Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Promoting Smart Decarceration: Mitigating Racial Bias as a Strategy for Reducing Disproportionate Minority Contact and Confinement
by Morgan, Damekia, D.S.W., University of Southern California, 2020, 61; 28023095
Abstract (Summary)

This proposal examines a cultural phenomenon linked to behavioral norms associated with the persistence of disproportionate minority contact and confinement (DMC). Utilizing the premise from promoting smart decarceration—one of 12 Grand Challenges endorsed by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare—this paper analyzes the problem and proposes an innovative solution. Promoting smart decarceration is grounded in the following tenets: decreasing prison populations, eliminating racial and economic standing as a precursor for involvement in the judicial system, and ensuring the safety of the public throughout the transition from incarceration. The innovation described here aims to address DMC by eliminating racial standing as an antecedent for entering the judicial system.

DMC is one of the most pressing problems facing society today. Promoting equal treatment at every decision-making point in the juvenile justice system remains a societal aspiration. The focus of reducing DMC must shift to holding system practitioners accountable for bias in their decision-making, starting with law enforcement agencies. Norms associated with DMC persist because of cognitive dissonance and inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes primarily relating to behavioral decisions. To shift this paradigm, all actors would need to: 1) value the humanity of all people (no matter the person’s race), 2) align one’s behavior with this value, 3) use courage to determine alternative methods when interacting with others, despite one’s fear, and 4) reflect daily on ways to balance one’s thoughts and actions as it relates to those who are impacted by the justice system.

Methods: The conceptual framework in this proposal correlates with the six innovative dynamics: 1) actors, 2) history, 3) limits, 4) future, 5) configuration, and 6) parthood to uncover the hypothesis related to behavioral norms and deviance linked to DMC. The following five elements were utilized to determine if the hypothesized behaviors were indeed social norms: 1) reference network, 2) empirical expectation, 3) normative expectations, 4) conditional preferences, and 5) sanction and rewards. Methodically, applying the social learning theory as a model for change reinforces the innovative design. The research is a collection of peer-reviewed journals, interviews, and relevant documents.

Data: Secondary quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed to determine the statistical significance of the problem.

Capstone proposal: Theoretically, this research has led to the proposal of an innovative model to tackle DMC at the point of arrest— Collective Impact Tools for Positive Outcomes (CITPO). The CITPO is a predictive analytic tool designed to address the intractable problem of DMC by identifying racial bias among law enforcement officers during the hiring process. The proposal illustrates how the behavior norms associated with DMC can be mitigated if law enforcement officers (LEOs) are held accountable for their behavior by participating in pre-identified interventions, in addition to being tracked over a period of time. The CITPO process:

  • Identifies the problem (screening tool/method and panel)
  • Diagnoses the intensity level (spectrum outcome)
  • Implements intervention (prescribe intervention and post-intervention review)
  • Asserts accountability (discontinue the hiring process or move forward)
  • Monitors behavior (observe behavior and interactions)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lewis, Jennifier
Commitee: Iglesias, Diana L., Nair, Murali D.
School: University of Southern California
Department: Social Work
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social work, Social psychology, Behavioral psychology, Law enforcement
Keywords: Disproportionate minority Confinement and Contact, Predictive analytics, Racial bias, Social good technology
Publication Number: 28023095
ISBN: 9798662482784
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