L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



Two Wilder School faculty receive $400,000 grant to study public corruption

Two Criminal Justice faculty members at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs have received a $400,000 federal research grant to study public corruption.

Jay Albanese, Ph.D., a professor and criminologist, and Kristine Artello, J.D., Ph.D., assistant chair of the Wilder School’s Criminal Justice Program, proposed a research project titled, "Developing Empirically-Driven Public Corruption Prevention Strategies" to the National Institute of Justice, which has just been funded for two years beginning in January 2016.

The project will investigate the reasons behind why convictions for public corruption offenses have increased significantly since 1995, and that more than half of these cases involved participation of private citizens in the official misconduct. Correspondingly, public opinions polls show a dramatic decline in trust and confidence in government and in those individuals running it. Corruption is one of the most serious of all crimes due to its impact on government legitimacy, in addition to the impacts of the offenses themselves.

Public corruption offenses include bribery, extortion, embezzlement, procurement and contracting fraud involving public funds, as well as illegal gratuities, nepotism, conflict of interest, illegal campaign contributions, official misconduct and influence peddling. In every case, a public office is misused for private gain.

A mixed methods research design will be employed to answer a series of questions, involving analysis of a large sample convictions for state and local corruption offenses, interviews with a sample of offenders convicted of public corruption offenses, interviews with federal investigators and prosecutors of these offenses, and interviews with local stakeholders.

This study also will compare high-volume and low-volume jurisdictions to assess reasons for the large discrepancies in the incidence of public corruption offenses. The 10 highest-volume jurisdictions for public corruption convictions account for a third of all convictions nationwide. This project will produce a typology of public corruption incidents, and specific recommendations for empirically-driven corruption prevention strategies.

“These awards are very competitive, and we’re honored to have received this grant,” said Niraj Verma, Ph.D., dean of the Wilder School. “The Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy worked closely with Drs. Albanese and Artello to obtain this grant, which leverages our expertise in criminal justice and helps support our mission as a research university."