Research Paper Assignment

As part of the final capstone experience, students will be expected to write an original policy paper. Policy papers should describe and advocate a specific policy or program designed to address a significant, current criminal justice problem or issue. The paper should include three main parts: students must identify a problem, select an audience that has a stake in the problem, and propose and advocate an intervention or policy to address the problem.

The assignment is worth 75 points.  The research paper should be ten to fifteen pages in length, double spaced, and in Times New Roman 12 point font.  Written work should also have one-inch margins and be devoid of spelling and grammatical errors.  All written assignments should conform to American Psychological Association format. A minimum of eight refereed journal articles must be cited in this assignment, and a total of 12 references are required. Information gleaned from Wikipedia or similar websites is not appropriate for this assignment.  

Draft Outline for

Research Paper Assignment

IMPORTANT:  Please remember, your paper should be designed to advocate for a specific policy change in St. Louis.   

Sample Topic: Collateral Consequences of Female Imprisonment on Children

Introduction (1-2 Pages)

            The goal of the section of the paper is to outline the general problem.  In addition, the reader should be given a roadmap for your paper. Draw the reader in with important statistics or other information that illustrates the scope and importance of the problem.

Example text:

With the dramatic increase in the imprisonment rate over the last two decades, the

negative consequences of incarceration have stimulated several recent national meetings

of policy makers and researchers (Travis, Solomon, & Waul, 2001).  A central collateral

consequence of incarceration is the disruption of families.  In 1999, an estimated 336,300

U.S. households were affected by imprisonment of a parent (Mumola, 2000).        

This proposal will document the impact of maternal incarceration on child involvement in delinquency, and will advocate for the development of parent-child video conferencing.   

Body of Paper (6-8 pages)

  1. What do we know about the problem?
    1. Make sure to address the theoretical foundations of the problem.
    2. In addition, students must include specific crime or demographic information in your proposal.  Crime data can be found from (or other governmental sources).  Information on poverty and other factors can be gleaned from the Google assignment. 
  2. What has already been done to address the problem? 

An example passage –

The increase in the rate of imprisonment over the last two decades has been well documented.  In the last twenty-five years the imprisonment rate has increased nearly fourfold and currently stands at 476 per 100,000 persons (Beck, Karberg, & Harrison, 2002).  The rise in the imprisonment of women had also been striking.  In 1980, women accounted for 3.9 percent of the prison population; by 2000, women represented over 7 percent of prison inmates (Beck et al., 2002).  The ‘imprisonment binge’ (Irwin & Austin, 1994) has taken a substantial toll on both institutional populations and the community. 

            The children of incarcerated parents are one group that has been affected by the rise in incarceration.  Researchers have estimated that nearly two-thirds of incarcerated women have one or more minor children, and 65% of women reported living with their children prior to incarceration (Mumola, 2000).  Unfortunately, children of incarcerated parents have been a relatively invisible population in the research on the collateral consequences of incarceration (Eddy & Reid, 2002).  Arguments about the possible negative consequences of incarceration have stimulated several recent national meetings of policy makers and researchers (Travis et al., 2001).  Nonetheless, issues related to the negative impact of incarceration on children have not been examined empirically.    

Family context has been identified as central domain in the study of youth delinquency.  There is a tremendous body of literature on the negative effects of family context, or ‘broken homes’, on child delinquency outcomes.  Specifically, researchers have linked disruption of the parent-child relationship to later violent behavior and delinquency in children (see Farrington, 1989; Henry, Avshalom, Moffitt, & Silva, 1996; Juby & Farrington, 2001).  In addition to general family disruption, parental antisocial behavior has also been tied to delinquency, especially for pre-adolescent children.  For example, Lipsey and Derzon (1999) found that having antisocial parents was only second to gender and substance abuse in predicting child delinquency.

