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Criminology professor receives awards

March 01, 2013

The Western Society of Criminology recognized John Hepburn for his role in the field of criminology with two awards at its annual meeting this month in Berkeley, Calif. Hepburn, a professor in the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, was given the Paul Tappen Award for outstanding contributions to the field of criminology. 

“It is the Western Society of Criminology’s highest honor,” said Hank Fradella, the organization’s past president. “It is given to someone who has made truly outstanding contributions to the field of criminology over the course of their career.”

Fradella said Hepburn was selected because of the sustained and meaningful contributions that the ASU professor has made to the criminological literature as a correctional scholar. Hepburn’s extensive field research, analysis, and publication in leading journals helped improve correctional practices in the United States said Fradella.

“He’s figured out a way to communicate with people who work in professional corrections to give a voice to the inmates, to humanize them. And to make sure they are getting services so that when they get out – as more than three-quarters of them will – that they hopefully don’t recidivate,” Fradella said. “And he does that without ego and that’s a pretty remarkable thing in this day and age – especially at a major research university.”

Fradella, a department chair and professor of Law, Criminal Justice, and Forensic Studies at California State University Long Beach, is familiar with Hepburn’s work. He studied under Hepburn at the ASU School of Justice Studies on the Tempe campus. Hepburn is a former director of the School of Criminal Justice and former dean of the College of Human Services at ASU's West campus.

“When I arrived in 1993 as a new doctoral student, he taught a class called law and social control that ultimately became the area in which I specialized in as a criminologist,” said Fradella. “And he guided me every step of the way through my doctorate and has never stopped. He has epitomized for me what it is to be a good mentor. And I have tried to be for my students the kind of mentor that John has been for me.”

Each year, the president of the Western Society of Criminology (WSC) presents an award to an individual who has had a positive influence on the WSC president’s career. Fradella selected Hepburn to receive the President’s Award.

“He gave me guidance as a graduate student, as an untenured assistant professor and even all the way up the chain when I became a full professor and department chair,” Fradella said. “He still gives me guidance on how to handle certain things that I had not faced before. And because he has been there for me every step of the way since 1993 to the present, this was a no brainer for me. This was clearly the person who had developed the skill set that has allowed me to be successful as a criminologist.”

In addition to Hepburn’s awards, two ASU doctoral students were recognized with the Miki Vohryzek-Bolden Student Paper Award given to the best researched and written original manuscript. Weston Morrow and Lisa Dario were awarded the honor by a juried committee for their paper titled "Examining the Prevalence of a 'Youth Discount' in the Juvenile Justice System." Morrow and Dario examined the role that age, race and gender played in decisions that could benefit or harm juvenile offenders.

"Weston and I are thankful to be recognized by the Western Society of Criminology,” said Dario. “To be honored in front of the many prestigious academics at the conference both humbled us and made us that much more excited to continue working on this manuscript for publication. The conference was great – very welcoming of students and really diverse in terms of the interesting research presented."

The ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice played a significant role in the conference. Several students and professors presented research at the annual meeting. 

Doctoral student Gabriel Cesar presented findings from a research project with assistant professor Danielle Wallace and National Opinion Research Center senior research scientist Eric Hedberg titled “Social Undesirability in Survey Responses: Do Web Surveys Generate Socially Extreme Reactions?”

Associate professor Michael White and doctoral students Phil Mulvey and Lisa Dario discussed their research titled “Use of Force, Suspect Resistance & Police Legitimacy: Examining the Impact of Reciprocal Aggression.” The authors examined patterns of reciprocal aggression during arrests and the impact of that aggression on arrestee perceptions of procedural justice and police legitimacy.

Foundation professor Cassia Spohn was featured in a panel session on race, ethnicity and crime. The director of the doctoral program at the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice also presented findings from a research project with School director Scott Decker and doctoral student Natalie Ortiz titled “Criminal Record and Employment Prospects: An Experimental Audit Study.” The research project examined what kind of impact an offenders' race, ethnicity, gender, and criminal history had on getting hired.

ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice doctoral students Weston Morrow, Lisa Dario and Samuel Vickovic presented a paper titled “Transitory Hot Spots and Coastal Crime: The ‘Point Break’ Effect.” The team examined correlations between favorable surf conditions which draw surfers to particular beach locations and an increase in crime due to motivated offenders that target areas during those times.

“I enjoy being a part of the WSC conference because it is an intimate environment where scholars and practitioners can get together and share their ideas,” said Vickovic. “It is especially welcoming to younger scholars who are new to attending and presenting at an academic conference. It provides these individuals with an opportunity to present their research in a supportive atmosphere.”

Vickovic, a student representative on the WSC board of directors, also spoke at a panel session on police and the crime rate. Katherine Ginsburg, a first year doctoral student, spoke during a panel session on court sentencing.

The annual meeting of the Western Society of Criminology offers students the chance to network with peers. The ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice features three professors who serve on the organization’s board of directors: Marie Griffin, Justin Ready, and John Hepburn.