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VOLUME 26 NUMBER 5 September/October 2002
FEATURE
ONE Click to Criminal Justice
by Patricia Fravel Vander Meer

It's a crime there's so much information available. Why, whoever's responsible should be locked up and we'll throw away the key. There's just no defense possible. No, actually, it's a real boon for those who need it.

I'm talking about criminal justice (CJ) information. Is there a richer or more bountiful collection of resources to be found on the Web today? Intertwined with most disciplines, criminal justice interests nearly everyone in some way, some place, and at some time. We only need to consider terrorist events of late to realize how CJ news, data, or policies touch our everyday lives.

This listing highlights a sampling of critical or unique Web sites for a varied audience seeking CJ information. This includes professionals in CJ, law, and the government, as well as students, educators, librarians, and the general public.

GATEWAYS

Metasites, guides to the literature, gateways­whatever you call them­sites that link you to information sources are invaluable to any discipline. Criminal justice is no exception.

Florida State University
School of Criminology and
Criminal Justice Links
[www.criminology.fsu.edu/cjlinks/]

To become acquainted with the sheer magnitude and types of available materials, visit this popular gateway. Created by a Florida State University instructor, this exhaustive guide uses a smorgasbord approach to hundreds of sites in CJ, delinquency, substance abuse, censorship, policing, forensics, law, CJ education, and CJ in the media. Links to a broad range of interesting listservs are also given.

Cybrary [www.cybrary.info/]

Developed by Dr. Frank Schmalleger, director of the Justice Research Association, who described in an e-mail to me on May 13, 2002, the Cybrary as the definitive "search engine for CJ professionals and students." The Cybrary references over 12,000 CJ-related Web sites, including government and nongovernment publications, with annotations written by its staff. The "Top 100 Picks" is an added bonus that can help users uncover CJ information gems on the Web.

CrimeLynx [www.crimelynx.com/]

Created by a criminal defense attorney to help legal practitioners gather information, CrimeLynx claims to seek out the "best, not the most of the Web" and provides categories of links such as legal research, forensic and expert, investigation, and media, politics, and commentary.

United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network (UNCJIN)
[www.odccp.org/uncjin.html]

World Justice Information Network (WJIN) [www.wjin.net ]

World Criminal Justice Library Network (WCJLN)
[http://newark.rutgers.edu/~wcjlen/WCJ/]

Finding CJ information for individual or multiple countries can be challenging. The UNCJIN and WJIN are two organizations whose missions address just that. These Networks serve as forums for international exchange and international clearinghouses for CJ information.

Browsing the UNCJIN yields many links in categories such as CJ organizations by country, terrorism prevention, and global programs against corruption, trafficking in human beings, and organized crime.

The WJIN site provides a handy search engine and multiple browsing options (by region or by language). Current CJ news and an international discussion list are added features.

The WCJLN is unique in that librarians and CJ information specialists initiated it. Links to traditional materials, such as online periodicals or reference sources and statistics, as well as international or individual countries' resources, are included.

STATISTICAL DATA AND RESEARCH

Quantifying crime, in all its various forms, is of enormous interest to researchers, social scientists, policy makers, and journalists.

National Archive of Criminal
Justice Data (NACJD)
[www.icpsr.umich.edu/NACJD/index.html]

This topical archive of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan promotes CJ research by acquiring data and offering training in quantitative analysis. Hundreds of downloadable CJ collections can be accessed free of charge, many of which originated at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). FAQ and e-mail reference assistance are available. Many reports pertaining to the data collections are found in the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (for a description, see the Periodicals Research Materials listing).

FedStats [www.fedstats.gov/]

As a clearinghouse, FedStats provides links to statistics from over 70 U.S. federal agencies. Quick access to categories, such as crime agencies, and a keyword search engine allowing precise phrase searches ("capital punishment") are provided.

Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) [www.jrsa.org/]

This national organization consists of professionals who support CJ research at the state level. Users can link to State Statistical Analysis Centers, a keyword-searchable infobase of state research projects, and research reported by state agencies. JRSA also conducts multi-state research, provides training to state and local agencies, and sponsors conferences addressing the latest CJ research and practices.

MONOGRAPHIC RESEARCH MATERIALS

Traditional research sources can be approached via the Web in several ways. A good way to identify background reference sources is to consult an academic library's Web-based subject guide. Books can be identified through commercially available databases, such as OCLC's union catalog, WorldCat [www.OCLC.COM/worldcat], or by consulting free, public access online catalogs of institutions that house substantive CJ collections.

Criminal Justice Resources
[www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/crimjust/crimjust.htm]

This ambitious, annotated CJ guide created by a Michigan State University reference librarian identifies print and Web-based sources in categories such as background reading and reference tools. Sources are also given for over 50 important topics, such as "race and CJ" and "bioterrorism."

