Kyleigh Clark-Moorman has long been fascinated with crime, although her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Wright State University were in international studies and politics.
“I did my first master’s degree on the drug cartels in Mexico,” she says.
When she began looking at Ph.D. programs, Clark-Moorman wasn’t sure whether to study politics or criminology.
“I started paying attention to what I was reading in the news – and everything was about crime,” she says.
So she applied to Ph.D. programs in criminology in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
UMass Lowell stood out.
“When I visited, everyone was very honest with me, down-to-earth and approachable,” she says. “Everyone is so welcoming, and the professors are so invested in student success. They want you to flourish and build your skills.”
In the four years since she arrived, Clark-Moorman has built a wide range of skills while supporting herself, first through teaching appointments and more recently with research assistantships that have exposed her to several major issues in the field.
She has published or co-published research in four journals, including a study with Asst. Prof. Jason Rydberg that was cited in both The New York Times and The Washington Post. They found that, for offenders who had committed certain crimes, shorter sentences led to better behavior after release than long sentences.
Clark-Moorman’s main interest is in corrections and offender re-entry. She has done independent research on the impact of prison education programs on inmate behavior and will assist professors Andrew Harris and Kimberly Kras in constructing a detailed national database of how each state manages sex offenders in the community.
“The vast majority of people who are incarcerated are going to get out, so to me, the question is, ‘Who do you want to move into your neighborhood?’” she says. “We want these people who come back into the community to be successful, and we have to give them the tools to do that.”
For her dissertation, she is analyzing data collected by the Massachusetts Probation Service on a program that allows judges to release pretrial defendants with GPS monitors as an alternative to jail, so they can keep working and caring for their families.
Clark-Moorman wants to know if defendants with electronic monitoring bracelets are more likely to stay out of trouble than defendants released without them – and whether GPS monitoring has other consequences, such as affecting defendants’ employment or relationships.
Clark-Moorman’s curiosity has led her down other research roads, too. Last year, she read about an inmate who’d been placed in solitary confinement solely because of the symptoms of his mental illness. That’s illegal, but correctional officers often lack training in how to deal with mentally ill inmates, she says.
Wanting to know more, she looked for research into whether inmates with a pre-existing diagnosis of mental illness are more likely to be placed in segregation than prisoners without a diagnosis. She couldn’t find any studies – so she did one herself, and found that mentally ill inmates were 36 percent more likely to end up in solitary confinement than other prisoners with similar criminal histories and disciplinary infractions. That should change, she says.
“In segregation, treatment usually isn’t good, if they get it at all,” she says. “Being in solitary confinement isn’t good for your mental state even without a pre-diagnosed mental illness, but it’s especially bad if you do have one.”
Clark-Moorman’s paper has been accepted by the journal “Criminal Justice and Behavior.” She also won best research presentation by a graduate student in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Scientists at the 2018 Student Research and Community Engagement Symposium.