“When you are doing research every single thing matters,” said Jacob Wehler, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville criminal justice major. “If you don’t pay attention to all the little details, you could be missing a whole plethora of conclusions or details that could sway your results.”
This semester, Wehler, a senior from Black Earth, Wisconsin, received the Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Scholarship. He is examining the relationship between participation engagement through written assignments with drug and OWI court participants in the Grant County treatment court system.
“I’m looking at how many sentences each participant is writing in those written assignments to see how engaged they are with those assignments,” said Wehler. “Does it actually matter if the person is writing more sentences and more engaged? Is that going to affect their recidivism level? Will they be likely to offend or not in the future?”
Wehler posed these questions while assisting three criminal justice professors with their research: Dr. Staci Strobl, Dr. Nancy Gartner and Dr. Valerie Stackman. According to Strobl, they received two grants totaling $30,000 from the Grant County and Unified Counseling Services to evaluate whether the local drug and alcohol courts work in preventing criminal recidivism.
“[Jacob] has shown true commitment to his research and stands to make an original contribution to the field of corrections in criminal justice. This is outstanding for an undergraduate researcher." – Dr. Staci Strobl
"Jacob is an incredibly talented student who while working on research with criminal justice professors identified his own research question that he could ask of the court data he helped to collect,” said Strobl who is also Wehler’s research faculty advisor. “He has shown true commitment to his research and stands to make an original contribution to the field of corrections in criminal justice. This is outstanding for an undergraduate researcher."
Since January, Wehler has been analyzing documents and personal testimony. Along with his qualitative research, Wehler has worked closely with the Grant County drug treatment coordinator.
“There was a lot of trust,” he said. “Being on the research team with my professors created a solid relationship with the drug treatment court coordinator. It really solidified how much it means to be able talk to someone and create trust in the professional field.”
Wehler expects to have his research project finished this month. His conclusion thus far is, “The preliminary results depict that as participants become more engaged with written assignments, the less likely they are to recidivate.”
Throughout this undergraduate research, Wehler said he has faced obstacles, but has learned even more about the court system.
“The challenge is the gray area. Can I decipher what is the noise of the project versus what’s the actual substance of the project,” he said. “That daily battle is really enjoyable. I love the grind of it.”
As Wehler prepares to graduate in May, he’s going to use this experience as he applies to graduate school.
“Doing this research and being funded by the undergraduate research scholarship allows students to see how research happens at UW-Platteville; it’s very important,” said Wehler. “Everything I have learned through my tenure here, I have applied it all while researching.”