Scott Mire in the Department of Criminal Justice talks with ultoday.com about how he came to UL, his research into programs which offer the potential to reduce incarceration costs and alleviate jail crowding, and the recent international law enforcement conference held here at UL.

Tell us about yourself.

I am originally from Eunice, where I was graduated from St. Edmond High School.

I wanted to be a police officer. ULM offered a Master's in Criminal Justice, so that's how I ended up there. I completed my undergraduate work at ULM and then my Master's, and came back to Lafayette in 1996. I worked as an officer until 1999, about 4 years. I spent some time on the road as a patrol officer, some time in narcotics. Then I went to work for the US Border Patrol.

That must have been interesting.

Yeah, quite interesting. I was stationed out of the Laredo Sector. I was responsible for general run-of-the-mill duties of an agent, from checkpoints to tracking aliens out in the bush and complex investigations concerning alien smuggling.

Did anything surprise you about the work?

The massive influx of human beings coming into the United States. I had no idea. That, and the massive amount of illegal narcs that are trafficked in through the southern border. As I said, I was a narcotics agent here, and a bust for 30 pounds of marijuana in Lafayette was a big deal.

The first day I was in Laredo, a tractor trailer came through with 2.5 tons.

In 2001, I decided that's not what I wanted to do, so I enrolled at Sam Houston State for my PhD. I came here to UL in 2005 and took Burke Foster's place when he retired.

Was UL your first choice, or was it just the job that opened up?

Both. It worked out that way, and it let me come back home. I have a lot of stuff I want to do, I have a lot of contacts here, so it's ideal for doing research.

What are your areas of research?

It's changing so much, it's hard to nail down. Right now, I'd say it's what I call Community Corrections programs.

Explain that.

Community Corrections would be any type of program where a convicted offender is not sent to jail, but is given some other sentence: probation, parole, jail diversion, or drug court. Those are all examples, they provide services to offenders within the community, in lieu of jail.

Those ideas are not always popular.

I know, but it costs a lot of money to house offenders. We're out of room, and recidivism is high. And so these programs are a natural extension of the overload.

Are these programs effective?

That's a very difficult question to answer, particularly from an academic standpoint. I suspect that Community Corrections programs are viable, and have the ability to work. Most are theoretically sound.

Operationalizing the theory, however, is often difficult. That is where we have to refine and build upon the Community Corrections programs. For example, boot camps were very popular for some time. But the research started coming out, and it wasn't supportive, it basically said it didn't work.

But is it that the programs do not work? Or do we need a re-entry component attached to the boot camp?

And then, what is success? What are we trying to achieve? Complete rehabilitation of the criminal, or just an overall lessening of the amount of crime? How can you be successful, unless you are clear about what goal you're trying to reach? From a political standpoint, it's a difficult thing to discuss.

So do they work? No one knows yet. Until we can conduct in-depth, theory-based research, we won't know.

Are there programs that look particularly promising right now, or even intriguing?

Yes. Jail diversion is the process of assessing an offender who has been arrested by the police. Basically it says we are looking for offenders with mental illness or other co-occurring disorders. What we are finding is that most offenders, particular repeat offenders, are suffering from substance abuse.

So the government is saying, let's identify these people, put them in a situation where we can try to address the underlying problem. I like that approach, but I'm not sure that our current parameters are properly identifying the likely candidates.

I believe that criminal behavior can be viewed as a symptom. That's not real popular in the law enforcement community, but that's probably how it needs to be viewed.

Would illiteracy be a co-occurrence?

There are many factors that come into play. One of the things that make this approach so complex, is that humans are so complex. It's not math or biology, it's people. So literacy could be one, absolutely. Neglect could be. Poverty could be. We know that all of those components are extremely powerful motivators, so it wouldn't be surprising to find out that they would motivate people to commit crimes.

The only way you get close to understanding behavior is to study it. We need to look at behavior of the criminal through the disciplines that are most advanced in human behavior. Not the disciplines that are perfect, but those that are the most advanced, because you have to work with what you have.

Right now, I'm working on another Masters' degree in the Counselor Education program. In essence, my quest is to learn all I can in relation to human behavior.

I understand that you were one of the organizers of an important conference held recently here at UL.

UL & ULM just hosted the Asian Association of Police Science here in Lafayette. We had representatives from China, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and other Asian countries consisting of academicians as well as high ranking practitioners. The conference was in English.

This was a very significant event, and a lot of collaboration between myself and Robert Hanser at ULM. We had approximately 40 presenters who did outstanding jobs of providing current information on a variety of issues, including relationships between police and minority communities they serve. This is a critical issue for all law enforcement agencies. Globalism is not coming; it is here. Our communities are becoming more diverse, and from a law enforcement standpoint we must be able to communicate with everyone.

We had great representation from the Lafayette Police Department as Chief Craft gave an outstanding overview of all of the programs here in Lafayette aimed at enhancing police-minority relations. Major Roy Frusha of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office also did a fantastic job of summarizing the various programs carried out through the Sheriff’s Office. I was very impressed with everything they provided and I'm grateful they were able to attend. The various delegations were also very thankful to have such high-ranking officials visit with them.

All in all, the conference was a great success. We exchanged wonderful information related to criminal justice, and also enjoyed some of South Louisiana’s finest offerings. We had dinner at Prejean’s, visited the Angola State Penitentiary, The Louisiana State Police Headquarters, the New Orleans Police Department, and of course, the French Quarter.

I would like to give a special thanks to Dean David Barry. Dean Barry was wonderfully supportive and provided a great infrastructure for the success of the conference. Also, Criminal Justice Head, Craig Forsythe and the entire department provided great support.

(To read Part II of this article, go here.)