January 2021

The toll of COVID-19 is being felt everywhere in the country. Isolation from friends and family, fear of or battles with the illness, job losses, childcare struggles – the stress of the situation is resulting in a mental health crisis nationwide. Nowhere is this more evident than in the state of the opioid crisis. A recent article by Suhail Bhat, writing for NPR, explores the sharp surge of overdose deaths that have accompanied the pandemic crisis in America.

According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 81,000 people have died of drug overdoses in the 12 months prior to May 2020. Among the sharpest rises are spikes occurring in the Ohio Valley region in states such as West Virginia and Kentucky.

Read the article here: READ MORE: “Overdose Deaths Hit New Highs As Pandemic Worsens Opioid Crisis” by Suhail Bhat

“While already alarmingly high, drug overdose deaths have climbed to their highest rates ever recorded during the global pandemic” notes Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services in Atlanta, Georgia.

The destabilizing effects of COVID-19 and the disruption of support systems have left people suffering from substance use disorders in an extremely vulnerable position. “The economic impacts of COVID-19, along with the heavy toll of pandemic-related closures and social distancing requirements, have curtailed the ability of persons with substance use disorders to participate in face-to-face treatment and community support services,” says Baldwin.

In response to the crisis the CDC has addressed itself to health care workers and first responders to recommend early intervention. This along with increased use of use anti-overdose drugs could serve to preserve more lives. However, as the surge in COVID cases continues to stress health systems across the nation, there is some doubt regarding the ability for these treatments to reach those who need it most.

Ultimately, unless something is done and soon, the outlook seems grim. “The results are tragic and point to the pressing need to increase specific overdose prevention efforts,” says Baldwin. “There is also an immediate need to develop non-traditional, virtual treatment and support services that better emulate face-to-face treatment and community support services.”

Domestic Casualties of the Pandemic
November 2020

The pandemic we currently face has brought with it an employment crisis, social unrest, political instability and a shaky economy. But the current chaos has exposed another issue of public health like a raw nerve.

In her article for the Star Tribune, journalist Salma Loum asks the question, “Has the pandemic led to more domestic violence in Minnesota?” Based on her investigation, it appears the answer is an unequivocal yes.

Read the article here: Read more: “Has pandemic lockdown led to more domestic violence in Minnesota?” - by Salma Loum, Star Tribune, Sept 29, 2020

Lockdown orders in municipalities have literally trapped women and children with their abusers. The increased pressure and instability brought about by the conditions of the pandemic have led to sharp spikes in the levels of violence being reported in domestic incidents. But while the article focuses on the statistics from a single state, this is the dismal case all over the nation and beyond.

“Just like in Minnesota,” says Dr. Shila Hawk, a researcher at Applied Research Services in Atlanta, “concerns around this as a ‘shadow pandemic’ have been expressed across the nation, and world, since the shelter-in-place order started.”

But these are only the incidences that are reported. What is even more concerning is the violence that is carried out under the radar.

“The article notes that domestic violence is underreported,” says Dr. Hawk. “We actually know from the National Crime Victimization Survey that about half of victimizations go unreported to the police.”

Hawk notes that this lack of reporting makes it difficult to identify victims and secure help for them, which can result in further isolation and create greater trauma. “Not only do we need to find ways to decrease opportunities for violence, but also encourage reporting and have the resources ready to match.”

From a larger perspective, researchers are hardly surprised by the data. Natural events have historically resulted in increased domestic violence. Violence against women tripled in Louisiana in the days following Hurricane Katrina. In fact, history is ripe with examples of increased intimate partner violence during times of isolation, such as has been experienced in Alaska and in Africa during the Ebola quarantines.

“We know from research that nearly 20 people every minute are abused by their partner and that emergency contexts exacerbate the likelihood of violence,” says Dr. Hawk.

However, this is more than just numbers on a spreadsheet. Each number represents an individual in need of help, safety and stability. Addressing this will need to be made a public health priority.
“Policy makers are being challenged to address health and safety concerns related to both the pandemic and the shadow pandemics,” says Dr. Hawk.

