Initial Reflections on a New Semester of Coders


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


Initial Reflections on a New Semester of Coders
Margaret Kolozsvary

Stated on the “about tPP” website, our mission is “to develop and disseminate relevant findings concerning crime, criminal justice, and public policy through research, public scholarship, and student engagement,” (tPP, 2019). In order to successfully support that mission statement, it is important to understand how we classify our research and how we work to make sure that it is a “relevant [finding] concerning crime, criminal justice and public policy,” (tPP, 2019).

When coding cases, it is crucial to our team that we understand many different categorical factors about a crime. Some of those categories include religion, citizenship status and gender, to name a few. However, two of the most important categories are “ideological target,” and “ideological affiliation”.

According to Kevin Borgeson, “sometimes members can belong to more than one [hate group], making the population under study heterogeneous and hard to define,” (Borgeson, 193). However, it is crucial that when we code a case, we, as a team, know what was pushing the criminal to commit their act of violence but also what the group was that they were targeting and if the ideological target and ideological affiliation are related. This act of coding is one of the most important tasks that members of the Prosecution Project take part in.

Within the “ideological target” variable, there are numerous divisions that the defendant can be classified as. To name two: we have government officials, and those who work in a specific industry and members of a specific religious group. Within each of those divisions, there are subcategories to further narrow down the target group. Understanding who or what the target is can help us understand the act of the crime and what types of crimes are related so as we code more, we can relate similar cases to new ones.

The other category, “ideological affiliation,” is just as important as the ideological target, if not more so. Within this division, there are subcategories, similar to the target subcategories. For “ideological affiliation,” the divisions include, but are not limited to “rightist” (with subcategories such as “identity focused”, “government focused”, “abortion focused” or “unspecified”). Each affiliation category begins with a general topic, such as “rightist” or “leftist” and then branches out into the subcategories of each grouping. The Project is rooted in understanding political violence, so once we understand the ideological affiliation of the defendant, we can distinguish between types of politically violent crimes and the nature behind them. While there is not always a specific affiliation to motivate the defendant, the basis of finding one is crucial to the details within the project.

For the new coders and the new undergraduate researchers, like myself and many of my peers, the differentiation between types of affiliation and targets can be hard to understand at first, but eventually does make sense. In order to teach the new members about these divisions

Works Cited

Valeri, Robin Maria, and Kevin Borgeson, eds. Hate Crimes: Typology, Motivations, and Victims. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2018.

 

Why don’t we include extremists who commit non-extremist related crimes?


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


Why don’t we include extremists who commit non-extremist related crimes?

Meg Drown

As a follow-up to my previous blog post regarding the inclusion of sovereign citizens and financial crimes to tPP, I wanted to explore the characteristics of another sub-category of the rightist ideological affiliation we include in our dataset. As a refresher, we regard rightists as those individuals who embrace values such as limited government, socially conservative thought, individual rights, and authoritarianism. This is a wide-ranging spectrum, and we divide it into four separate subcategories in which we see most extremist crime occur, including government-focused, identity-focused, abortion-focused, and unspecified.

My previous blog post focused on individuals who fall under the Rightist: Government-focused subcategory of the dataset, specifically sovereign citizens who reject the legitimacy of the federal, state, and local governments. For the sake of this blog post we will focus on individuals who fall into the Rightist: Identity-focused bucket, or those who desire social political change in identity-based prejudice.

Rightist identity-focused crime has recently wrought worldwide media attention, in part, due to the rise of nationalism across the world and the spike in far-right crimes in the United States and abroad. Some would attribute the rise of far-right groups to the specific platform the current President of the United States (POTUS) has provided to far-right voices. While there is an argument to be made for the spread of far-right views due to POTUS’s legitimizing of far-right voices and media outlets, right-wing extremists have a deep-rooted history in the United States that far precedes the rise of nationalism in the United States. Specifically rightist, identity-focused organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) derive their identity and political agenda from the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era during which African-Americans gained new, albeit limited, rights under the United States government.

