Criminal Justice: Stalking

On a daily basis, different members of society experience harassment, whether it may be racial, sexual, physical, and so forth. A very common type of harassment that is reported to police stations daily is stalking. Carol E. Jordan from the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Service and her team conducted a study on stalking and its perpetrators, and how the justice systems worked in such cases.

Her paper titled Stalking: An Examination of the Criminal Justice Response (2003) focused on the way stalking is documented, but given insufficient attention in case disposition, and how prior criminal and protective order histories influence the processing of stalking cases by the court. The paper served two purposes: firstly, “to examine how one state’s criminal justice system disposes of stalking cases (as in its dismissal rates, types of amendments, and conviction rates) by examining dispositions for felony and misdemeanor stalking charges for all males charged with stalking in one state in fiscal year 1999”.

The second purpose is for the examination of “the incarceration and prior offense histories of stalkers, the temporal relationship between prior offenses and the stalking offense, and the interplay between criminal and protective order histories and the final disposition of stalking cases”. The study includes a sample of 390 persons charged with the criminal offense of stalking during fiscal year 1999, from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 1999. Eighty-nine percent of the sample were males.

Because of this, females were excluded from further analysis. The males in the sample ranged in age from 18 to 80, 78% were Caucasians, 17% African American, and 4% missing race data. The study was longitudinal because it focused on the records of stalking incidents and cases of males, most of whom were Caucasians. Jordan and her team studied basically the same type of people, charged with the same crime. Observations in this type of study become more accurate and more detailed.

The research method used was the descriptive method, as these describe phenomena or situations that already exist. There was no need to control or manipulate any variables, because the analysis focused on information already at hand. Measurements were taken through secondary analysis on three criminal justice data sets: criminal history information, incarceration history, and protective order data. Data were analyzed using standardized data collection instruments for two time periods: before fiscal year 1999 and during fiscal year 1999.

Criminal history information was taken from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the data needed for analysis included arrest/ charge date, type of offense, severity of the offense charged (i. e. , felony, misdemeanor, or violation), and disposition of the case. Stalking histories were extracted and then offenses were classified into six felony classifications and eight misdemeanor classifications, some of which including threatening crimes, violent felony crimes, violent misdemeanor crimes, sex crimes, and others.

The second data set used in the study includes “prison incarceration history information related to each of the offenders included in the AOC data”. For analysis, the information gathered included the type of charge or charges against the offender, conviction date, length of each sentence, date of prison entry and exit, and type of release. The last data set includes orders of protection issued against each offender as extracted from the data system of the AOC. Results show significant incarceration and criminal histories among stalkers and a frequent use of protective orders in such cases.

Also included are high dismissal rates of stalking offenses, excluding charges that were not dismissed (but have a relatively high conviction rate), and repeat criminal activity within a short time of the stalking charge. Other results show that stalking is directly linked to “drug/ alcohol related offenses, resisting arrest, threatening-related crimes, and property offenses”. Findings showed a need to study why cases amended after the initial charge of stalking involved men with significantly greater histories of criminal offenses and charges.

As for the use of protective orders, the study revealed findings of a high usage rate of protective orders in stalking cases, particularly with felony stalkers, two thirds of whom had protective orders against them. If this many victims seek civil orders as a protective remedy against stalking, the study showed a need for additional research on overall effectiveness of stalking laws and their implementation, the specific relationship between the violation of protective orders by stalkers and the efficacy of civil protection against these offenders.

In summary, Jordan’s study showed both the strengths and weaknesses of the criminal justice system’s response to stalking, the biggest weakness being the high dismissal rates. Her research supported her purposes in conducting the study that the justice system disposed of stalking cases the best way it can, according to the law, and including in the investigations other crimes made by the offender and the measures that were taken. Similarly, a study done in April 1998 by Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes of the U.

S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, titled Stalking in America: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey showed similar results in the justice system’s response to stalking cases. The data of the study come from the National Violence Against Women (NVAW) Survey, a nationally representative telephone survey of 8,000 women and 8,000 men from U. S. A. The survey asked detailed questions about respondents’ experiences with violence, including stalking.

Results proved to be similar to Jordan’s findings as 13 percent of female victims and 9 percent of male victims reported that their stalkers were criminally prosecuted, increasing to 24 percent and 19 percent, respectively, when only those cases with police reports are considered. “The stalkers were charged with a wide variety of crimes, including stalking, harassment, menacing or threatening, vandalism, trespassing, breaking and entering, robbery, disorderly conduct, intimidation, and simple and aggravated assault” (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998).

The participants reported that 54 percent of the stalkers who had criminal charges filed against them were convicted of a crime. Of those convicted, nearly two-thirds or 63 percent were believed to have been sent to jail or prison. Survey results also indicate that the female victims, about 28 percent of them, were more likely to obtain a protective or restraining order against their stalker.

These two studies showed that the justice systems is doing somewhat sufficient measures when it comes to dealing with stalking cases, although there were areas that could be improved on. On a personal point of view, all men and women deserve security, not only in the physical aspect or being, but also in their mental and emotional states. Stalking is a certain kind of crime that can greatly cause an alarming change in a person’s whole being, even more so if there aren’t any strict measures taken whenever the situation arises.

The biggest issue in the studies was that there is a high dismissal rate, but the numbers of convictions of greater offenses are, at least, comforting to know. Even though most stalkers with minor offenses get away, those with other crimes involved are given much stricter and harsher punishments, as they should. Laws can still be changed to further improve the safety of all people. Everyone deserves to be able to live their lives as safely and as peacefully as they can.

They also deserve to be reassured that in times of trouble, they have the justice system to rely on to do the best that it can to help fix the situation.

References

Jordan, C. E. , et. al. (2003). Stalking: An Examination of the Criminal Justice Response. Retrieved April 30, 2009 from http://www. sagepub. com/criminologystudy/ articles/chapter12_article02jordan. pdf Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, N. (1998). Stalking in America: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey. Retrieved April 30, 2009 from http://www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles/169592. pdf