Hurtling Toward a "New Normal" We May Not Want
August 2020

As technology advances, author Phil Torres asks us to consider the possibility that the pace of its development may ultimately be the thing that dooms us.

An article in the science quarterly Nautilus, outlines the concept of “omniviolence,” wherein technology is enabling smaller groups of criminals to target a more massive victim pool. This leads to a state where we all live in fear of harm from one another.

Read the article here: Omniviolence Is Coming and the World Isn’t Ready – Phil Torres – Nautilus Quarterly 10/21/2019

It becomes increasingly apparent that governments do not have sufficient “will nor the means to monitor cybercrime, prosecute offenders, or extradite suspects to the United States” which means leaving us all more vulnerable. When crime is decentralized and automated, and entire criminal enterprises can be efficiently and ruthlessly deployed by one or two bad actors, it becomes even more difficult to serve justice.

Beyond that, there is a psychological toll to be paid by us all. When we can’t clearly identify an “enemy,” and it becomes apparent that we are all not only equally vulnerable to but equally capable of committing ghastly crimes, we fall into the trap of siege thinking. In our minds, we live at risk and danger can emerge from anywhere. In the extreme, we don’t feel that anyone can be trusted. Neighbors, colleagues, friends – anyone could be a threat. The “war of all against all.”

But this mindset further exposes us to what might be a greater harm. As Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research in Atlanta, Georgia points out. “What options exist, other than systematic wholesale surveillance, to combat these potential threats? How can we possibly protect ourselves and our society when the threats are so numerous, omnipresent, and advanced?”

While more surveillance feels like the answer to our fear, it also sets up the perfect conditions for a slide into totalitarianism. And this might be the greater danger above any other.

“I wish I had an answer, as I don’t relish the thought of living with either the threats or the level of surveillance necessary to guard against them,” says Baldwin.

Applied Research Services Goes International
January 2020

Over the past year, Applied Research Services has been applying its expertise to assist in an international exchange with a team from Chile, led by Javiera Benitez Gibbons, Director of Public Security for the City of Los Condes.

“It has been a genuine honor to be a member of this training team and exchange with Chilean officials,” said Dr. Hawk.

In 2018, the Chilean delegation, working with a multi-discipline training team from the United States, visited to learn how to do a Drug Market Intervention (DMI) and see the effects of its implementation in Atlanta, Georgia - where ARS is based.

Click here to read more about that training and the team: “Project Safe Neighborhoods International Exchange”

The Atlanta neighborhood, formerly in severe decline due to an open-air drug market, has seen a significant number of improvements, and the upturn has been largely attributed to the effects of the DMI strategy, which involves active collaboration among law enforcement, community leaders and residents.

Click here to read the Atlanta Project Safe Neighborhoods Report: link PDF

This year, the U.S. training team followed up with a visit to Chile to deliver onsite training and advised on other evidence-based criminal justice practices, research and evaluations, and met with all levels of government officials to discuss tailoring the DMI model to meet the specific needs of municipalities across Chile, focusing on reducing drug crimes and violence in the capitol. To conclude the week, the group served as advisers and presenters at an “Intervention in Local Drug Markets” seminar.

Click here to read more about that follow-up visit:

Click here to read more about the seminar (pro-tip, Firefox and chrome browsers have translate options): “DMI: The American Model that Seeks to Eliminate Drug Trafficking in our communities”

“Chile is a beautiful country with such rich history and culture – just remarkable people,” said Dr. Hawk. “After learning more about the Chilean government and the local circumstances, I’m as confident as ever that they can implement a highly effective Drug Market Initiative.”

The work to improve conditions through evidence-based strategies continues, and Dr. Hawk remains optimistic about the expected outcomes. “I look forward to continuing to provide support and hearing about their DMI successes.”

True Crime Makes an Impact
January 2019

With the proliferation of crime-based popular media, it seems that society is developing a taste for exploring the dark side of human nature.

