IBS Newsletter

March 2000

Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado


Two special acknowledgments go to members of the faculty of the professional staff of the Program Behavior Program. Angela Bryan received the University of Colorado's Bruce K. Ekstrand Junior Faculty Development Award in the amount of $5,000. Delbert S. Elliott received the Paul Tappan Award for the Year 2000 for his contributions to the criminology of domestic violence, youthful offenders and other topics. This special award was presented to him on February 25 at the Awards Luncheon at the Western Society of Criminology's 27th Annual Conference.

Program Activities

Political and Economic Change Program

In Print

James R. Scarritt and Seana Lowe. 1999. "The International and National Voluntary Service Training program (INVST) at the University of Colorado at Boulder," in Kathleen Maas Weigert and Robin J. Crews, (Eds.) Teaching for Justice: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Peace Studies. Washington, DC: AAHE, 83-90.

Environment and Behavior Program

Gilbert F. White joined as a member of the Board of the Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation in reviewing a financial program, and also in outlining possible changes in policy of the National Flood Insurance Program.

In Print

Gilbert F. White. 2000. "What must be done?" World Water Watch, 1(1), pp. 6-7, 15. In this inaugural journal dealing with the freshwater environment, this article outlines the massive and drastic changes in world water management during the past 100 years, and proposes five problems that need to be addressed in new public policy: 1) definition of the relative importance of health of both human and environmental systems; 2) agreement on criteria to reliably measure the costs and benefits of such measures; 3) ways of involving all interested stakeholders; 4) reliance on proven measures of effects on both human and environmental systems; and 5) accurate assessments of the result of past efforts.

Gilbert F. White. 1999. "Changing approaches to water management," in A. K. Hegazy (Ed.) Environment 2000 and Beyond, Cairo: Horus, pp. 197-202. This 442-page volume is published as a festschrift for Dr. Mostata K. Tolba on the occasion of his 75th birthday in recognition of his leadership for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). As one who had served on some of the UNEP committees and who had joined with Tolba in 1979 in calling for scientific study of possible world climate change, White calls attention to several major changes in approaches to water management: broadened analysis of range of choice; improved criteria for evaluation; and more discriminating appraisal of actual experience in river basins.

Natural Hazards Center

Dennis S. Mileti presented the keynote address "Conclusions of the Second National Assessment of Risk in the USA" to the International Workshop and Seminar on Risk Management hosted by the National University of Colombia in San Andres, Colombia, on February 19. He also presented two additional speeches "Natural Risks in the New Millennium" and "The Role of Research in Risk Management." The purpose of the three presentations was to acquaint participants with the key findings of the Second Assessment of research and applications on natural hazards in the U.S. which emphasized linking hazards mitigation with sustainable development. He also presented the keynote address, "Disasters by Design" to the Annual Wyoming Emergency Management Conference in Laramie, Wyoming on February 16. The intention of the presentation is to familiarize the hazards community with the findings of the Second Assessment on natural hazards.

Problem Behavior Program

Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence

The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence hosted Colorado Attorney General, Ken Salizar and US West Representative, Jane Prancin at an informational meeting at the Center on January 31. Delbert Elliott, Landa Heys, Jane Grady, and Tiffany Shaw presented information about the Center and its current projects.

The topic "Safe Communities -- Safe Schools" was presented by Holly Bell and Jennifer Carroll at the monthly Violence Prevention Education Consortium meeting on February 8 at the Colorado Bar Association in Denver. This topic was also presented by Tiffany Shaw and Holly Bell on February 18 in Colorado Springs at the Western Regional Middle-Level Consortium.

On February 1, Delbert S. Elliott testified before members of the House and Senate on the Youth Crime Prevention and Intervention Project regarding evaluation issues. On February 14, he met with the U.S. Surgeon General in Washington, DC, to finalize plans for Elliott to be the editor for the Surgeon General's Report to the American People on Youth Violence - Year 2000. On February 7, Elliott met with the Littleton Task Force regarding Blueprints programs and other violence prevention criteria. He participated in an interview with Gary Tessler of Boulder Radio Station, KWAB regarding violence prevention programs for youth on February 17. Elliott was speaker at the plenary session of the Western Society of Criminology meetings in Kona, Hawaii on February 24. On February 29, he spoke at the Mental Health Center of Boulder County, Inc. meeting on adolescent violence. His address covered 1) early and late onset patterns for violent offenders, 2) identifying specific violence prevention and intervention programs that work, and 3) common characteristics of effective programs.

In Focus

What Matters in the Court Processing of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Cases

Joanne Belknap received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado in 1981 and her doctorate in Criminal Justice and Criminology from Michigan State University in 1986. From 1986 to 1998 she was a faculty member at the University of Cincinnati where she conducted research on both women's victimization and offending. In 1998 she joined the faculty in Sociology and Women's Studies at the University of Colorado as an Associate Professor.

Before the 1980s, arresting anyone on domestic violence calls dispatched to the police was a rare event. Since then, the second wave of the women's movement, successful court cases by battered women against police departments, and the publication of research suggesting that arrest deters domestic violence (known as the "Minneapolis Experiment"), collectively resulted in the implementation of pro-arrest domestic violence policies across the U.S. These pro-arrest policies led not only to an unprecedented number of domestic violence arrests, but inevitably, to an unprecedented number of domestic violence cases reaching the courts. To date, however, little research has been conducted on the court processing of domestic violence cases.

