immigration and crime, and further fuels anti-Jewish conspiracies. As a result of the political tone, there’s been a 37 percent rise in crimes targeting Jews.

Michael Loadenthal, visiting assistant professor of sociology and social justice, heads the research project The Prosecution Project (courtesy Loadenthal).

Hate and terrorism: what defines it?

Hate is evolving to become more lethal, more visible and more frequent, Loadenthal said. While recent attacks nationwide have linked suspects to white supremacist groups, he noted the Alt-Right movement has filled a vacuum left by the KKK and Aryan Nations.

“Those of us who have been studying political violence in this country are far less surprised with the sudden rise of white nationalist, neo-Nazi, and fascist violence,” Loadenthal said.

But, breaking down hate crimes in the justice system is the foundation for his ongoing research, The Prosecution Project. Started in March 2017, the project involves around 40 Miami students working to explore the relationship between what was attacked, by whom, and through what methods, and how a defendant is charged, prosecuted and sentenced in the U.S.

The Prosecution Project also aims to answer a broader question: What is the relationship between a defendant’s ethnicity, religion, age or ideological motivation and the likelihood that they would be labeled a ‘terrorist’ or receive an atypically high or low prison sentence?

Eventually, the group will create and publish a public database breaking down incidents of political violence, extremism and terrorism from factions including jihadists, nationalist/separatists, right/left-wing and issue-focused groups. Their research already generated one student-authored journal article to be published in a forthcoming issue of Critical Studies on Terrorism, with plans to partner with other leading terrorism studies journals this spring.

No-Hate initiative

The latest FBI report also revealed an increase in hate crimes reported at colleges and universities nationwide between 2016 to 2017.

Miami University works to provide a safe environment through the No-Hate initiative. The campus and surrounding community are encouraged to combat hate-fueled incidents by denouncing biased ideas and actions.

At Miami, a bias-related incident directed at an individual or group is viewed as an attack on the entire community.

If you’re a member of the Miami community and feel you’ve been the victim of an incident of bias due to your race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity or disability, you’re encouraged to submit a Bias Incident Report. Miami University provides an annual report of hate crimes, reported to campus security authorities in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

You can find more information on the initiative at the university’s webpage.

Want to join tPP for the Spring semester?

Now entering its 5th semester, the Prosecution Project (tPP) is currently recruiting a limited number of student researchers and analysts for the Spring semester.

tPP is a large data collection and analysis project that seeks to understand trends in how political violence, terrorism, and extremism are prosecuted in the US court system. The project involves a combination of locating cases, coding them together with team members and helping to generate and interpret quantitative and qualitative forms of analysis. Interested students can enroll as coders (via an independent study) or as analysts/writers (via SOC462).

There are two ways for Miami students to join tPP:

1.) We are interested in recruiting approximately 10 new student coders to help locate and code cases for the data set. This involves pairing up with another student coder, locating records and court documents, discussing the case, and finally entering information into an already established database. Student coders must register for 1-3 credits of independent study with Professor Loadenthal (credits will be in Sociology/SOC or Social Justice Studies/SJS). If you would like to join as a team coder, please complete the application here and our team will be in touch. Space is limited so please apply as soon as you’re able.

2.) We are also seeking up to 15 new students to join as analysts focused of the current data set to generate research suitable for publication. Students may enroll in SOC462 which will be an applied sociological research class, focused on terrorism studies, and based entirely around the tPP data set. To join this class, complete the application and email Professor Loadenthal to be added. Our goal is to publish a collection of scholarly research dealing with the tPP dataset in 2019, and the project director has already spoken with several journals about this.

No previous experience is required for coders or analysts, and the opportunity is open to students of all majors. Students student coders will be required to check in with the team twice a month and student analysts–those enrolled in SOC462–must attend that class and complete writing assignments. We are specially seeking Freshman, Sophomore and Junior students who can engage with the project for multiple terms and most team members have enjoyed their work and have sustained it throughout their their at Miami.

We are also interested in finding a few students with specialized skill sets including machine learning/artificial intelligence, grant writing, Digital content management systems and marketing/outreach. Students interested in working in these areas should complete the online applicationTo see our growing team of student researchers, visit us here!

Why join tPP?

  • Get real world experience dealing with court records, criminal indictments and data processing relevant for careers in law, public policy, intelligence analysis, security/law enforcement and government.
  • Learn and practice research skills including project design, data coding, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, data verification, sampling and using software suites such as SPSS, R, Tableau and a variety of cloud computing platforms.
  • Have the opportunity to publish in high ranking academic journals, present at conferences, and generate connections which are helpful for graduate school and other post-college challenges.
  • Meet with professionals working on issues of security, crime, terrorism and extremism including local leaders in the FBI, US Attorneys Office and Cincinnati Fusion Center, and leading academics at Georgetown University, George Mason University, University of Cincinnati, University of Maryland and elsewhere.
  • Help to create the largest, ideologically-mixed data set for public use by researchers, academics and other practitioners.

Upcoming tPP Publication


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


In the 2019 “Emergent Voices” edition of the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism, myself and Athena Chapekis (two student researchers for tPP) will have our work featured using the Prosecution Project (tPP) database. Our article, entitled “The prosecution of others: Presidential rhetoric and the interrelation of framing, legal prosecutions, and the Global War on Terror”, investigates the link between presidential rhetoric and the framing of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) in connection to the prosecution of “othered” and “non-othered” individuals.