"Our fascination with crime and criminals," says Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services, in Atlanta, Georgia, "seems to stem from a variety of origins and likely represents an array of motives, from simple curiosity to morbid fascination and even obsession. Books, movies, television shows, and now podcasts have long focused their attention on crime and criminals. Some of the most popular media in each of these formats focus unabashedly on crime."

A new article by Soraya Roberts explores some of this current fad. Tracing the evolution of true crime reading as a matter of popular taste, Roberts traces the history of the genre from lurid mid-sixteenth crime reporting to the development of true crime as a more highbrow literary creation, one that used techniques of fiction to give legitimacy to the choice of true crime as reading matter and now, listening and viewing in the form of podcasts and popular documentaries.

“True Crime and the Trash Balance”

By Soraya Roberts. Longreads, January 2019.

However, Dr. Baldwin points out that there is nothing exceptionally new in this cycle of interest. "Some psychology research dating back to the 1980s suggest that we ride roller coasters and enjoy spicy food because they represent a propensity to engage in risk-taking behaviors. It may be that our fascination with crime is a way to expose ourselves to fear or risk but in a controlled manner, similar to riding a roller coaster or enjoying hot foods.

There may also be some sense of catharsis and even community-building tied in with the impulse to explore major crimes. "For example, the recent case of the Hart family," says Dr. Baldwin, "who plunged off a 100-foot high cliff in California in a murder-suicide, has spurred multiple Facebook pages, blogs, and discussion groups as well as a popular podcast miniseries entitled Broken Harts (Broken Harts: Behind the Podcast). The series contains interviews with a number of persons who have seemingly become obsessed with this case, despite having no personal connection with the Harts or working in law enforcement."

Whatever our reasons for indulgence in the genre, the public fascination with true crime is making an impact on the justice system itself. Roberts points out in her article that as media exposure expands, more average citizens are seeing flaws evident in the legal process and are revitalizing interest in the justice system as well as advocacy for the wrongfully imprisoned.

A New Way to Address Mental Health Calls In Law Enforcement
April 4, 2018

A Minnesota Public Radio news agency article reveals that police in the city of Rochester are trying a new approach to law enforcement. As the police department increases its efforts in intervention and de-escalation, one solution being tested is embedding a social worker with a veteran officer to respond to calls that involve people in mental health crisis.

"As mental health calls rise, Rochester cops try a social worker in the squad"

By Catharine Richert. Minnesota Public Radio, Apr 4, 2018.

As Dr. Shila Hawk, of Applied Research Services in Atlanta, Georgia notes, the very nature of law enforcement means that there is already a crucial part for social workers to play in addressing some types of police calls.

“The police commonly face these types of discretion dilemmas as they regularly interact with unpredictable people and recognize that arrests are not always the best solution to problems,” says Dr. Hawk. “The law enforcement mandate is more than crime fighting. Prevention and intervention are necessary functions as well. Officers cannot be expected to accomplish this mandate alone though, thus they already rely on social workers to provide assistance.”

With an ability to provide officers with information about the caller that they might not have had access to, as well as being able to establish a more immediate rapport with person in crisis, the embedded social worker is able to find solutions beyond the typical law enforcement response, which normally involves either a trip to a hospital or to jail.

Dr. Hawk suggests that the limits of standard police response are not necessarily the fault of individual officers, but rather the limits of the system. “Officers are not as thoroughly trained as mental health or other social service professionals, nor capable of wearing every hat required by various emergent situations,” notes Dr. Hawk. “We don't expect the police to fix a water-main break, but rather to support repair efforts by diverting traffic to keep people safely away from the problem.” Further, she notes that the pairing with law enforcement has benefits for the social worker as well. “Those social service professionals who can help in such circumstances are aided by the dispatched call-for-service request, devotion to social well-being, and police protection.”

The process seems to be working for the city of Rochester. Over the course of the pilot program, 70% of the crisis calls to the Rochester dispatch were able to be resolved with the caller remaining at home. The results has the politicians at the state level exploring the viability of expanding the program. As the policy gains attention, there is the possibility that it can spread to municipalities in other states, to hopefully produce similar outcomes.

