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March 28, 2009


Filed under: Incarceration research — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 7:12 pm

My conference presentation is still April 10, and now I’ve got 15 pages.  I know it doesn’t sound like I’ve done that much since my Wednesday promise to the blogosphere, but believe me, I have done little else.  I worked for a solid 13 hours on Wednesday.  This is what I looked like by the end of the day:


A few things I’ve learned over the last few days:

  • I hate multiple regression.  I know there are worse things (like meta-analysis, Vickie or learning Mplus, Emily), but there’s something screwy going on with my sample size and thus far, I can’t create an evenly remotely interesting AND statistically-sound regression model.  Hours of life wasted…
  • I was crazy to write a proposal that requires a different set of literature altogether than I have spent the last year studying.
  • If you focus on something too long, it will invade your dreams.  Last night I dreamt (seriously) about dividing my sample into different age groups and running mean comparisons.  Crazy thing is, it might actually be a good idea.  Sweet statistical dreams.



March 25, 2009


My conference presentation is 10 April.  My paper is 11 pages and ridiculously incomplete.  Tomorrow I have to hit this paper so hard, it just might kill me.  Seriously.  But I have to do it to save my marriage (Neal’s such a drama queen sometimes 🙂 )

By this time Thursday, I will have written this paper: Post-Detention Likelihood to Succeed Scale: Adaptation to an Adult Incarcerated Population (positive psychology).

Now I’ve given my word to the blogosphere.

March 14, 2009


Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the flaws in eyewitness identification (no, this has nothing to do with my thesis nor the paper I’m presenting in 3 weeks . . . my bad!).  For those who don’t read all they can about the justice system, let me give you a brief primer: eyewitness identification is TERRIBLY flawed.  This Slate article by Dahlia Lithwick sketches out some of the key problems with it and arguments against considering eyewitness accounts as inherently reliable.  This topic has particularly been in the news because of the recent exoneration of Timothy Cole, who was convicted of rape through the victim’s testimony and died in prison 10 years ago.  It is truly a tragic story, particularly because the real perpetrator tried to confess for years but was not given much notice by Texas authorities.

We have been talking about brain development in my human development class.  Studying false memory was all the rage in the 90s and I read a few journal articles to get a brief primer on the subject.  Three things stuck out to me:

  1. Our minds are surprisingly susceptible to false memories
  2. False memories largely depend upon the plausibility of the memory
  3. One is more likely to adopt a false memory that conforms with pre-established beliefs (cultural, religious, etc.)

You can see why picking someone out of a line-up or photo array might lead to false memories.  The witness is looking at a bunch of bad-looking dudes (Neal commented here on how sadly deceiving mugshots seem after he actually met some jailed men); they could all plausibly be criminals.  The witness may also be getting subtle cues from police officers as to who they suspect, and of course, most people want to believe that the police are finding the right person.  You can see, too, how if the witness has racial or ethnic prejudice, they may be more likely to adopt a false memory that conforms with those preconceived notions.

I have been asked more times than I can count why I care so much about protecting prisoners’ rights.  The implication is that they are the bad guys.  But consider just how terrible it is when the wrong “bad guys” are put away . . . it’s an awful deal for us and them.  They lose years of life, and sometimes their whole lives, and we have left the actual perpetrator on the street to potentially strike again.  There is still a lot of debate about using new technological advances in DNA testing to review prior convictions (a topic for another day), but without a doubt there’s a problem with our procedures when 77% of the 230 people wrongfully convicted and exonerated by DNA (so far) primarily hinged on inaccurate eyewitness identification.

Of course, one of the blessings in life is that from something truly awful, something truly beautiful can emerge through the power of forgiveness.  This story is what inspired this post to begin with: how a wrongfully convicted and later exonerated  rapist Ronald Cotton taught his supposed victim, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, to forgive:

“I asked Ron if he could ever forgive me. And with all the mercy in the world he took my hands and with tears in his eyes, he told me he had forgiven me a long time ago. At that moment I began to heal. Ronald taught me how to let go of all that pain; his forgiveness set me free that night.Without Ronald, I would still be shackled to that moment in time, and it would own me forever. I soon discovered that I could even forgive the man who had raped me — not because he asked me to, nor because he deserved it — but because I did not want to be a prisoner of my own hatred.”

March 2, 2009

2008 Holiday Letter

That’s right, we’re still calling it that even though we’re 1/6 of the way through 2009.

So, Happy Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (21 Feb)!

Merry Donkey Races Day (22 Feb–in the Virgin Islands)!

Happy National Don’t Utter a Word Day (25 Feb–did not get the memo on this one until too late)!

Merry Public Sleeping Day (28 Feb–this one I can really get behind)!

Since I haven’t managed to get out proper holiday cards since 2006, I decided this would be a good start toward getting back on the wagon.

2008 brought us some amazing HIGHS:

  • Our first niece, Ayda Ellie, was born in March!  Neal was quite disturbed to find that she looked EXACTLY like my brother…not that he finds my bro repulsive but Chris is quite a big, beefy guy and it would just be a shame if Ayda missed out on her gorgeous mother’s genes completely.ayda-1100_8645100_8693
  • After about 5 more or less unsuccessful neck surgeries, I had a miraculous one is April.  Miraculous…there is no other way to explain how my life went from approximately 20 hours in bed everyday to…well, much less (can I help it if I love my bed?!)
  • We moved to Illinois for the research study of a lifetime, interviewing men in jail and their family members.  For more information, see…pretty much every other post on this blog.
  • I squeezed in an all-too-brief trip back to D.C. to see the people I love and miss, most especially Zoe and Aaron who are ridiculously grown-up now but as beautiful and loveable as ever.
  • Neal’s older sister Robin-Elise moved to Utah in October, directly leading to many wonderful weekends of “House”-watching, stimulating-conversationing, and first-Christmas-tree-decorating (Neal would have bah-humbugged his way out of this if not for Robin’s deep and abiding love of Christmas decor!)


There were also some lows, starting with a horribly painful and unsuccessful neck surgery in January; a sewage flood that took out, among other things, my shoes, our wedding gifts, and most of Neal’s paintings; neck pain and other health problems re-emerging in December.  Indeed, December was easily one of the toughest months of our lives as we faced some stark realities and spoiled plans.

Thankfully, those times also offered great opportunities for growth as Neal gave me blessings and gracefully became the spiritual center of our home.  He reminded me during the worst moments of 2 Kings 20: 5

I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold I will heal thee.

The emotional and physical healing is still in progress, but 2009 has already brought new things to be grateful for: I’m teaching my first course at BYU, Marriage Enhancement, which is awesome due to the truly good, trying-to-be-better students I have.  Neal’s business (Valley Educators) is having a banner year so far, which just floored us in light of the economic situation.

Truly, we have a blessed life.  And we hope you all feel the same about your 2009!

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