The historical context of the KKK is important to understand their current platform and positioning in the far-right ecosystem because their ideology centers around racial, identity-based politics. Moreover, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Identitarians glean much of their ideology from early to mid-20th century nationalist movements. The United States Holocaust museum claims that “the eruption of neo-Nazism and White Supremacy on display in Charlottesville in August 2017 and at other rallies across the country has exposed the public to symbols, terms, and ideology drawn directly from Nazi Germany and Holocaust-era fascist movements”. Additionally, Identitarians draw their inspiration from the Nouvelle Droite (New Right) movement that arose in France during the 1960s. To put it bluntly, far-right crime and extremism is far from new, and, in fact, has been around for hundreds of years.

Nonetheless, the recent spike in far-right crime and the subsequent media frenzy motivates a re-evaluation of the rightists who are included in our dataset, and, more importantly, those who are not included in our dataset. Particularly, why don’t we include the ranks of far-right organizations who are indicted on charges that are unrelated to extremist crime? While the answer is fairly simple – because they are not indicted on charges related to political violence or else labeled as a terrorist or an extremist through the state speech act – it is important to motivate our decision to exclude them from our dataset. Keeping in mind that we strive to identify incarceration trends in the United States justice system on such factors as race, ideological affiliation, group affiliation, citizenship status, and religion as it relates to extremist crime.

So then, why is an individual such as Kevin Alfred Strom, the founder of National Vanguard, not in our dataset? Strom a friend and close associate of William Pierce, author of an influential white nationalist book called the Turner Diaries, was indicted on charges of child pornography and witness tampering in 2007. Hosting a website devoted to neo-Nazism, Strom was known to have fetishized young girls on his online platform. However, his blatantly illegal actions of publishing promiscuous images of young girls on his site led to his eventual conviction on child pornography crimes. To be clear, Strom did propagate neo-Nazi propaganda on his site. Furthermore, he served to recruit and organize radical individuals into a group that espoused distinctly hateful and violent language against minorities, and while his crimes were directly related to the website that served to circulate these extreme views, he was not indicted on a crime that was extremist in nature.

There is a rather distinct trend of white-nationalist and neo-Nazi leaders being indicted on child-sex charges, and certainly this trend is important in understanding the patterns of behavior in different extremist organizations. Yet another crime trend that is prevalent amongst specifically identity-based far-right extremists is domestic violence. Some high-profile individuals on the far-right have been accused of assaulting their female partners. Richard Spencer’s wife publicly accused him of physical abuse, though he was not charged with any crime, while others, such as Matthew Heimbach, a prominent white nationalist, was indicted on charges relating to domestic abuse.

Again, while we see certain crimes associated with those who identify with the far-right, and, in fact, observe that these crimes could be a direct result of the misogyny propagated by their extremist views, their inclusion in the dataset for domestic assault or sexual felonies would not be in line with the mission of tPP to examine political violence. This is unless, of course, the reason cited for engaging in violent behavior against women is specifically extremist in nature AND the individual who carried out the crime is indicted on a charge relaying this information about their political intent for abuse.

Financial Crimes and Inclusion in tPP


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


Financial Crimes and Inclusion in tPP

Meg Drown

When deciding whether to include cases in tPP dataset, it is important to recall the definitions of extremist violence and terrorism around which we base our project. Ever keeping in mind the mission of tPP, which is to examine how political violence is prosecuted in the United States, explore the relationship between the perpetrator and his/her crime, and to determine any predictive effects variables, such as target, ideology, and group affiliation have on how a defendant is charged and eventually prosecuted.

The FBI defines domestic terrorism as any crime that is “perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature” (See the Defining Terrorism page). While there has been no internationally agreed upon legal definition of terrorism by the United Nations General Assembly, there is some consensus amongst academics on what officially constitutes terrorism (See the Defining Terrorism page under section Revised Academic Consensus of Terrorism). Defined generally:

“terrorism refers, on the one hand, to a doctrine about the presumed effectiveness of a special form or tactic of fear-generating, coercive political violence and, on the other hand, to a conspiratorial practice of calculated, demonstrative, direct violent action without legal or moral restraints, targeting mainly civilians and non-combatants, performed for its propagandistic and psychological effects on various audiences and conflict parties” [1].