“Dual response teams that appropriately integrate public safety agencies can bolster peace and order efforts,” says Dr. Hawk. “Furthermore, the sharing of resources, databases, and administration is logically sound. Cities need to support this practice.”

Unintended Consequences
December 17, 2017

One of the most difficult parts of any reform effort is the unintended consequence. Attempts to create space for a more merciful approach to those ensnared in the justice system can occasionally produce results that are less desirable in the long run.

Such is the case currently with the impacts of current criminal justice reforms on drug courts. Sentencing guidelines are calling for shorter sentences for drug possession to balance the somewhat overzealous prosecutions and sentencing of the past few decades. Offenders are then opting to accept jail time rather than enrolling in drug court; drug court enrollments are in a serious decline.

"Unintended consequences: Investigation reveals why drug court enrollment is declining"

In this short, provocative article journalist Gillian Freeman, writing for the Deseret News, highlights this phenomenon as it has been noted in Utah, but Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research has observed that the same trends are evident across the nation.

“As sentences for drug possession have declined,” says Baldwin, “prosecutors have lost some of their leverage to convince addicts to turn down a relatively short jail stay in exchange for a longer, tougher but ultimately more beneficial experience in drug court.”

While drug court—typically a 12- to 18-month program of intensive court supervision, counseling and drug testing--requires long-term commitment, in many municipalities it is the only path to treatment for low-income substance abusers. In addition, once drug court is complete, criminal charges are usually dismissed and their record is wiped clean, which can be a boon in a climate where background checks are becoming prevalent for everything from applying for a job to securing housing. However, for all the long-term good drug court participation may do, many offenders still opt for a short jail term rather than choose the more difficult path. As Baldwin notes, drug court programs will have to evolve to remain a force in the system. “Drug court administrators may have to consider offering addicts additional incentives to enter drug court, such as more preadjudication options and easing the process of expungement,” says Baldwin.

Though lighter sentences for drug offences do much to help relieve the burden of our overpopulated jails and the case backlog in the justice system, a balance will have to be found to ensure the survival and growth of drug courts.

Journey of a Bullet
June 20, 2017

The problem of rising gun violence is sometimes difficult to discuss in this country. Guns are baked into the DNA of the United States. It is part of our ethos and mythology, and comprises the most complicated part of our self-analysis.

The gun is responsible for our forefathers securing our nation's freedom; it "tamed the West," making it possible for us to fulfill our manifest destiny; it was used in war to push back the march of tyrants that would have changed the face of the world. More recently however, gun violence has terrorized inner city neighborhoods and has been responsible for some of the worst massacres in modern history. As a society we debate gun violence, but often ignore the costs to public health.

"Nationally there are over twice as many people who are shot and live than die," says Dr. Shila Hawk, a policy expert at Applied Research Services in Atlanta. "The social and fiscal costs related to that trauma not only negatively affect public health, but are also related to an increased risk of both firearm re-victimization and future arrest."

Read now
“Journey of a Bullet: Stories of Gunshot Victims”

NBC News presents a story that allows us to see the real toll taken on six shooting victims by listening to each of their personal stories. Freed from the rhetoric of politics, gun violence is confronted on a human scale and we see the physical and emotional scars that a bullet delivers. By seeing the damage through the eyes of real people, hearing their personal stories of loss and struggle, the issue becomes personal. Dr. Hawk believes that understanding the grave nature of the problem on a micro level is driving a search for solutions. "Collaboration among public health officials - clinicians, justice workers, researchers - has been an effective approach to combating gun violence."

Crime in general has declined in the city of Atlanta over the past decade, but the share of crime related to gun violence has increased abruptly. In response, Applied Research Services, the Atlanta Police Department and Grady Memorial Hospital, home of the area's premiere Level-1 Trauma Center, are collaborating on a new Smart Policing project funded by the Department of Justice. The Program to Interrupt Violence thru Outreach and Treatment (PIVOT) is an unprecedented evidence-based and data-driven initiative focused on reducing gun violence by preventing repeat victimization/hospitalization and retaliatory incidents.