Online Library Catalogs from a Selection of Universities with Sizable CJ and/or Criminology Collections include the following:

PERIODICAL RESEARCH MATERIALS

As with most disciplines, periodical articles are much more current than books. Ferreting out pertinent CJ articles from the literature, however, can be trying. Specialized indexes are a great assist to the CJ researcher.

Electronic Resources­Criminal Justice Electronic Journals
[http://er.lib.msu.edu/subject.cfm?cat=0&type=Electronic%20Journal&subject=Criminal%20Justice]

Criminal Justice Resources. Periodicals available over the Web
[www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/crimjust/per.htm]

Part of Michigan State University's CJ Resources site (see Monographic Research Materials section), these annotated lists supplement one other and identify subscription-based and free Web-based CJ magazines, news sources, and journals.

Ingenta [www.ingenta.com]

Offering a gold mine of free indexing with abstracts to over 25,000 periodicals, this service provides some full text on a pay-per-view basis or through a subscription plan. Articles can be retrieved by keyword searching or by browsing journals' tables of contents. To identify a sampling of CJ journals, search by "words in title" on the "browse publications" page, entering a relevant word or word stem (crimwill retrieve crime, criminal justice, and criminology).

National Criminal Justice
Reference Service (NCJRS)
[www.ncjrs.org/]

This federally funded powerhouse of CJ services and reference information summarizes over 160,000 publications in its Abstracts database, including government reports, books, articles, and published and unpublished research reports. An exclusively full-text NCJRS Virtual Library is also available. Most items not available full-text online can be purchased from NCJRS. A full realm of services can be had at no cost by registering online. Catalogs and newsletters, as well as e-mails regarding new publications, key journal articles, conferences, grants, and timely topics, are some of the benefits. Telephone or electronic reference assistance is an added bonus.

Criminal Justice Abstracts
[www.silverplatter.com/]

This Sage Publications Inc. database, available from Ovid Technologies' SilverPlatter unit, features international coverage and summaries of articles from over 500 journals, books, government documents, and dissertations. The database also indexes many acquisitions of an important CJ special collection, Rutgers University's Criminal Justice/NCCD Library.

Criminal Justice Periodicals Index
[www.proquest.com/]

Made available by subscription through ProQuest, this database indexes nearly 200 journals and other periodicals, many of which focus on practical issues. Topics covered should interest professionals in law enforcement, corrections administration, drug enforcement, rehabilitation, family law, and industrial security. A special feature is the inclusion of full text and images for about 60 titles.

LexisNexis [www.lexis-nexis.com/]

An example of a major, primarily fee-based service containing legal periodical literature, LexisNexis includes law reviews and journals and news (for a full description of this service, see "Legal Information"). To view a sampling of titles related to CJ/criminology, consult the LexisNexis "Sources" page and conduct a keyword search by typing in crim (to retrieve criminal or crime).

GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS

Information in government documents is too often overlooked. Government documents touch on almost every subject imaginable, including criminology.

University of Michigan
Government Documents Center [www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs]

This University of Michigan Libraries' gateway offers an appealing, straightforward approach to navigating the overwhelming array of online government resources. Using frames, the Federal Documents section provides broad categories, such as the federal budget and copyright, as well as an index covering over 100 topics, in an easy-to-digest format. The Foreign Governments and International sections link to documents by region, country, or topic (anthems, constitutions, or the military).

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Government Documents Library [http://gateway.library.uiuc.edu/doc/]

This University of Illinois Libraries' gateway features a unique "Sites of the Week" collection of links covering timely topics, such as "homeland security," and periodic popular or scholarly online exhibits incorporating government materials.

FirstGov [www.firstgov.gov/]

More than 50 million pages of federal, state, and local resources can be searched using this official U.S. gateway, now powered by FAST. Multiple search options include keyword searching that can be limited to federal or individual state documents. Resources can be browsed by subjects, or categories tailored to specific audiences (i.e., citizens, business, or government).

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC)
[www.trac.syr.edu/]

This research service, based at Syracuse University, is co-directed by David Burnham, whose investigating reporting credits include the police corruption series that inspired the film Serpico, and involvement with the Karen Silkwood case. TRAC covers information about the federal government's enforcement and regulatory activities made public through the Freedom of Information Act, for agencies such as the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

LEGAL INFORMATION

It seems obvious that CJ information would be found in legal databases, but not everyone is aware of the newly accessible legal sites.

FindLaw [www.findlaw.com]
Legal Information Institute
[http://lii.law.cornell.edu/]

Developed with a wide audience in mind, these sites bring legal information at no cost to professionals as well as the public-at-large.

Initially created by a graduate assistant and an attorney and now owned by West Group, FindLaw has evolved into a giant, highly popular law portal. Federal and state codes and cases, professional directories, job notices, discussion groups, and criminal law sites are just the tip of the iceberg of resources offered. A special feature is "My FindLaw," allowing a user to create a customized front end to the site.

