Featured News 2019 News

New research institute explores the intersection of social work and criminal justice at FSU

"Criminal justice reform is the civil rights issue of our time and finding solutions means we need to bring everyone to the table," Carrie Pettus-Davis notes regarding the new institute.

The Florida State University (FSU) College of Social Work has launched a new research institute aimed at advancing science, policy and practice to improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities impacted by the criminal justice system.

The Institute for Justice Research and Development (IJRD) was founded and is directed by Carrie Pettus-Davis, associate professor at FSU and Center for Social Development (CSD) Faculty Director of the Smart Decarceration Initiative.

Unique from traditional academic research centers, IJRD applies an innovative trans-sector approach, bringing together various disciplines to address complex criminal justice issues.

“We partner with prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, departments of correction, probation and parole officers, community service providers, formerly incarcerated individuals and scholars among disciplines from social work and law to public health and computer science,” Pettus-Davis says.

“Criminal justice reform is the civil rights issue of our time and finding solutions means we need to bring everyone to the table.”

“The Institute works at all phases of the criminal justice system to identify effective programs to prevent criminal justice involvement, reduce the incarcerated population and help meet the needs of the nearly 12,000 people released from prisons across the nation every week,” Pettus-Davis says.

Pettus-Davis and her colleagues are conducting front-end work with prosecutors to divert individuals away from conviction and incarceration and into community support systems. Moreover, they test the effectiveness of trauma-informed behavioral health interventions in jails and prisons across the nation.

The research team at IJRD is also conducting one of the largest randomized controlled trials of a prisoner reentry intervention. The 5-Key Model for Reentry—an intervention developed by researchers, practitioners and formerly incarcerated individuals—translates key ingredients for incarcerated individuals’ successful reentry back into the community. Currently, the 5-Key Model is being implemented in 50 prisons, 12 counties and four states across the nation with over 1,500 participants. The project will expand into three more states starting this summer. A full list of IJRD’s featured projects can be found here.

In addition, IJRD offers a collection of publications ranging from working papers, research reports, policy and practice briefs, tools for the field and academic publications to help catalyze the adoption of data-driven solutions into policy and practice. Revisit Pettus-Davis’s book, co-edited with Matthew Epperson, Smart Decarceration: Achieving Criminal Justice Transformation in the 21st Century. Promote Smart Decarceration, co-led by Carrie Pettus-Davis and Matt Epperson, is also one of the Grand Challenges for Social Work.

Through three primary goals—develop individual and community well-being, promote racial and economic equality and change conventional criminal justice outcomes—IJRD aims to alleviate mass incarceration.

“Overall, our goal is for fewer people to enter the criminal justice system, and when some do, to help them reach their full human potential and exit the system as quickly as possible.” Pettus-Davis says.

“We are committed to rapidly translating research into policy and practice … to alleviate human suffering, ameliorate disparities, change conventional criminal justice outcomes and promote well-being.”

There are many opportunities for community members, students and scholars to join in this work. Learn more about how to join the IJRD team here.

The Center for Social Development has research partners across academic disciplines and university campuses, along with many applied partners in the United States and other countries. In CSD’s view, meaningful social research and innovation are possible only through strong partnerships.