The way of the gun may have been the past in this country, but through the combined efforts of public heath officials and law enforcement, we can reduce gun violence and preserve our future.

March 22, 2017

Parole decisions are not made on a whim. Ideally, successfully reintegrating a parolee into society while keeping the safety of the public top of mind and overall program costs low is the goal. However, achieving that ideal can be difficult; a number of factors enter into those decisions and risk assessment is vital.

Recently, Dr. Tammy Meredith of Applied Research Services in Atlanta, Georgia, was called upon to join forces with several other agencies, including the Rhode Island Parole Board, The Center for Effective Public Policy, and The Bureau of Justice Assistance to work with the Rhode Island Department of Corrections in a massive study of its parole program’s risk assessment tools.

Read now
“Rhode Island Parole Board Study Spotlight Article” at BJA National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) (

With the combined efforts of all the teams, they were able to study the effects of parolee recidivism, improve the risk assessment tools used to determine parole eligibility and successfully use the findings to both streamline and strengthen the decisionmaking processes of the parole board. Adopting the proposed changes, the Rhode Island Parole Board will be able to make even more informed parole decisions that they hope will drastically impact the percentage of successful parolee reintegrations going forward.

The Plan to Test Cities’ Sewage for Drugs Is a New Form of Mass Surveillance
January 23, 2017

Technological advances can revolutionize whole industries. But progress often comes with the baggage of ethical questions about how we're going to use new processes and who will benefit or suffer by them. In an article on, author Troy Farah examines both sides of the issue in his discussion of new research that uses technology to test municipal wastewater for evidence of illegal and prescription drug abuse among the population.

Read now
"The Plan to Test Cities’ Sewage for Drugs Is a New Form of Mass Surveillance"

Water treatment plants only remove around 50% of the trace pharmaceuticals carried by human waste. Researchers have been able to take advantage of this and use mass spectrometry to test samples of waste water, tracking the ebb and flow among populations of levels of illegal substances such as meth, cocaine, and heroin. While testing of this nature is on the rise in Europe and Asia, so far in the United States there have only been a handful of these tests conducted, most notably in an effort by the federal government to monitor waste water in the Washington area; the information gathered provides insight about the levels of cannabis use before and after legalization in that state.

As the accuracy of testing improves, Farah notes that the research gathered can be quite valuable in terms of tracking the rise and fall of drug use among populations. The data collected from such testing could be invaluable to researchers who work in a field that often has to rely on questionnaires as a common, but not necessarily infallible research tool, resting as they do on the complete frankness of the survey participant. In addition, wastewater testing can assist law enforcement in tracking the inception and spread of new drugs that street trade might introduce. However, the author also expresses doubts about the way in which the research might be used by law enforcement, especially in light of the harshly penalizing 'War on Drugs' that has notoriously decimated many low-income communities across the United States.

Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services, Atlanta Georgia tends to agree. "While wastewater testing may lead to better surveillance regarding the current and emerging views of drugs, there are some privacy concerns that are worth exploring. As is so often the case, we are faced with the choice that involves a potential increase in public safety at the potential cost of some measure of privacy."

Modern Police Reform - A View From The Inside
September 16, 2016

As the roster of hashtagged names grew longer in the last year, the idea of police reform grew larger in the national conversation. There is a decided bone of contention being tugged back and forth between activists who have a genuine concern over what appears to be a deeply ingrained bully culture in law enforcement and activists who have a genuine concern that our security is being compromised by overzealous police scrutiny and lack of public support for our men and women in blue. However, a recent New York Times op-ed piece introduces an idea that may be the bridge that draws these opposing camps together: a reform model with neighborhood policing at its heart.

Read New York Times
"William J. Bratton: How to Reform Policing From Within"

Famed law enforcement officer William J. Bratton, who has lead with distinction in difficult law enforcement environments across the nation from Boston to Los Angeles to New York City, offers a vision for national police reform that centers on reshaping the profession from within. Dr. Shila Hawk, a researcher for Applied Research Services, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia found much in Bratton’s words that offered “useful insights for shaping several aspects of police culture.”

