Making the case for the creation a national Correctional Officer Integrity Database

Over the past decade numerous incidents of police use of excessive and deadly force and deaths of unarmed citizens under questionable circumstances have captured the attention of the news media, politicians, experts, activists, and the general public. In many cases, when the news media and police oversight bodies look into the employment backgrounds of the officers involved in these incidents we notice a disturbing pattern.

Many of the officers have a significant history of public complaints and sometimes criminal charges. These are just the incidents that have been investigated. And while some of the reports have been substantiated, others were dismissed due to a lack of or poor evidence. What is more disturbing is that when some of these officers have been let go from their law enforcement jobs, without criminal charges (a daunting task that most progressive police chiefs and commissioners of police will freely admit), they have managed to secure gainful employment at another law enforcement agency.

Naturally a handful of scholars have examined this issue. One of them is Criminologist Phil Stinson at Bowling Green State University. Based on the concept of police crime, Stinson and colleagues used publicly available sources such as news media accounts and access to court records to develop the most comprehensive data base on police officer malfeasance in the United States.

Now, however, it is probably a great time to expand this approach to other job categories in the criminal justice system. One of the most important additional job classifications is that of correctional officers (COs).

Why is creating a correctional officer database important?

Approximately 392,600 people work as correctional officers in the United States. Most correctional officers are hard working honest individuals who have a challenging and difficult job to perform. And depending on the type of institution it can be a very stressful job too.

Correctional officers (COs) work at the city, county, state and federal level. They work in all types of carceral institutions including jails and prisons. Some are more dangerous than others.

But we also know that some correctional officers engage in a variety of deviance, not just directed toward inmates, but to fellow correctional officers, and to the correctional institution itself. Corruption, theft, and sexual and racial discrimination, among other kinds of deviance and illegalities by COs occasionally happens.

Once terminated, some correctional officers, just like police officers in similar situations, can find a job in a neighboring jurisdiction. Although correctional systems perform a background investigation, including a criminal records search, on prospective correctional officer candidates, some of this due diligence is more comprehensive than others. Moreover tracking down and understanding the nuances of previous job history can often be superficial.

A national data base would assist correctional systems minimize the hiring of inappropriate candidates, and provide an additional tracking mechanism to be used by states, counties and municipalities. And once this system was up and running then experts could compare if there was any relationships to the patterns we see with law enforcement officers who have been dismissed..

What is the best way to create a database on correctional officer database?

Since these kinds of initiatives are labor intensive they are difficult to start and to maintain.

They are often the purview of graduate student’s dissertation topics where a considerable amount of free labor is donated in pursuit of earning one’s degree. This also means that the candidate needs to be properly supervised by a faculty member who is adept and caring.

Alternatively, sometimes this project is best done through a crowd sourcing mechanism. Scholars, and jurisdictions that are interested in this initiative should come together to start planning how something like a national database on correctional officer deviance could be rolled out, what would be the important component parts, the resources that would be needed, and whom exactly will pony up the resources.

Photo credit

Photographer: macwagen
Title: gotcha

Sins of omission? Why do researchers neglect to review or cite relevant scholarship, but reviewers and editors accept this material for publication?

Most academics, editors, and reviewers constantly make decisions about what types of scholarship to review, what to cite, and what is necessary for researchers to make their case.

Failure to review or cite appropriate scholarship or literature should be expected if the publishing venue does not engage in peer review. Why? In general, peer review (where the identity of the the researcher is not known to the reviewer) is assumed to minimize the possibility that flawed research and writing is accepted and published, and that personal biases towards the investigator affects the reviewers’ decisions. Thus, we should not be surprised if research and writing that appears in newsletters, blog posts, or newspaper/magazine articles (which are not peer reviewed), fails to include relevant research in what they publish.

On the other hand, peer reviewed academic articles, chapters, and books, frequently neglect to review or cite important scholarship. This situation, however, gives readers an incomplete picture of a domain, and may open up questions about the rigor of the scholarship that is produced, and the legitimacy of the publication source. Academic writing like this may be called sloppy and unprofessional.

Why does this occur?

To begin with, it’s important to understand that sometimes omissions are intentional, whereas other instances are unintentional. Additionally, rarely is there consensus on what the “important” or relevant literature is.

That being said, some may argue that if a scholarly field is relatively new, then there’s a possibility that the omitted research has not come to the attention of other investigators, and this may explain why references to it do not appear in academic venues. Although this may be the case with recently released work, many published works neglect to mention relatively old scholarship too. Moreover, failure of an author/researcher or team to include or cite appropriate literature may be forgiven once or twice, but if this persists, then something else is going on. If scholarship, and the people who engage in this activity, are to be taken seriously, it should include the most up to date work.