“Othered”, in this context, refers specifically to individuals who are or appear to be Muslim, Arab/Middle Eastern, and/or foreign-born. We hypothesized the United States government will prosecute, charge, and sentence “othered” individuals more harshly than “non-othered” individuals and that this discrepancy in prosecution would be directly impacted by the framing of the GWOT by the United States’ presidential administrations.

In order to test this claim, we first created time blocks based on significant periods in the presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama following 9/11. The first time block constituted immediate events in the five months following the 9/11 attacks (9/11/2001 – 02/08/2002). The events included the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists” (AUMF) joint resolution (Congress 2001); the passage of the PATRIOT Act (Department of Justice 2001); and the authorization of military force in Afghanistan (Congress 2001). Notably, this block also saw the creation of the phrase “GWOT” as well as an increase in “othering” verbal rhetoric by George W. Bush (Hodges 2011). The second time block documented the remainder of the Bush administration (02/08/2002 – 01/20/2009). Events included the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 (“The Iraq War” n.d.) and the economic sanctions against Syria (BBC News 2018). Most of the presidential rhetoric in this time block was based less on verbal statements of “othering” and more on military action within the Middle East. The third time block examined the Obama administration (01/20/2009 – 12/31/2016). This time block included events such as the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2009 (Jaffe 2016); military initiatives in Syria (Obama 2013); and the establishment of the Islamic State’s Caliphate (Wilson Center 2016; BBC News 2018). Notably, Obama explicitly refrained from the use of “othering” language, but utilized military action in the Middle East. The actions of the presidential administrations served to strengthen the association of terrorism as a phenomenon inherent to Muslim, Arab/Middle Eastern, and/or foreign-born individuals through verbal statements, military action, and/or divisive administrative policies.

In order to test how these shifts in presidential rhetoric affected the prosecution and sentencing of “othered” versus “non-othered” individuals, we utilized the tPP dataset. We consolidated the codes of “Religion: Muslim”, “Ethnicity: Arab/Persian/Kurdish/Bedouin”, and “Citizenship: Non-United States Citizen” (specifically from a Middle Eastern country) to create a new code “ ‘Othered’ status”. If an individual fell into one or more of the above categories, then they were coded as “othered”. Using the date range described in the time blocks, we created a sub-dataset from 09/11/2001 to 12/31/2016 that included 520 double verified cases. We compared differences in “othered” and “non-othered” prosecutions in the three time blocks across the following variables of interest: length of sentencing, life sentence status, and number of people killed and injured by the crime.

Our original prediction that “othered” individuals would receive longer jail sentences than “non-othered” individuals was not supported by our findings. This can still be attributed, however, to the “othering” rhetoric of the Bush administration immediately post-9/11. According to the tPP dataset, the majority of these prosecutions were non-violent crimes, mostly immigration violations that resulted in deportation. These prosecutions corresponded to “terror sweeps” that occurred post-9/11, in which Arab/Middle Eastern and/or Muslim individuals in the United States were targeted by the government as “possible accomplices” to the 9/11 attacks (Akram and Karmely 2004). Almost all of the over 1,200 individuals taken into custody were found to have no ties to foreign terrorist organizations, and were either released free of charge or charged with felony immigration violations.

Interestingly, we did find that the prosecution of “othered” individuals significantly differed from “non-othered” individuals immediately after 9/11 and during the Obama years.

While we previously discussed how Bush’s rhetoric led to the “terror sweeps” post-9/11, there is less evidence to suggest a direct relationship between the maintenance of “othering” rhetoric in the latter Bush years and an increase in “othered” prosecution rates, as “othered” and “non-othered” individuals were prosecuted at similar rates. Moreover, Obama’s lack of othering rhetoric in speech did not correspond to a reduction of “othered” prosecutions; in fact, “othered” prosecutions not only increased, but increased differentially as compared to “non-othered” individuals. Further research may be needed to investigate the effects of direct speech as rhetoric versus indirect action as rhetoric in the legal prosecution of “othered” individuals.

 

Sarah Moore is a senior team member of the Prosecution Project and a former intern at Only Through US.


 References

Akram, Susan M., and Karmely, Maritza. 2004. “Immigration and Constitutional Consequences of Post-9/11 Policies Involving Arabs and Muslims in the United States: Is Alienage a Distinction without a Difference?” U.C. Davis Law Review 38, no. 3: 609-700

BBC News. 2018. “Syria Profile,” April 24, 2018, sec. Middle East. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14703995.

Congress. 2001. Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists. https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ40/PLAW-107publ40.pdf.

Department of Justice. 2001. “The USA PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty,” October, 4. https://www.justice.gov/archive/ll/what_is_the_patriot_act.pdf

Hodges, Adam. 2011. The “War on Terror” Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Jaffe, Greg. n.d. “‘Tell Me How This Ends’: Obama’s Struggle with the Hard Questions of War.” Washington Post. Accessed April 24, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/obama-legacy/ending-war-in-iraq.html.

“The Iraq War.” n.d. Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed April 29, 2018. https://www.cfr.org/timeline/iraq-war.

“Timeline: The Rise, Spread and Fall of the Islamic State.” 2016. Wilson Center. July 5, 2016. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/timeline-the-rise-spread-and-fall-the-islamic-state.