That’s not to say the 2015 murder increase isn’t alarming. Criminologists say it’s worth paying attention to, although we don’t really know why the rate increased in 2015 just yet. As John Jay College criminologist Jeffrey Butts put it to the Guardian, “You lost 50 pounds. You gained back a couple. You’re not fat. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at your behavior, because the trend is not good.”
Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said Spofford was modeled on big, centralized detention centers that were rooted in the 19th century, he said. It was part of an era when “detention centers had become a way of punishing people even before they went to court,” Mr. Butts said.
“No one has ever been able to find direct, defensible evidence that the behavior of the system regarding juvenile versus adult jurisdiction plays a direct role in overall crime trends,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Research and Evaluation Center. “Crime trends behave the way they behave, and they have a lot more to do with general conditions in the community and everything else. If you’re working in the system, you start developing the belief that you are in control of these trends. Whenever people look at it seriously, it’s never true.”
Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the study seemed like “academic clickbait.” What are judges supposed to do, he asked rhetorically, not handle cases in the week following each unexpected loss? Butts is open to good data analysis, he said, and appreciates transparency, but he has concerns about what he sees as a movement toward using large data sets for things like predictive policing, where police use math and data analysis to pinpoint potential criminal activity. That may be acceptable as long as it’s one tool in many, he said, but data shouldn’t drive the entire justice system.
Some criminal justice experts caution that limiting early release programs or imposing harsher sentences could backfire by increasing costs, straining overcrowded prisons and eliminating incentives for prisoners to behave well while incarcerated. "It's easy after the fact to say: 'If I were king of the forest, I would never have let these two guys out,'" said Jeffrey Butts, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York who studies the effectiveness of criminal justice programs.
Nevertheless, the bill has significant limitations, and Jeffrey Butts, Director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, believes that the law is predicated on a number of assumptions about what kinds of systems are already in place to track firearms. “One problem with the new law is that it presumes a good firearms database that’s up-to-date,” Butts told ThinkProgress, “It also presumes that there’s some meaningful connection between the registration of a purchase and the presence of those weapons in that home, at that time.”
As criminologist Jeffrey Butts explained to ThinkProgress, “Police are trained not to react too aggressively to the mentally ill and to avoid arrests if at all possible. In the past, people with mental illness were too often arrested for simply behaving strangely and not responding to instructions when confronted by police.
But Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, cautioned that it might be a stretch to link the knockout game with a rise in anti-Semitic assaults. First, he said, there is no proof that the incidents were linked, or even that any kind of formal game existed, and second, the main motivation of the game was not hatred for a particular group, but "social distance."
The lack of data conclusively tying the incidents to racism should preclude people from drawing inferences, Jeffrey Butts, a researcher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told a New York radio station on Monday, “because that encourages you to think about this as a racial behavior” when it may be more about “the age of the perpetrators … [and] social class.”
“Crime is coming down all over the country, and every mayor and police chief points to things they’re doing in their city. But if it’s a nationwide phenomenon, it’s something bigger than what just New York City is doing,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.