Often scholarship that is written in a language other than English is omitted. This is understandable, as few academics are willing to learn a foreign language, pay someone to translate a written piece, or manipulate files to run them through a translation program. What does this mean? Great work by relative unknowns, new scholars, and those outside of firmly established and entrenched networks (e.g., from the global South, etc.) get ignored,

Another possible reason is that the journal or book may not allow authors enough space to review almost everything that is relevant. This argument may have been true with old publication models, but the citation process is supposed to accommodate for this sort of limitation. With the right crafting a considerable amount of scholarship can be accommodated in the citation process. Plus with the advent of on-line publishing, space considerations are less of a problem.

Additionally lots of academic training can be faulted. Even in the highly ranked graduate programs, it’s not uncommon for students to have large gaps in their knowledge. Sure classes, comps, and a dissertation is supposed to mitigate this kind of outcome, but big gaps in knowledge still happens. Grad students are typically exposed to their instructors and mentors‘ specializations, and rarely to the larger contexts of the field’s scholarship.

Some scholars argue that the neglect of relevant literature is because of a lack of access to published scholarship. Although on-line portals like and include lots of useful scholarship, not all articles and chapters are located there. And definitely not books. If one turns to you will quickly find out that some of this is paywalled. This presents challenges especially for independent scholars who do not have an academic affiliation. They may not have sufficient funds to pay for this kind of materials, or have a colleague at an academic institution who can do them a favor by securing items for them. That being said, although it might require some reminders, in most cases if you e-mail to the author of the article or chapter they will gladly send you a pdf.

Sometimes the reason why material is not reviewed or cited lies in poorly informed authors, editors, and peer reviewers. Editors are supposed to be generalists. They don’t know the entire scholarship in a field and that is why they depend on reviewers. But most editors these days will confess that it’s increasingly difficult to secure adequate reviewers. Sometimes the reviewers are inappropriate. And the referees may not take their reviewing obligation seriously. Or they are bomb throwers, out to prove a point.

One reason why some scholarship is ignored are power dynamics in scholarly fields. Some academics including, editors, and reviewers believe that by neglecting or ignoring certain pieces of scholarship (or scholars) they can advance their own scholarly agenda (or those of their closest allies) or reputation. Similar to the notion of academic tribes, some writers, editors and reviewers may not want to give credit to newbies or researchers they consider to be less legitimate so that their own publication record can appear more meaningful, or draw attention away from others. Citing or reviewing scholarship is often a political act. To the author being cited means that you exist, and that you need to be contended with. This kind of omission is disingenuous.

Finally, exhaustion, frustration or just laziness on the part of authors, reviewers, and editors could explain failure to review, cite. This includes being overwhelmed by the numerous demands constantly placed on many scholars to not only produce high quality research, but to be effective instructors and provide service to numerous constituencies. It also involves a disinclination to consider or review scholarship that is physically and intellectually difficult to access. In days past this may have meant having to make a physical trip to the library. Nowadays this might involve the hassle of submitting a request to your university’s Interlibrary Loan Department, and then waiting for the book, chapter or article to be delivered, not to mention additional glitches that this process might involve. Alternatively some scholars work is difficult to understand. This may require more effort than predicted to properly comprehend.

How to minimize the omission of relevant scholarship from peer review work

Most journal and academic editors and reviewers are hardworking and thoughtful individuals. They entered the job with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, but get burned out or overcommitted, and then take shortcuts. They occasionally give a pass to inadequate scholarship (sometimes produced by their friends and allies) and then clamp down on other work for what often appears to be inconsequential reasons. Both editors and reviewers need to redouble their efforts in their review of papers. In short, if you don’t have time to do a proper job reviewing a paper pass on it.

Another way to minimize the omission of important research is reduce the reliance on “the usual suspects” who are called upon to review, and increase the number of qualified reviewers by drawing from a variety of disciplines and diverse individuals to participate in the peer review process. Increasingly over the years it seems that an increasing number of journals are using less reviewers to make important decisions on the papers that are submitted to them.

We also need to teach people in our profession about the differences in the quality of journals, and what it means to do a thorough peer review. In particular, we need to systematically teach our students how and why some publishing venues are better than others.

Another point to add: we need to hunker down on our grad programs and ensure students have appropriate training. As a profession academics need to be reminded that the research process is a marathon, not a sprint. Academic institutions need support and best practices, and not simply encourage their students (and faculty) to attend seminars on “here’s how you google something.”