In his article, Bratton outlines ways in which changes to the way both rookie and veteran officers are trained, managed and disciplined will have significant impact."There are police reformers from outside the profession who think that changing police culture is a matter of passing regulations, establishing oversight bodies and more or less legislating a new order,” he says. “It is not. Such oversight usually has only marginal impact. What changes police culture is leadership from within.”

Bratton also notes that a change to the patrol model is key to reform. By moving to a neighborhood-based policing program that anchors officers in the community, the opportunity is created for officers to work more closely with the members of that area, solving problems instead of merely reacting to them in the moment of crisis. “By localizing police service, we are breaking down barriers and building trust with truly productive partnerships,” says Bratton.

In addition, Bratton calls for improvements in working conditions and equipment. “You have to show [law enforcement officers] that you care about them, their safety, job satisfaction and careers.” Hawk concurs, citing her agency’s work with law enforcement as evidence. “Research supports the argument that focusing on legitimacy and job satisfaction is significant to the function of the police. With these goals in mind local agency leaders and ARS worker together to continuously evolve responses that meet the needs of our ever changing society.”

MAY 5, 2016

In the eyes of many, illegal drugs in the United States are a most pressing problem. In 2014 alone there were over 1.5 million arrests for drug law violations nationally, and we typically imagine these offenders as presented in gritty films and TV shows - hardened street criminals pushing hard drugs made in back alleys and rural trailer parks, patronized by the seedy underbelly of the community. But reality paints a different picture, and a recent article in the L.A. Times investigates an underconsidered branch of the national drug discussion. The path to serious addiction can often start with a perfectly legal drug, prescribed by physicians and used to alleviate suffering. Oxycontin is the central example of this problem.

Read Los Angeles Times
“‘YOU WANT A DESCRIPTION OF HELL?’ OXYCONTIN’S 12-HOUR PROBLEM” by Harriet Ryan, Lisa Girion and Scott Glover

However, as the article delves deeper, we see that what we generally see framed by the media as criminal abuse by users, is not the whole picture. In the case of Oxycontin, the reporters shine a light on the misuse of the drug that stems from a drive by the drug’s own maker to increase profits and maintain market share. By denying the failure of the drug to work as prescribed, the company sets up a system designed to fail some patients and which can have serious consequences for them both legally and physically.

Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services in Atlanta, Georgia is unsurprised by the findings in the L.A. Times’ investigation. “As noted in our report on heroin in north Fulton County click here, for many heroin addicts their route to heroin addiction went through opioid pain relievers (OPRs). This story details what many regard as the origin of our recent epidemic of opioid pain reliever abuse.”

An unprecedented experiment in mass forgiveness
March 29, 2016

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, California is at the forefront of a wave of new policies that seek to revise some of the harshest laws and statutes from past decades that offered draconian punishments for all offenders. The result is fewer people being sent to prison, and tens of thousands of inmates being released. Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services in Atlanta, Georgia, sees this interesting development as “ a great opportunity for a natural experiment in five to ten years as to the role this ‘forgiveness’ or ‘cleansing’ plays in the lives of those released and in longer-term crime trends.”

Read The Washington Post
“An unprecedented experiment in mass forgiveness” by Rob Kuznia

On the whole, the judicial trend is moving toward finding less punitive means of maintaining law and order. While the measures they are taking—everything from increased use of drug courts to more parole for inmates who have demonstrated reform—represent a swing towards a more rehabilitative focus, at a practical level the California prison system is also seeking to simply reduce the numbers of prisoners incarcerated. At its peak in 2006, the system was filled to nearly 200 percent of its design capacity, overcrowding that was ruled cruel and unusual punishment in 2011.

