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, and
• using justice system data to inform decision-making.


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 improving prison environments and culture. The network emphasizes a “bottom-up” approach to systems change, using participatory research methods involving people who work and live in correctional facilities. In Vermont, pilot efforts are initially focused in the Southern State Correctional Facility. Findings from the pilot site will be used to inform statewide prison reform efforts. 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 partnership among academics and corrections leaders in Maine and Vermont focused on using data to better understand the experiences, health and well-being of individuals who live and work in women’s correctional facilities. In addition to using administrative data to measure outcomes across the region, the research team is partnering with corrections staff, currently incarcerated individuals and state leadership to develop longitudinal climate surveys for corrections staff and incarcerated women. These data will be used to inform and evaluate program development and prison reform efforts specific to incarcerated women.


Kathy 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 and Abby Crocker outside Chittenden Correctional

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, offering 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, JRI serves as the Research Hub for the Vermont Law School's National Center on Restorative Justice. The National Center focuses on engaging criminal justice professionals, community members, educators, and social service providers with incarcerated individuals to broaden their understanding of the justice system and restorative justice.  The JRI supports the research mission of the National Center and serves as an incubator for data-driven approaches focused on reducing social disparities for justice-involved populations. This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.