While examining tPP dataset, we tend to see crimes that are prosecuted mostly on the grounds of political violence that were carried out, attempted, or not carried out at all but had politically violent intentions. Although there are many occurrences in which an individual who appears in tPP committed only a minor crime, such as passport fraud, and was prosecuted on terrorism-related charges (See my blog post on the state speech act), the deciding factor for inclusion in tPP emphasizes the role of political violence in prosecution of a crime. This begs an important question: what is paper terrorism and why is it described as such by law enforcement?

Paper terrorism can be understood as behavior designed to create bureaucratic inefficiencies by “clogging the courts with nonsensical, voluminous filings, phony lawsuits, and false liens against public officials as a form of harassment and intimidation” [2]. These crimes are usually carried out by sovereign citizens, defined by the FBI as “anti-government extremists who claim the federal government is operating outside its jurisdiction and they are therefore not bound by government authority” [3]. Sovereign citizens take advantage of legal loopholes, mostly, by filing false liens which are incredibly time-consuming and costly to be removed. While in the broader spectrum of the extremist milieu paper terrorism seems frivolous, false liens can be incredibly damaging to the person or corporation against whom it is filed. Liens can destroy a person’s credit score, thereby affecting their ability to buy a home, start a business, rent a car, or do just about anything that requires a half-decent credit score. Nonetheless, there is no legal definition of paper terrorism, and those who are apprehended for filing false liens are prosecuted on financial crimes, usually void of terrorism-related charges. By tPP standards, we do not include sovereign citizens who carry out financial crimes in lieu of their extremist ideology in our dataset. We do, however, include sovereign citizens who a prosecuted on different charges.

There is some overlay between financial terrorism and tPP. In particular, there is one individual, Lee Harold Cromwell, who, after ramming his car into a crowd at an Independence Day celebration, killing one and injuring 12 others, filed liens against his arresting officer and prosecuting attorney. Though Cromwell was not included in our dataset for filing the false liens, it is a defining characteristic of sovereign citizens and can serve to inform our decision on whether or not to include an individual in tPP. Cromwell and four others appear in tPP for the car ramming and subsequent filing of false liens against public officials. Sovereigns are coded under Ideological Affiliation as Rightist: Government-based due to their ideological convictions against the United States government and other governments they believe to be illegitimate. In tPP Codebook, we define Rightist: Government-based ideological affiliations as encompassing individuals who desire autonomy from the United States government, those who act to prevent government overreach, or those which act as pro-government vigilantes and paramilitary forces.

Specifically, sovereigns would fall under the “desire autonomy from the United States government” camp. The other four individuals included in tPP in relation to the violent crime carried out by Cromwell are included because they aided Cromwell in filing the liens against the government officials prosecuting his case. However, while they did not carry out a violent crime, their crimes are motivated to protect the individual who did carry out the crime. Conclusively, sovereign citizens are included in tPP and can even be included for carrying out financial crimes so long as it fits the framework we have laid out for inclusion in tPP. In other words, if the crime has no obvious socio-political aims, does not support organized violence, or does not fit the conditions for a state speech act, it will not be included in tPP.

Notes

[1] “Defining Terrorism – the Prosecution Project.”

[2] March-Safbom, “Weapons of Mass Distraction.”

[3] “Sovereign Citizens Sentenced.”

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 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)

Data Validity Issues


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


The Prosecution Project is a multi-year research initiative that is run by Dr. Michael Loadenthal, of Miami University’s department of sociology, and a cohort of students. Our team has built a “code book” to help us turn the prose of court documents and news articles into consistent data values. While the code book seeks to mitigate subjective interpretations of case details, some variables — like ideological affiliation — are less black and white and require an amalgamation of different context clues from multiple sources to definitively define. As the project’s scope and team have expanded over the last two years, different variables and values have been interpreted in increasingly varying ways. That is okay, as the existing understanding of a given variable may not always be the best. Furthermore, discussions of our coding process have engaged my critical thinking skills, taught me how to articulate my research process to other teammates, and given me a clearer grasp of the Prosecution Project’s potential impact on the public and law enforcement community. However, discordance in variable interpretations — while beneficial to my overall personal growth — has made it much harder to build samples in the analysis stage of our project.