However, detractors of the program are deeply concerned. Small, but noticeable upticks in crime are occurring in many of California’s cities, and victim advocacy groups and conservatives are placing the blame on the new reforms. Many cite recidivism statistics that point to the futility and danger of releasing criminals who are hardened by the systems upon an unsuspecting public. However, proponents of the program are optimistic about the long-term effects of this “experiment in forgiveness” especially with support programs and other measures put in place that will ease a prisoner’s transition back into the world. The article notes anecdotal evidence of several former inmates who are making a great success of their second chance.

Gleaning Wisdom From the “Silk Road”
February 29, 2016

From 2011 until 2013, an underground Web system called Silk Road flourished as a site for the trafficking of illegal drugs, goods and services, with a shadowy figure known as the Dread Pirate Roberts at its helm. A fascinating recent article in Wired magazine chronicles the massive multi-agency investigation that took place to track, identify and arrest the Dread Pirate Roberts, later identified as Ross William Ulbricht, and shut down his criminal organization.

Read Wired Magazine:
The Untold Story of SIlk Road - The Rise & The Fall

As Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services in Atlanta, Ga., notes, the saga of dismantling of Silk Road contains themes that are seen time and again in law enforcement. “The story touches on a number of areas of relevance - technology, drugs, libertarianism, how personal ideals are ultimately open to compromise, and of course criminal enterprise. The creativity and collaborative/competitive efforts of the investigators from so many agencies also speaks to law enforcement challenges in the current age.”

Among those challenges, we find fascinating parallels and paradoxes that contain both triumph and warnings for law enforcement professionals. While Silk Road was founded upon technology that cloaked the entire operation and initially hampered investigation, agents were eventually able to use that same web of anonymity to create an inroad used to infiltrate the operation. Cooperation among agencies was essential to collecting information and building the case, but inter-agency competition and lapses in communication often left crucial details on the table. (An article in the New York Times related to the case makes it clear that there were definitely missed opportunities that may have cracked the Dread Pirate Roberts identity sooner than it came.)

But most importantly, the article is a cautionary tale about corruptibility. Deeply held ideals were at the root of the two most central figures in the case. For site founder Ulbricht, the Libertarian beliefs that drive him to create Silk Road eventually gave way under a wave of need to preserve his power, leading him even more deeply into criminal violence. Carl Mark Force, a former DEA agent who played a pivotal role by going undercover and gaining Ulbricht’s trust, began with a dedication to his work and ended with a conviction for extortion and money laundering. If nothing else, the story of the takedown of Silk Road is a story about the dangers of compromised principles.

Trauma passed on to children's genes
September 30, 2015

You have your mother’s eyes, your father’s smile, and perhaps your grandmother’s freckles, all handed down to you like family heirlooms through genetics. However, new research is offering support for the notion than what can also be passed along in family genetics is not so benign.

Epigenetic inheritance is the idea that environmental stressors such as poor diet, smoking and traumas can affect the genes of subsequent generations. Scientist Rachel Yehuda and her research team from New York’s Mount Sinai hospital has concluded a study of Jewish men and women who had traumatic experiences during World War II either as concentration camp prisoners or being forced to hide for the duration of the war. In comparing the results with the control group, Jewish men and women who lived outside of Europe during the war, they have noted the presence of epigrammatic tags in the Holocaust survivors and their children that are not evident in the control group and their offspring.

Read The Guardian:
"Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children's genes"

While it still isn’t completely clear how these genetic tags are handed down from parent to child, this and other scientific research is beginning to form a clear picture suggesting that trauma can have a deep and lasting impact on our children’s physical and mental health.

Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services in Atlanta sees this development as yet another arrow pointing to the need for palliative services and early intervention. “There’s nothing we can do at present to alter genes,” says Baldwin, “so the need for preventive programs should be evident.”

You just got out of Prison, Now What?
August 20, 2015

Imagine yourself in whole other world. You’re away from your home, your friends, your work...everything that feels familiar is gone. You have to acquire a new reality, a new way of living day-to-day, maybe even a new language. You’re away for a long time—years, maybe decades. And then suddenly you are picked up and cast back into the world you left behind long ago.

