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Criminal justice reform is of broad interest nationally as well as locally in Vermont. There is growing recognition of the high cost of our current system as well its negative impacts on justice-involved populations, including harms from mass incarceration. The Justice Research Initiative engages scholars, researchers, state leaders, and community stakeholders to understand and solve critical justice related issues.

Connecting the University of Vermont with local, regional, and national leaders, we conduct research that bring scholars and decision-makers together, focusing on justice issues, with the aim of applying rigorous data and analysis to improve social problems. Our work concentrates on:

• prison environments and culture
• the health and well-being of justice involved populations
• health and social disparities
 restorative justice


Prison Research and Innovation Network (PRIN)

Through a research-practice partnership, UVM and the Vermont Department of Corrections, in collaboration with the Urban Institute, are engaged in a network of five states focused on making prisons more transparent and improving prison environments and culture. The network emphasizes an “inside-out” approach to systems change, using participatory research methods involving people who work, or are incarcerated, in correctional facilities. In Vermont, pilot efforts are focused in the Southern State Correctional Facility. Findings from the pilot site will be used to inform and test innovations to make prison environments more humane and rehabilitative. This project is funded by Arnold Ventures Foundation through an Urban Institute grant.

Women’s Prison Project

The Women’s Prison Project is a regional learning community of academics and corrections leaders in Maine and Vermont focused on issues of women’s incarceration, such as community reentry, training, and trauma informed approaches. The project supports site visits between Maine and Vermont, community awareness events, and mixed methods data collection and analysis. Funding for this project is provided by a UVM REACH award.

Restorative Justice Education in Prisons

In support of the educational mission of the National Center on Restorative Justice (NCORJ), sited at Vermont Law School (VLS), JRI facilitated the development of a 7-week curriculum teaching the principles of restorative justice in prison to incarcerated individuals and staff. Along with Lindsey Pointer, Associate Director of the NCORJ, Kathy Fox piloted the restorative justice course in Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in fall 2021. As the curriculum gets refined and assessed it will be made widely available as a way to spread restorative principles inside prisons, with a goal to transform communities. This project is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Grant No. 2020-MU-CX.


Justice Research team outside  a prison barbed wire fenceKathy Fox and Abby Crocker started the cross-college Justice Research Initiative in 2019, as a way to mobilize their mutual interests in justice issues to conduct applied, cutting-edge research. They share a commitment to social justice and improving society through data-driven approaches. Their expertise and research strengths are distinct but complementary.

Kathy Fox, PhD is a Professor of Sociology, in the College of Arts and Sciences. With expertise in criminal justice and higher education in prisons, Kathy’s research focuses on corrections systems and offender reentry. She is the founder and director of UVM’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program, which has offered credit-bearing courses to incarcerated individuals inside correctional facilities.

Abby Crocker, PhD is a Research Assistant Professor of Statistics, in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. With expertise in study design, data analysis, and translational research, Abby’s research focuses on the intersection of public health and justice issues with a particular interest in high-risk populations. Abby is part of UVM’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program faculty, having taught Introductory Statistics & Probability to incarcerated women inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.


National Center on Restorative Justice, Research Hub

Partnering with the Vermont Law School, the University of San Diego, and the US Office of Justice Programs, JRI serves as the Research Hub for the National Center on Restorative Justice (NCORJ). The National Center was established to improve criminal justice practice and policy in the US by advancing the field of restorative justice through education, training, and research. To this end, JRI manages the international Restorative Justice Research Community – an interdisciplinary organization supporting and connecting restorative justice researchers and scholars. This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Grants No. 2020-MU-CX-K001 and 15PBJA-20-GK-00035-NCRJ.