CARHS Spotlight - Spring 2013

Dr. Danielle Harris, Department of Justice Studies

In Spring 2013, CASA researcher Dr. Danielle Harris, Assistant Professor in the Department of Justice Studies, was in the CARHS Spotlight.



Dr. Harris began teaching at San Jose State in 2004 as an adjunct professor, and joined the faculty in a tenure track position in 2008, upon completing her PhD in Criminology from Griffith University in Australia. Dr. Harris studies sexual aggression, looking at the degree of specialization in the criminal careers of offenders. More recently, she’s been examining desistance, or the process by which individuals stop offending.

“…For a long time sexual offending wasn’t really dealt with by criminologists. Instead, it was relegated to the “helping professions” of social work and psychology. That was always frustrating to me, because criminology is the study of crime, and sexual offending is a crime – so why not look at it from a criminological perspective?”

She has developed a data visualization technique called the Life History Plot, which allows for multiple characteristics of an individual’s personal life and criminal career to be captured in a single graph, while maintaining their temporal significance. 

Life History PlotLife History Plot

“My research really showed that the versatility in their offending was quite profound, and that the majority of sex offenders had actually also committed all sorts of other crimes; in fact, they tend to have considerably long criminal records…That was a bit of a breakthrough for the field, because so many people had assumed for so long that sexual offenders were very specialized.”

In addition to research and teaching, Dr. Harris has been involved with the Records Clearance Project, working with students to expunge the criminal records of eligible individuals who have served their time. She's also interested in exploring the relevance of human rights in the the criminal justice system.

“I am the first to admit that what these people have done is abhorrent and horrific. But at the same time they’ve completed the sentences that they were given by the legal system, and now they’re trying to get on with their lives and reenter society. At the end of the day, I think we can do better to prevent these types of offenses from reoccurring and to improve the safety of our communities..…”

 CARHS Director Amy D'Andrade interviewed Dr. Harris in April 2012. You can find out more about her work and scholarship in the full transcript of the interview.

Danielle HarrisDanielle HarrisDanielle Harris

Harris, D. A. (in press) Using Life History Plots to visualize criminal careers, Criminal Justice Review. January 2013.

Francis, B., Harris, D. A., Soothill, K., & Knight, R. (under revision) Trajectory analysis of criminal careers of civilly committed sexual offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment.

Harris, D. A., Pedneault, A., & Knight, R. A. (2012) An exploration of burglary in the criminal careers of sexual offenders. Psychology, Crime and the Law.  1-17 iFirst article

Harris, D. A. (2012) Age and Type of Onset: Results from a sample of male sexual offenders referred for civil commitment. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.  1-22 iFirst article DOI: 10.1177//0306624X12448649 

Pedneault, A., Harris, D. A., & Knight, R. A. (2012). Toward a typology of sexual burglary: latent class findings. Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(4), 278-284. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2012.05.004

Harris, D. A., Knight, R. A., Dennison, S., Smallbone, S. (2011). Post release specialization and versatility in sexual offenders referred for civil commitment, Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. 23(2), pp 243-259.

Harris, D. A., Smallbone, S., Dennison S., & Knight, R. A. (2009). Specialization and versatility in sexual offenders referred for civil commitment, Journal of Criminal Justice, 37, pp 37-44.

Harris, D. A., Mazerolle, P., & Knight, R. A. (2009). Understanding male sexual offending: A comparison of general and specialist theories, Criminal Justice and Behavior, 36(10), pp 1051-1069.