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, I collected pretrial data on the over 2,000 misdemeanor domestic violence cases heard by the courts in a large metropolitan area in the Midwest in 1997. The pretrial data merged police reports, intake interview data with offenders, and a form specifically designed for this project completed by the prosecutor assigned to the case. The prosecutor form was crucial in collecting data difficult to find in the more standard sources, such as the victim's role and demeanor and other evidence used in court.

Analysis of these data found the most important predictor of the court outcome (whether the defendant was found guilty) was the number of times the prosecutor met with the victim. As expected, the more times the prosecutor met with the victim, the greater the likelihood that the defendant would be found guilty. Two other characteristics about the prosecutor affected the case outcome. Again, as expected, the lower the prosecutor's caseload, the greater the likelihood that the defendant would be found guilty. Also, when the prosecutor was White, the case verdict was more likely to be one of "guilty."

Domestic violence cases are characterized with the popular and systemic opinion that these victims make poor witnesses who are often "reluctant" at best, and "non-cooperative" at worst. Thus, a key part of this study was to assess the victims' roles and demeanor in the court cases involving their abusers. Two variables measuring victim role were significantly related to the case verdict, and these were in the predicted direction. More specifically, when victim testimony was introduced in court, the defendant was more likely to be found guilty, and when a victim "changed her/his story," the verdict was more likely to be "not guilty" or "dismissed."

Lastly, the victim-offender relationship was related to the court verdict, but in an unexpected direction. Guilty verdicts were more likely in domestic violence cases where the victims and defendants were still "together" (not broken up) at the time of the court case.

In addition to the significant variables, it is useful to report the variables that were not significantly related to the court verdict. First, none of the characteristics of the defendant (sex, race, age, or prior criminal history) was related to the court verdict. Second, none of the variables measuring the abuse or injury were related to the court verdict. Third, none of the three measures of evidence other than victim testimony/participation was related to the case outcome: the availability of medical records, photographs of injuries or property damage, or 911 tapes. Fourth, the race and sex of the judge and the prosecutor sex were unrelated to the case verdict. Fifth, whether a victim was subpoenaed had no impact on the case outcome. And finally, police testimony in these cases had no impact on the case outcome.

This study also collected data, in addition to the pretrial data, using court transcripts. Content analysis of these documents flush out some of the pretrial findings. First, prosecutors frequently reported an inability to locate the victims, even through serving subpoenas. Second, the content analysis of the court transcripts indicated that injury and abuse information was rarely even raised in these cases, particularly if the victim was not present. Finally, the police testifying in these cases often appeared to be disinterested and unable to remember much about the cases for which they were testifying. In conclusion, the successful prosecution of these cases appears to be heavily dependent on adequate prosecutorial resources, particularly in terms of preparing witnesses.

Research Proposals Funded

Problem Behavior Program

S.W. Menard and D.S. Elliott
Violence prevention: replication, evaluation, and dissemination of information
DoJ, 10-01-99 - 07/31/01, new, $874,105

D.S. Elliott
Violence prevention technical assistance
Colo Trust, 08/01/99 - 07/31/00, supp, $50,000

Environment and Behavior Program

M.F. Myers and D.S. Mileti
A proposal to develop guidance and expertise on sustainable recovery from disaster for communities
Public Entity Risk Inst, 01/03/00 - 12/31/00, new, $175,024

J.T. McCabe
The contributions of anthropology and economics to an integrated modeling and assessment system for conserving biodiversity in spatially extensive pastoral ecosystem in East Africa
CSU, 10/01/99 - 09/30/00, $4,643

Research Proposals Submitted

Environment and Behavior Program

D.S. Mileti and M.F. Myers
A clearinghouse on natural hazards research and application
NSF, 10/01/00 - 09/30/02, renew, $1,723,049

Problem Behavior Program

S.W. Menard and D.S. Elliott
Community influences on incivilities, criminal victimization, and illegal behavior
NIJ, 07/01/00 - 06/30/02, new, $182,897

A. Bryan
Alcohol use and HIV risk among adolescents on probation
NIAAA, 12/01/00 - 11/30/02, new, $147,317

Population Processes Program

A. Rogers
Inferring interregional migration flows
HHS, 01/01/01 - 12/31/03, new, $321,600

J.A. Menken
Social networks and adult survival in rural Bangladesh
Harvard, 12/01/00 - 11/30/03, new, $214,814

Political and Economic Change Program

J.V. O'Loughlin
REU supplement to: can democracy be sustained? Civic engagement, social capital, and the future of democratic governance in Moscow
NSF, 03/01/00 - 08/31/00, supp, $5,000

L.A. Staeheli
REU supplement to: Collaborative research: Changing structures of knowledge and relevancy: understanding the sociology of geographical research on public space
NSF, 05/01/00 - 08/31/00, supp, $5,000

Upcoming Colloquia

There is an online listing of upcoming and recent colloquia.

Institute of Behavioral Science

Richard Jessor, Institute Director

IBS Newsletter

Sugandha Brooks, Newsletter Editor
Julie Klauss, Assistant Editor
Richard L. Cook, Web Site Coordinator

Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0483

(303) 492-8147