This is the experience of incarcerated men and women who come to the end of long sentences and suddenly find themselves back out in the world with little more than the few items they had on them at their intake. And for some of them, the world they are thrust back into bears little to no resemblance to what they remember before prison. The speed of technological advance, the ways we deal with money, even something as basic as the ways in which we communicate have evolved at speeds which can baffle even those of us who live with it daily.

The New York Times recently ran an article highlighting the commitment of two L.A.-based ex-convicts who pick up parolees and help guide them through the first steps in their re-entry into civilian life. From first restaurant meals to shopping for supplies to even helping them start mapping out a plan to make sure their last trip through the system will really be their last, the mission of Carols Cervantes and Roby So is to do a small part to prevent recidivism by giving their charges some tools to make coping with their new world more appealing than a return to the familiar environs of prison.

Read New York Times Magazine:
"You Just Got Out Of Prison. Now What?"

Since the mid-2000s, prisoner re-entry has been a major area of focus in the justice system at large. Applied Research Services is heavily involved in evaluating the Georgia Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative (GA-PRI) pilot project which identifies medium and high risk offenders (called returning citizens) exiting prison and connects them to programs and services in the community to increase their chances of success.

Staff based inside the prison system conduct interviews with returning citizens and performs risk-assessment and the data is handed over to transition teams of community supervision officers and service providers. Together, these teams meet with the returning citizen and get the supports in place to help get their needs met, so that they can be solidly grounded in their new life of freedom with responsibility.

The Milwaukee Experiment
June 05, 2015

While everyone from late-night pundits to social media mavens have weighed in on the alarming number of deaths of African-American men in police confrontations, few seem to be offering clear analysis or solutions. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a local jurisdiction where ARS provides research assistance as a part of a Justice Re-Investment Initiative grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, is one of a few cities in the nation who are taking a serious look at its criminal justice system in an effort to address a growing national conversation about race, bias, and the impact both have on arrest, prosecution, and incarceration.

An article in The New Yorker catalogs the struggle of District Attorney John Chisholm of Milwaukee as he seeks solutions to the startling racial imbalance in the incarceration record of his home state of Wisconsin. In Milwaukee County alone, more than half of the male African American population has served time; even in a state where the percentage of working age African American men is almost double the national average, this is troubling.

In 2007, DA Chisholm allowed an independent research project to examine the racial implications of the work of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, and is using the gathered data to redefine how low-level criminals are prosecuted in an effort to stop the massive cradle-to-jail pipeline to which many low-income minorities are subject. While Chisholm has many opponents--among them David A Clarke, Sheriff of Milwaukee County and an outspoken supporter of tougher prosecution and sentencing for all levels of criminal activity--his concentrated efforts to find solutions to the racial imbalance plaguing the national justice system offers a compelling glimpse of a future where the accent falls more on “justice” rather than “criminal.”

Read The New Yorker:
"The Milwaukee Experiment" by Jeffery Toobin

Brain Scan Research
March 30, 2015

In the world of law enforcement, a key area of concern is the ability to predict the likelihood of recidivism. Once a criminal has paid the debt to society, what are the odds that he or she will “go forth and sin no more”? In the past, the answer to that question would have been no more than a roll of dice, since human psychology was fairly bad at accurately predicting which offenders would successfully rehabilitate, and which would end up back in the system. However, as commentary by David Wagner of Information Week suggests, brain scans are being researched as a method to predict crime recurrence, and the results have been more highly correlative than past methods. While it remains to be seen how much impact this can have on future public policy, it’s an encouraging development.

Dr. Kevin Baldwin of Applied Research Services, an Atlanta-based firm, notes that brain scan research and its power to predict behavior patterns will likely become very important in the next few years. “First, we’re always looking at how we can best assess risk,” says Baldwin. “Second, the emerging field of neurolaw suggests that the use of brain scans in the courtroom may provide mitigating evidence, in that it calls into question the primacy of volition in criminal conduct.”

Read InformationWeek:
Geekend: Predicting Your Future By Scanning Your Brain

Is your entire future locked up in a few brain scans?

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