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Transforming the criminal-legal system is of broad interest nationally as well as locally in Vermont. There is growing recognition of the inequities in our current system as well as its negative impacts on justice-involved populations and communities, including harms from mass incarceration. The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified these issues, highlighting the need for a public health approach to justice reform. The UVM Justice Research Initiative (JRI) engages 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 empowers communities as decision-makers, focusing on issues at the intersection of public health and social justice, with the aim of applying rigorous data and analysis for meaningful systems change.



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 the wellbeing of correctional staff and incarcerated individuals. 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 (SSCF), Springfield VT. This project is funded by Arnold Ventures Foundation as a core component of the Urban Institute’s Prison Research and Innovation Initiative.

Restorative Justice Research Community (RJRC)

The RJRC is an interdisciplinary research community to advance research on restorative justice to address inequities in the US criminal-legal system. The RJRC supports three core initiatives including 1) the development of a research agenda to support cross-sector collaborations, 2) bridging the research-practice gap through the establishment of a community-based research network, and 3) growing the next generation of justice researchers through the development of experiential education and training opportunities. This project is supported by cooperative agreements No. 2020-MU-CX-K001 and 15PBJA-20-GK-0035-NCRJ, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. RJRC.org

Restorative Justice Education in Prisons

Professor Kathy Fox is leading the development and pilot testing of a 7-week curriculum teaching the principles of restorative justice in prison to incarcerated individuals and made available to staff. The curriculum is designed to spread restorative principles inside prisons, with a goal of transforming communities. This project is supported by the National Center on Restorative Justice.

VT Children of Incarcerated Parents

In partnership with Vermont’s Lund Center, Professor Abby Crocker seeks to support the advancement of a statewide framework for expanding and connecting the services available to children and caregivers impacted by parental incarceration. The framework is being developed through community collaboration, including a statewide summit.


Justice Research team outside a prison with 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. 

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 community reentry upon release. 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. Currently, LAPP offers enrichment opportunities for incarcerated individuals, in collaboration with UVM students. 

Abby Crocker, PhD is a Research Associate Professor of Statistics, in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. She is an applied biostatistician with expertise in translational methodologies. Her research is on population health with a focus on the intersection of public health and justice issues, in particular the social determinants of health and restorative justice.


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. The National Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, cooperative agreements No. 2020-MU-CX-K001 and 15PBJA-20-GK-00035-NCRJ.