February 19, 2007

Faculty member to lead long-term prisoner study

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Criminal justice experts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will use a $150,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Corrections to study the effects of long-term prison sentences.

Martha L. Henderson, assistant professor in SIUC's Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency and Corrections, will lead "The Illinois Long-Term Prisoner Study," which will examine the impact of indeterminate sentencing on inmates. Specifically, Henderson and her team of researchers will assess health care services and rehabilitative programs for long-term offenders, and conduct cost-benefit analyses of those services.

The project is the result of Illinois House Joint Resolution 80, which established a Long-Term Prisoners Study Committee of state legislators and corrections officials. The committee wants to review correctional practices with regard to long-term offenders.

"It is my fundamental belief that bridging the gap between research and practice ultimately leads to better policy and greater cost-savings for the public," said Henderson. "Illinois has taken a step in the right direction by asking for a review of the evidence and an assessment of current organizational functioning prior to attempting to change correctional practice."

State leaders tapped into Henderson's expertise because of her background in correctional policy analysis. From 2004 to 2005, she worked as a senior researcher for the Ohio Department of Corrections. Henderson joined the SIUC faculty in 2001.

Henderson is a two-degree graduate of University of Cincinnati, earning her master's degree in sociology in 1999 and a doctorate in criminal justice in 2000. She earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Furman University in 1992.