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Florida State University


Florida's Clemency Board recently approved Governor Charlie Crist's proposal to allow felons who have committed lesser, nonviolent crimes to regain the right to vote, serve on juries, and obtain certain occupational licenses. Kelle Barrick, who came to Florida State as a doctoral candidate in Criminology and whose dissertation will focus on whether being labeled as a "felon" increases the likelihood of recidivism, believes the Clemency Board's action is "a good thing."

The sooner, and more completely, a person is able to rejoin society, the less likely he or she will commit a serious crime and return to prison. This would include losing the criminal label. As Kelle and several co-authors have written in a soon-to-be-published paper—Reconviction data for nearly 100,000 men and women shows that those who were formally labeled as a felon are significantly more likely to return to prison within two years. The effect of the felon label is stronger for women, whites, and those who reach the age of 30 without a prior conviction. She adds, "We are continuing this line of research by attempting to assess the impact of felony conviction on employment outcomes, as well as the role of employment in mediating the sanction-recidivism relationship."

Her major professor, Dr. Ted Chiricos, is currently performing research on the issue of felons regaining the right to vote. Kelle says, "I wanted to work with him because I admired his research and we shared similar interests. Most importantly, he has presented me with valuable opportunities. We worked on a paper together that not only led to my dissertation but was also accepted for publication in one of the most respected journals in our field." She has now co-authored seven articles, which have been published, are under review, or are in progress, and she has presented, or co-presented, four papers at annual conventions of the American Society of Criminology.

The College of Criminology attracted Kelle because of its "well-respected faculty," who, she soon discovered, "are willing to work with students as true collaborators." Besides her research, Kelle has been the lead instructor or teaching assistant for numerous courses, from White Collar Crime to Diversity and Justice, and she has become a fellow on the peer-reviewed Journal of Drug Issues. She says, "The chance to do this type of work is rare and has been an invaluable part of my doctoral education."

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