ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice received a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to analyze how participating in a gang affected its members in 1950s Boston.
The money will fund the project, “Revisiting Roxbury: Crime, Gang Membership and the Life Course,” which will focus on former gangster’s lives after they left the gang, according to Rick Moule, a criminology and criminal justice doctoral student.
The grant, he said, is crucial to the success of the project.
“The project needed funding to facilitate parts of the project that we can’t do (in Phoenix),” Moule said. “Almost everyone is based in Boston and we have to be able to get there.”
Aside from travel expenses, the grant will also allow researchers to provide incentives to the interviewees, said Gary Sweeten, the study’s co-principal investigator and a criminology and criminal justice professor.
The project uses research compiled more than 50 years ago when the lives of gang members in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston were documented by cultural anthropologist Walter Miller and a team of social workers.
There are 17 boxes full of handwritten notes with individual information on gang members, ranging from personal backgrounds to what they did every day, Sweeten said. Part of the research is transcribing the information into spreadsheets.
An interest in studying the lives of criminals and the impact of specific events on their lives has emerged over the last 20 years, Sweeten said. He expects the results to give a better look at the topic because there have been few studies on it.
Project director Scott Decker and his team submitted a grant proposal to the Law and Social Sciences program at the NSF last year, but did not receive a grant.
The NSF receives around 200 research proposals each year, but only can fund a fifth of those proposals. However, the ASU team’s second proposal caught the organization’s attention.
The results must be made available during the 18 months the project is funded by the grant to allow other researchers to replicate or extend the study, said Susan Sterett, program director for social, behavioral, and economic sciences at NSF.
“This project is a creative effort to use existing data, richer than any other, to address the important intellectual and public-policy questions concerning life histories and gang membership,” Sterett said.
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