            Potentially adverse life circumstances that may result from parental incarceration include changes in living arrangements and financial losses.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Mumola, 2000), 44% of fathers and 64% of mothers in State prisons and 55% of fathers and 84% of mothers in Federal prisons reported living with their children prior to incarceration.  As such, parental incarceration frequently alters family composition, and disruption appears to be especially likely and more dramatic in cases of maternal incarceration. When fathers go to prison, their children are typically cared for by the children’s mothers, but when mothers are incarcerated, their children most often go into the care of grandparents or other relatives and are more likely to be placed in foster care and separated from their siblings than the children of male prisoners (S. H. Fishman, 1982; Johnson & Waldfogel, 2000; Koban, 1983; Mumola, 2000; Sharp, Marcus-Mendoza, Bentley, Simpson, & Love, 1999; Travis et al., 2001).  These new caretakers often do not have the financial resources necessary to meet the expenses of these children (Bloom & Steinhart, 1993; Hariston, 2002; Hungerford, 1993; Johnson & Waldfogel, 2000; Travis et al., 2001).  Children also suffer financially due to the loss of legal and illegal income, formal or informal child-support payments, and/or access to public assistance previously provided by the incarcerated parent (Hariston, 2002; Sharp et al., 1999; Travis, Cincotta, & Solomon, 2003; Travis et al., 2001).  Hagan and Dinovitzer (1999) have also argued that imprisonment of a parent may severely reduce the child’s social capital.

            Parental incarceration has also been linked to a wide range of negative emotional and behavioral outcomes.  Emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, have been reported among children of incarcerated parents in several studies (Boswell & Wedge, 2002; Dalley, 2002; L. T. Fishman, 1990; Fritsch & Burkhead, 1981; Lowenstein, 1986; Sack, 1977; Sack, Seidler, & Thomas, 1976; Sharp et al., 1999).  It has been argued that the loss of a parent due to incarceration may disrupt developmental progress or lead to maturational regression in some children (Travis et al., 2003; Travis et al., 2001).  School-related difficulties are commonly linked to parental incarceration in the literature (Bloom & Steinhart, 1993; Boswell & Wedge, 2002; Fritsch & Burkhead, 1981; Kampfner, 1995; Lowenstein, 1986; Sack, 1977; Sharp et al., 1999).  Other maladaptive behaviors, such as bedwetting, running away, substance abuse, and aggressive/antisocial behavior, have also been reported among children of incarcerated parents in several studies (Blumstein & Beck, 1999; Boswell & Wedge, 2002; Fritsch & Burkhead, 1981; Gabel & Shindledecker, 1993; Lowenstein, 1986; Sack et al., 1976; Sharp et al., 1999). 

Policy Implementation   (4-6 pages)

  1. How will you address the problem?
    1. It is important to address the target population.  Who will be served by this program? Please be as specific as possible. 
    2. Describe the program model.  What type of services or intervention will you provide? 
    3. What are the underlying theoretical assumptions of the model?  In short, why do you think this type of model will work?  It is important to link your intervention to existing criminal justice theory. 


In reference to the dramatic rise in female incarceration rates and the collateral consequences of female imprisonment on women, a policy change should be considered.  The most important change would be to improve the visiting policies for women and children. 

  • Develop a Girl Scouts Behind Bars program similar to what been developed in other states.  In this section I would describe the program and discuss the advantages for mothers and their kids.  I
    • If this program has been evaluated in other states or regions, it is important to discuss the previous research findings.  Previous research will strengthen your argument.

Conclusion (1-2 Pages)

  • Remind the reader of the problem
  • Summarize the research
    • What did you learn?
    • What do you need to learn more about in the future?
    • What was left out in this discussion? 

List of References (examples)

Beck, A. J., Karberg, J. C., & Harrison, P. M. (2002). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2001. Retrieved from Washington, D.C.:

Bloom, B., & Steinhart, D. (1993). Why punish children? A reappraisal of the children of incarcerated mothers in america. Retrieved from San Francisco:

Blumstein, A., & Beck, A. J. (1999). Population growth in u.S. Prisons, 1980-1996. In J. Petersilia (Ed.), Prisons (pp. 17-61). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Boswell, G., & Wedge, P. (2002). Imprisoned fathers and their children. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Dalley, L. P. (2002). Policy implications relating inmate mothers and their children: Will the past be prologue. The Prison Journal, 82(2), 234-268.