Photo: Spanky from “Little Rascals”

Forget gun control. It’s time to repeal the 2nd amendment

I can hear and see them now. Chanting and standing with their pitchforks and lanterns.

“No way,” they yell. “The 2nd Amendment, just like 1 through 27 are sacred and unchangeable.”

Let’s face it. Most gun users are sane. They believe in gun safety, gun control, etc. The scholarship bears this out.

But the simple fact is too many people in this country die at the hands of guns and this is not good for the overall health, safety, and future of the United States.

Since the passage of 2nd amendment, and particularly since the 1968 Handgun Control Act, state and federal politicians have attempted, and in some cases succeeded in placing controls on the importation, manufacture, sale, and storage of guns, and on certain types of ammunition. But this has not really reduced gun related crimes and deaths.

Therefore, it’s realistic to assume that these gun control initiatives have been mostly tinkering around the edges or half measures. And organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety do not go far enough.

Thus the best and most direct way to reduce the use of handguns is through a repeal of the second amendment.

The right to bear arms, also known as the second amendment, was a product of a unique time and place. Recalling this history is not important here. It’s out there for anyone who wants to do a simple google search.

But things have changed. We no longer have slavery, we have subdued the indigenous population into a largely docile and marginalized group, and we are rarely burdened by wild beasts that attack us.

In no way did the framers of the constitution ever consider that the United States would be burdened as we now are by the plague of gun violence, with its accompanying needless injuries, deaths and destruction that is experienced on the streets and in the homes of this country every day. Had the framers predicted this current state of affairs, perhaps they would have thought twice about passing the 2nd amendment. But that was then and this is now.

Thus, why can’t we institute a system of gun ownership similar to other countries like Canada, Great Britain, Australia or the Nordic countries. Are the citizens of those countries no less scared of government control than us.

Most other advanced industrialized countries don’t have something similar the second amendment in their constitutions. And that’s why their approach to guns is a lot saner then what exists in the United States today.

In all fairness, I’m not the first person to suggest this change, and I certainly won’t be the last. Advocating for and attempts to repeal the 2nd amendment is not unprecedented. In 1991, former Chief Justice Warren Burger argued that the 2nd Amendment was the greatest fraud perpetrated on the American people at the time. In 2018, retired Justice John Paul Stevens argued in a widely famous op-ed to abolish the 2nd Amendment. And in both 1992 and 1993 Democratic representative Major Owens entered legislation in Congress to get it repealed. And with predictable results.

Arguments against repealing the Second Amendment are specious

Those who are against the repeal of the 2nd amendment quickly argue that:

• It will create a black market for illegal guns. But this kind of exchange already exists. Yes, there are continuing efforts by legislators and law enforcement to control this through the passage of laws and enforcement strategies, but the unregulated market still exists.

• It’s a slippery slope. First you will start with outlawing guns then you will move on to other lethal objects like knives, rocks, poison, etc. Perhaps, but not likely.

• We can’t live in a country where the only people who have access to guns are the police and the military. That’s not completely true. Again if we use the examples of other countries that are not dictatorships or authoritarian that are not obsessed about gun ownership, we see limited cases of gun ownership. Moreover, one need look no further than the British police for examples of police that do not carry guns on a regular basis. In fact there are approximately 18 countries, and one US territory, where the police do not carry guns. Are the crime rates in those countries significantly higher than they are in the United States? No.

How can we realistically repeal the Second Amendment?

Although some gun control activists have suggested that we hold a constitutional convention where the attorney generals of all states come together to work for the repeal the 2nd amendment, at this current time in US history there is not enough states who support this. That is why there are some other solutions, currently in place that are more promising.

• Continue to hold gun and ammunition manufacturers accountable and take them to court where the legal circumstances allow.
• Hit these companies with big financial penalties
• Now that the National Rifle Association is on the ropes, it’s time to finally put them out of business.
• Massive investments need to be made in educational campaigns that outline the negative effects of gun ownership.


Few people and constituencies are keen on repealing the 2nd amendment, that there is widespread agreement on how to do it, nor that it is going to be easy. This is not a popularity contest. But just like activist demands for prison abolition, defunding or abolishing the police, it’s high time to reconsider the repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

Sure, people (and organizations) will find lots of creative ways to injure, kill and threaten others. I mean they do this already. So let’s just eliminate the principle way.

Photo credit

David Mulder
Day 231. Gun control.