Created at Cornell University's Law School, the more subdued Legal Information Institute takes a potentially overwhelming number of links to resources on all aspects of U.S. law and manages them in a simple, easy-to-grasp format using logical legal categories and subcategories with succinct pull-down menus.

LexisNexis [www.lexis-nexis.com]

This vast commercial research service accesses thousands of legal, business, and news sources. For example, the LexisNexis Criminal Law Library of sources provides access to federal and state case, statutory, or administrative laws and related materials, law reviews and journals, and legal news. Users will be pleased to find free access to a portion of these resources. Approaches to accessing LexisNexis include the following options:

  • LexisNexis Academic Universe, a large subscription-based subset of the LexisNexis service tailored specifically to students.
  • LexisNexis Practice Area Pages, available to LexisNexis subscribers or on a pay-as-you-go basis, offering a customized quick access interface to LexisNexis materials in professional practice areas, such as CJ.
  • LexisOne, a free service designed for small law firms, offering U.S. Supreme Court cases, recent state and U.S. appellate cases, legal forms, an extensive Internet Legal Guide, and legal news. Older cases, and features, such as Shepardizing, available at the fee-based site, can be accessed at LexisOne on a pay-as-you-go basis. Handy search engine strategies associated with the full LexisNexis system are available.


CURRENT EVENTS/POPULAR INTEREST

Pick up a newspaper and you're bound to read an article about some type of crime, from theft to murder. As is widely known, bad news sells, and crime is usually bad news.

Justice Talking [www.justicetalking.org]

This Web site corresponds to National Public Radio's "Justice Talking" weekly radio program produced by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Hosted by veteran NPR correspondent Margot Adler, the program uses a town meeting format, examining current court cases and controversies relating to important questions of constitutional law. Background reports are given for each controversy, in addition to debate among accomplished legal professionals and opportunities for audience participation. Audio transcripts of the radio program are featured.

Criminal Justice Journalists
[www.reporters.net/cjj]

This nonprofit CJ journalism organization features an Information Center brimming with links to resources on major contemporary CJ topics, examples being high-tech crime and the death penalty.

University of Michigan
Documents Center­America's
War against Terrorism
[www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/usterror.html]

This annotated gateway references documents relating to the September 11 attack on America, terrorism, and counterterrorism. Multiple categories, including events and countries, are used and links to worldwide news sources are provided.

CAREERS, EMPLOYMENT, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Looking for work in the area? Want to enhance your skills? These are the places to go.

Employment Mega-Links in Criminal Justice
[http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/employ.htm]

Devoted to CJ careers and employment, this comprehensive site was created by Dr. Thomas O'Connor, an instructor at North Carolina Wesleyan College, who noted in his Employment Mega-Links in Criminal Justice, April 28, 2001, "You can do about anything online today except send your hologram to work."

A section for beginners features choosing careers, a directory of potential mentors, how to obtain an internship, salary guidelines, and applying for a job via the Internet. Links are categorized by type of position as well as geographic location.

NCJRS Calendar of Events
[http://eventscalendar.ncjrs.org]

This valuable tool for finding CJ conferences, workshops, and events of all descriptions is searchable by date, location, sponsoring organization, and/or topic covered.

Criminal Justice Discussion Lists
[www.albany.edu/scj/lists.html]

Part of the SUNY­University of Albany, School of Criminal Justice site, this concise, annotated list describes over 50 core CJ-related discussion lists. (For a broader listing see Florida State University's Criminal Justice Links described under "Gateways.")

INSTRUCTOR/TRAINER SUPPORT FOR WEB-BASED INSTRUCTION

For those teaching the subject in a distance-learning environment, check out the CJDLC site.

Criminal Justice Distance Learning Consortium (CJDLC)
[www.cjcentral.com/cjdlc/]

This site should capture the interest of creators of CJ training or education. Developed to support CJ/criminology distance learning, the Consortium's goals include creating model curricula, developing accreditation standards, and providing professional resources and training. The CJDLC online newsletter contains practical articles on CJ distance learning.

These sites constitute a snapshot of what is available today in the perpetually changing, expanding world of criminal justice. But what of the ones I didn't mention or that don't yet exist? Productive methods of scouting out emerging unique and useful sites include periodically browsing the aforementioned CJ gateways, scanning relevant discussion lists, visiting "What's New" sections of favorite Web sites, as well as surfing the Internet using a reliable search engine with advanced features, such as Google or FAST.

It's no crime to do criminal justice research. That click you hear isn't the key turning in the jailhouse lock, it's more information being added to Internet sites.


Patricia Fravel Vander Meer [pat.vandermeer@wmich.edu] is Reference Librarian and Criminal Justice Library Liaison, Western Michigan University, Waldo Library, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to marydee@infotoday.com.


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