For the last month and a half, I have been analyzing our dataset in order to understand domestic terrorism motivated by anti-government belief systems. I narrowed down the 1194 cases of political violence coded to a sample of 162 cases that were ideologically aligned with anti-government extremism.

Of course, “anti-government,” to those whose research focus lays elsewhere, can be interpreted in many ways. Anti-government could be used to describe an anarchist who does not believe in the existence of a government that exercises authority without justification. Or, anti-government might be used to label a Jihadist who seeks to terrorize the American government and people by attacking a federal institution. These examples show the many ways in which “anti-government” ideological affiliation can be incorrectly but understandably assigned to defendants who clearly do not possess a rightist anti-government belief system. This is significant because any defendants incorrectly included in my sample would have skewed my data for key variables like jail sentence, ethnicity, tactic, etc.

I individually assessed each of the 26 cases in the database ideologically coded as “rightist unspecified” and “unclear” (Loadenthal et al. 2018). For each case, I read the narratives briefly describing the case and assessed the following variables: group affiliation, foreign affiliation, motivation for choosing their target (labeled in our database as “target: why”). I included defendants affiliated with right-wing, anti-government groups (e.g. Oklahoma Constitutional Militia) even if their ideological affiliation for a specific attack was unclear. I excluded defendants who possessed unspecified rightist ideologies but exclusively chose their targets based on the religion, race, or foreign nationality of the person or property targeted. Ultimately, this case by case filtering process enabled me to verify that each case included in my sample possesses the fundamental characteristics of homegrown anti-government extremism.

This blog post demonstrates one of the many ways in which our research cohort is democratically creating a communal research process, making mistakes, positively reacting to our mistakes, and reiterating and improving our database and processes. The Prosecution Project is a labor of love that is being built through a culture of collaboration, complementary skills, and continuous learning.

– Nikki Gundimeda

Reexamining the Codebook


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


In class the past few weeks, we have decided to reassess and rework our team’s Codebook. Up until now, the Codebook has been a relatively straightforward manual that we all follow while coding each case. Personally, my partner and I leave the Codebook open in another tab while we research a defendant – referring to it when we have specific questions about what codes make up a certain variable or how exactly a variable is defined.

For the most part, we have the Codebook memorized. Since the majority of us joined the team as the Codebook was being created and fine-tuned, we understand what each variable is looking to assess. This is not to say the Project has not come across some interpretation issues as we have worked through coding. A few weeks ago, we had a lengthy discussion about how to code cases in which the defendant was a minor at the time of the crime. Since portions of these cases, including ages of the defendant are often sealed from the public, it can be difficult to know what the actual age was. Some members of the team had been coding this variable as unknown, while others had been using 17 as a fill-in number, as our Codebook had not specified what to do in this situation. We talked in-class and decided to use 17 as our age for all minors, unless the actual age was known, in which case we would use that one.

Differing interpretations of the Codebook occur regularly, and we do our best to address them and amend the document to make each variable description even more clear. However, next semester, we are adding several new members to the Prosecution Project. These new additions will have the guidance of senior members of the team as they learn how to code, but they will still be heavily reliant on the exact wording of the Codebook to understand each variable and its codes. Because of this, the team has spent the last two classes going through each individual variable in the Codebook in extreme detail. Our goal is to phrase the Codebook so that there can be almost no room for misinterpretation. We begin by phrasing each variable as a question.

