Social Scientist Robert Lynd Case Study
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Social Scientist Robert Lynd Case Study
Knowledge for What? is the title of the provocative book in which social scientist Robert Lynd (1939) proposed the thesis that knowledge creation must have some value and util-ity to society. Knowledge for its own sake is good, but to better the world, we need knowledge that will assist in addressing society’s most pressing and perplexing problems. To this end, we see that much can be learned from the methodologies of the social sciences to advance our understanding of crime and criminal justice and to aid criminal justice administrators in managing crime. One such advance that has recently taken hold is the concept of homicide review. Homicide review is the application of social-science techniques to assist police departments and other social service agencies to tackle the difficult crime of homicide.
Begun in the city of Rochester, New York, by the researcher John Klofas, this technique brings together a number of differing organizations to confront the problem of homicide. It is based on a theoretical model that suggests homicide, like any other social behavior, follows a pattern. Through scientific investigation, academic researchers, in collaboration with police and other criminal justice components and other human service organizations, can develop a comprehensive strategy to target potential homicide victims. The homicide review initiative in Rochester began by compiling data on homicide victims over a specified time period.Through such an analysis, patterns or common characteris-tics of victims were discerned. It was found, for example, that many of the victims were young, African American, male, and had previous involvement with the criminal justice system. In Addition, many lived in the same neighborhoods and fre-quented similar locations in the community. Moreover, the analysis revealed that some places were more dangerous than others, and specific places—that is, emerging crackhouses—were particularly dangerous.
With this information, researchers were able to work with other agencies, both criminal justice and noncriminal justice organizations, to develop a strategy of identifying future homicide victims. In addition, the roles of the various components of the criminal justice system changed under such a model. So, for example, criminal prosecution and courts developed a strategy in Rochester to work with the research team to identify potential homicide victims.
The identified participants were required to meet with officials and others from the community to discuss the likelihood of them being a homicide victims and the penalties if they continued to pursue criminal activities. The intention of such a meeting was to show a response by the criminal justice system, and to inculcate among the participants “that if they continued their current behaviors they would receive harsh responses by the criminal justice system. Although homicide prevention is the primary aim of the homicide review process, a secondary aim is the reduction of high-risk criminal behavior.
A second part of the homicide review process is to inform participants of services that can help them deal with their life situations. The role of social service agencies is to offer other alternatives to a high-risk lifestyle that might lead toward violence and death. At this point in the process, the person has numerous agencies working with him, including churches, schools, and employment agencies. The hope is that through an identification of would-be homicide victims and an active intervention strategy, potential violence can be averted and people can be directed toward a more positive, prosocial lifestyle. Future research will have to assess whether homicide review has value to communities and to criminal justice administrators across the criminal justice system.
So, what does the homicide review research reveal? To date, we have had no systematic evaluation of the efficacy of homicide review. The potential of such an effort is, however, tremendous. Criminal justice administrators are able to use information collected by researchers and others to inform their practices. The valuable point is that research information can have instrumental value to criminal justice administrators. By correctly conceptualizing a problem, collecting good information, and analyzing data, criminal justice administrators are able to use research and direct their practices in a way that potentially has much use in how they do business. In the end, for criminal justice administrators, the value of research is to improve practice and to legitimize the implementation of programs.
“CASE STUDY QUESTIONS
1.What are some key organizational constraints that would inhibit the application of research or research findings?
2.What organizations external to the criminal justice sys-tem might be opposed to homicide review? What exter-nal organizations would be supportive of homicide review? What is the role of criminal justice administra-tors in working with external groups to facilitate homi-cide review?
3.Do you believe criminal justice administrators are recep-tive to research? Why or why not?
4.What specific crime problem do you think is ripe for research and application”