Eddy, J. M., & Reid, J. B. (2002). The antisocial behavior of the adolescent children of incarcerated parents: A developmental perspective. Paper presented at the From Prison to Home Conference, Washington D.C.

Farrington, D. P. (1989). Early predictors of adolescent aggression and and adult violence. Violence and Victims, 4, 79-100.

Fishman, L. T. (1990). Women at the wall: A study of prisoners’ wives doing time on the outside. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Fishman, S. H. (1982). The impact of incarceration on children and offenders. Journal of Children in Contemporary Society, 15(1), 89-90.

Fritsch, T. A., & Burkhead, J. D. (1981). Behavioral reactions of children to paternal absence due to imprisonment. Family Relations, 30, 83-88.

Gabel, S., & Shindledecker, R. (1993). Characteristics of children whose parents have been incarcerated. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 44(7), 656-660.

Hagan, J., & Dinovitzer, R. (1999). Collateral consequences of imprisonment for children, communities, and prisoners. In M. Tonry & J. Petersilia (Eds.), Prisons (pp. 121-162). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hariston, J. C. F. (2002). Prisoners and families: Parenting during incarceration. Retrieved from Washington, D.C.:

Henry, B., Avshalom, C., Moffitt, T., & Silva, P. A. (1996). Tempermental and familial predictors of violent and nonviolent criminal convictions: Age 3 to age 18. Developmental Psychology, 32, 614-623.

Hungerford, G. P. (1993). The children of inmate mothers: An exploratory study of children, caretakers, and inmate mothers in ohio. (Dissertation), Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

Irwin, J., & Austin, J. (1994). It’s about time: America’s imprisonment binge. Belmont, California: Wadsworth.

Johnson, E. I., & Waldfogel, J. (2000). Parental incarceration: Recent trends and implications for child welfare. Social Service Review, 7(3), 460-479.

Juby, H., & Farrington, D. P. (2001). Disentangling the link between disrupted families and delinquency. British Journal of Criminology, 41, 22-40.

Kampfner, C. J. (1995). Post-traumatic stress reactions of children of imprisoned mothers. In K. Gabel & D. Johnston (Eds.), Children of incarcerated parents. New York: Lexington Books.

Koban, L. A. (1983). Parents in prison: A comparative analysis of the effects of incarceration on the families of men and women. Research in Law, Deviance and Social Control, 5, 171-183.

Lipsey, M. W., & Derzon, J. H. (1999). Predictors of violent or serious delinquency in adolescence and early adulthood. In R. Loeber & D. P. Farrington (Eds.), Serious and violent juvenile offenders: Risk factors and sucessful interventions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lowenstein, A. (1986). Temporary single parenthood  – the case of prisoner’s families. Family Relations, 35, 79-85.

Mumola, C. J. (2000). Incarcerated parents and their children. Retrieved from Washington, D.C.:

Sack, W. H. (1977). Children of imprisoned fathers. Psychiatry, 40, 163-174.

Sack, W. H., Seidler, J., & Thomas, S. (1976). The children of imprisoned parents: A psychosocial exploration. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 46(4), 618-628.

Sharp, S. F., Marcus-Mendoza, S. T., Bentley, R. G., Simpson, D. B., & Love, S. R. (1999). Gender differences in the impact of incarceration on the children and families of drug offenders. In M. Corsianos & K. A. Train (Eds.), Interrogating social justice: Politics, culture, and identity (pp. 217-246). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Travis, J., Cincotta, E. M., & Solomon, A. L. (2003). Families left behind: The hidden costs of incarceration and reentry. Retrieved from Washington, D.C.:

Travis, J., Solomon, A. M., & Waul, M. (2001). From prison to home: The dimensions and consequences of prisoner reentry. Retrieved from Washington, D.C.:

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