Shawn directs a research group, the Criminal Process Unit (CPU), which focuses on the study of two processes – the process by which people exit offending (desistance) and the criminal justice process that generates sanctions once the person has been arrested. Shawn is currently involved in three major projects.
The first project is entitled “State-Mandated Criminal Background Employment Screening: A High Stakes Window into the Desistance Process”. Together with co-PI Megan Kurlchek, Shawn is studying the background check process done by the Department of Health for people who work in nursing homes for the state of New York. This project evolved from earlier research by Shawn and Megan (together with colleague Robert Brame) which shows that individuals with a criminal history record who do not reoffend eventually have the same level of risk as non-offenders. This work was cited by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when the commission revised their guidance to employers in 2012. This project combines Shawn’s interest in desistance, reentry and employment as a factor in the desistance process. The project funds two graduate students.
The second project, entitled “Crime and Confinement”, represents a new model of collaboration with New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services and Department of Corrections and Community Services. The project seeks to identify specific policies which can be implemented by the state of NY to reduce confinement without increasing crime. The project is currently focused on finding ways to divert defendants who are at low risk of recidivating and mentally ill defendants from prison. The project reflects Shawn’s roots in policy analysis (his Ph.D. is in Public Policy and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University) and his current interest in New York State sentencing policy (Shawn is a member of New York State’s Permanent Sentencing Commission). The project employs two doctoral students and a post-doctoral fellow.
The third project, entitled “Understanding Guilty Pleas” is a Research Coordination Network funded by the National Science Foundation. Together with co-PIs Allison Redlich, Brian Johnson and Anne Piehl, and School of Criminal Justice Assistant Dean, Diana Mancini, Shawn is leading a three year network designed to develop new research on guilty pleas. The vast majority (97%) of people in the U.S. who are convicted in the court system enter guilty pleas, but very little research has been conducted on the plea bargaining process. Shawn is particularly interested in finding new sources of data that follow people from arrest to conviction. He is also interested in developing new theoretical models of how actors in the criminal justice system make decisions about guilty pleas. The project will fund one graduate student, and several interdisciplinary conferences about plea bargaining.
Shawn Bushway is a criminologist with a background in public policy, economics and statistics. In all of his research, he attempts to a) think about policy relevance and b) empirically identify causal relationships, usually with quasi-experimental techniques.