Portland State professor Laura Hickman believes that social science research should be an important part of determining public policy. “Politicians have a responsibility to base what they say on data, not assumptions,” she said.
Portland State professor Laura Hickman believes that social science research should be an important part of determining public policy.
“Politicians have a responsibility to base what they say on data, not assumptions,” she said.
Hickman, an assistant professor in the College of Urban and Public Affairs, is working to highlight the importance of this research. There seems to be an assumption that illegal immigrants are potential terrorists–that they create their own unique or special threat to public safety–or that they constitute their own crime wave, Hickman said.
But by talking up and making policy based on these assumptions, Hickman said she believes politicians are not fulfilling some of their ethical responsibilities to the public.
“We have to be careful before we spout out conclusions,” she said. In response, Hickman said she conducted a study examining multiple arrest rates of illegal immigrants to those of legal immigrants in Los Angeles County, Calif., in August and September of 2002.
Hickman said the results of the study show 50 percent of male legal immigrants were incarcerated more than once within one year of an initial arrest, while 38 percent of male illegal immigrants were arrested again after an initial arrest during the same period of time, showing that illegal immigrants were no more likely to have multiple arrests than legal citizens.
The study was published in the February edition of the Criminology and Public Policy journal.
She hopes that research like her’s will inspire more policy oriented research. Hickman said that this was the first study of its kind in what she considers an important field.
“So far, we seem to be the only one,” she said. “We hope it inspires people to get to work. We have a responsibility to get out there and do policy oriented questions.”
Now, Hickman is working on a project with the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention’s National Safe Start Initiative that examines the effectiveness of case management and therapy given to children who witness domestic violence.
She is also currently conducting a national evaluation of her research with researchers from RAND, a non-profit California-based think tank who previously employed Hickman.
A native of Bend, Ore., Hickman received her master’s degree in administration of justice at PSU. She received a doctorate in Criminology from the University of Maryland.
–Additional reporting by John Benenate