This sounds relatively straightforward and self-explanatory, but as the team and I can assure you, it is not. We have dedicated at least ten minutes to discussing how to phrase the questions for each variable, and some variables have required conversations lasting over an hour. One particularly challenging and divisive conversation occurred surrounding the variable of “previous similar crime”. We struggled with how to conceptualize what constituted a similar crime, and by the end of the discussion, we had probably run through thirty different variations of the question. Our first suggestion was, “Has the defendant been charged with a previous similar crime?” and by the end, we decided on, “Has the defendant been charged or convicted of a previous crime motivated by the same belief system?” We felt that this phrasing was the best way to encompass what we wanted to assess with this variable.

Eventually, we will have worked through this process for every variable in our Codebook. Ideally, we will have a user-friendly manual for next semester’s additions, but we are ready and willing to further adjust our Codebook as new issues arise.

– Zoe Belford

A Codebook 2.0?


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


 As the semester is winding down, here is an update on the current status and goals of tPP! Over the past two months, everyone has worked to construct mini-analyses papers on a chosen topic surrounding our database. Some members worked in pairs while others worked individually to assess trends that may be appearing within the database. The papers addressed several different factors we have coded for such as gender prevalence in terrorism, foreign affiliation and fatality, military/veteran status and its role in attacks, location prevalence, etc. We plan to start out next semester by presenting our papers and findings to the entire team as a reminder of all the great work we have achieved so far!

Speaking of the team, we are also excited next semester to welcome some new recruits! We have spent time recently reviewing our meeting agenda and drafting not a new, but a more explicit, and more concise codebook that will be extremely beneficial when catching the new members up to speed! Kicking off the new year, we will ultimately finish adding and coding cases, so we can continue to draw final analyses of patterns of taxonomy within our dataset. As we begin to move toward the final stages of our project, we aim to draft more literature, advertising the information presented in our data, and work to present our findings to outsiders at relative conferences!

As a member of tPP from the start, and a soon graduating senior, this experience has been eye-opening as much as it has been informative. Working with Dr. Loadenthal and the rest of the team has caused an interest in continuing research around the justice system and helped prepare me to keep to higher education in ways I would have never received without them. With tPP being one of the largest datasets of its kind, it has offered so many undergraduate students the chance to participate in research that while tasking, has been extremely rewarding. The project is mostly student-led has allowed us to learn and improve our skills in leadership, collaboration, research, statistical analyses, technical writing, and so many more. Many members have been on the team since the start and found their niche through this project and enjoy the chance to collaborate on a regular basis to adopt roles and goals as needed within our own mini projects and the larger project as a whole. This spring will be an exciting time for everyone as we move to our final stages but the time cannot come soon enough for our eager current and new members.

– Tia Turner

Excluded Cases and Why They Remain Important


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


The tPP data set[1] has an extensive process of selecting cases that fit the criteria for the database.  This process is called the decision tree and has been described in other blog posts.  While the data set currently has almost 1,202 coded cases, there are some cases that did not meet the qualifications of the decision tree at some point in time and ended up becoming excluded.  These cases appear to be ones that would be relevant to the set but they fall short of particular qualifications.  When a case is excluded it is placed into a document of excluded cases where it is briefly explained and then its exclusion is subsequently explained as well.  Some may wonder why we bother to record cases that are not matches for us, well, many these excluded cases can reveal information about the tPP data set itself.

Some excluded cases are straightforward to explain, such as the case of William Rodgers.[2]  William Rodgers was an environmental activist and major leader of an act of arson at a Vail Ski Resort in Colorado.  He is excluded from the data set because he committed suicide in jail shortly after he was arrested.  Since he was not able to be charged and prosecuted, he is excluded from the tPP data set.

Other cases in the excluded cases file deal with more complicated issues such as intent.  Intent becomes crucial in determining whether or not to omit particular cases from the dataset.  Does the individual committing the act of terrorism or political violence truly possess a political motive?  Are their crimes attempting to further a particular terrorist organization or movement?

The tPP dataset contains many variables that are coded with very precise language to ensure that intent is the primary focus of the coding.  Some of these variables include ‘people versus property’ or ‘ideological affiliation’.  People versus property outright asks “Did this crime intend to target human beings, material property, both or neither?”[3]  This seeks to determine the intent of whom the crime was trying to cause harm towards.  Ideological affiliation is defined by the codebook as “What belief system, if any, motivated the defendant to commit the crime?”[4] This variable also focuses on what the core value system of the individual is and this can affect the intention of their crime.  If one throws a brick threw a McDonald’s window out of anger it would not be considered terrorism.  However, if they had an ideology that opposed consumption of animals and they committed the same crime, the same act could be considered an act of political violence, and likely termed by the government as ‘eco-terrorism’.

These variables show the emphasis that the data set places on intent.  The excluded cases are a variety of examples where the acts may be heinous, or may present rhetoric that is similar to what one may consider to be terrorism, however, this specific data set takes into careful consideration intent, and every case must fully pass through the decision tree before it qualifies to be coded into the data set.  These excluded cases are still valuable, as they show the value this tPP data set places on intent.

– Hannah Hendricks


References

[1]Loadenthal, Michael, Zoe Belford, Izzy Bielamowicz, Jacob Bishop, Athena Chapekis, Morgan Demboski, Bridget Dickens, Lauren Donahoe, Alexandria Doty, Megan Drown, Jessica Enhelder, Angela Famera, Kayla Groneck, Nikki Gundimeda, Hannah Hendricks, Isabella Jackson, Taylor Maddox, Sarah Moore, Katie Reilly, Elizabeth Springer, Michael Thompson, Tia Turner, Brenda Uriona, Brendan Newman, Jenn Peters, Rachel Faraci, Maggie McCutcheon, and Megan Zimmerer, 2018. “The Prosecution Project (tPP) October 2018” Miami University Sociology Department. https://tpp.lib.miamioh.edu. Loadenthal 2018. “The Prosecution Project (Decision Tree)”

[2] (Loadenthal et. al, 2018)

[3] (Loadenthal et. al, 2018)

[4] (Loadenthal et. al, 2018)

 

On Additional Sentencing and Deportation

 


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


 The Prosecution Project (tPP) analyzes a wide variety of variables to uncover and assess patterns in the prosecution and punishment of domestic terrorism in the United States, and my research has led me to pay interest to one variable in particular: additional sentencing.

In our codebook, additional sentencing is an open-ended, quasi-catch-all variable. tPP explicitly measures the length of jail/prison sentences and the presence or absence of life/death sentences. The additional sentencing variable, however, records other punishments, as well as any special enhancements specified in their sentencing or notable acts the defendant was charged under. Common codes under the additional sentencing variable include probation, time served, and hate crime or firearm enhancements. This variable holds a treasure trove of information for future analysis, but one specific code under this umbrella caught my interest from the beginning of my time working with tPP: deportation.

After joining tPP this past winter and beginning to code cases, I began to notice the repetition of deportation as an added punishment on top of, or in lieu of, the standard jail sentencing or probation. According to USA.gov, the United States “may deport foreign nationals who participate in criminal acts, are a threat to public safety, or violate their visa” (USA.gov). This broad operationalization of the criterion allowing for deportation gives the United States government the power to deport most of the foreign-born nationals in our data set. The only factor that should determine whether deportation occurs is whether the foreign defendant in question is found guilty or innocent of a criminal act, but the United States does not seem to apply this policy consistently.

As of October 2018, tPP has a completed data set of nearly 1200 cases, 32 of which involve deportation. However, of the cases in our data set, 296 involve foreign-born, non-naturalized defendants. Many foreign born, non-naturalized individuals were found guilty, but were still allowed to remain in the country. After spending nearly a year working with this project, my question is: why? Are there consistent, measurable differences in the characteristics of foreign-born, deported defendants compared to the characteristics of foreign-born, non-deported defendants? How does this compare to our tPP data set as whole? My future research using the data tPP has gathered will aim to uncover if there is a clear answer to these questions.

– Zoe


References

USA.gov. (2018). Deportation. Retrieved from https://www.usa.gov/deportation