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Thank you for visiting the Justice Lab webpage. Our site is still under construction. Please continue to check back as we add more information about our projects – more to come soon!


We’re hiring: See current job postings here.

October 10, 2018 – UN Study Panel: The Justice Lab hosted the North American regional consultation for NGOs in support of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty for a panel and presentation of testimony at the Columbia University Club. Read more here.

May 17, 2018 – New Signatories: Over 40 current and former elected prosecutors, state Attorneys General, and former U.S. Attorneys banded together today to demand changes to probation and parole practices, by signing on to the Statement on the Future of Community Corrections. See the new signatories.

April 25, 2018 – NEW REPORT: Surprisingly high rates of community supervision in Pennsylvania constitute a deprivation of liberty in their own right, and contribute to the state’s prison and jail populations. This paper offers 8 policy recommendations to responsibly shrink the community corrections footprint. Read The Pennsylvania Community Corrections Story.

April 24, 2018 – New Statement: Justice Lab Co-director Vincent Schiraldi comments on the Release of Philadelphia Rap Artist Meek Mill. Read the Statement.

March 23, 2018 - New Blog Post Series: Read Reflections on how Europe handles emerging adults in trouble with the law as Emerging Adult Project tours Netherlands, Croatia and Germany to learn about their EAJ systems.

March 23, 2018 - New Op-ed by Justice Lab’s Vincent Schiraldi and Lael Chester:Why including emerging adults in CT’s juvenile justice system makes sense

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About the team


The Justice Lab at Columbia University is led by Bruce Western and Vincent Schiraldi. Our team engages with scholars, policymakers, directly-impacted individuals, and students in projects related to community corrections, emerging adult justice, juvenile justice, reentry, mass incarceration, and solitary confinement. Click here to learn more about our staff.

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Mission Statement

Our Mission

The Justice Lab combines original research, policy development, and community engagement to propel the project of justice reform. In our vision, justice depends on peaceful and healthy communities that help all their members to flourish in a climate of fairness and respect. We work for a community-centered justice, in which incarceration is no longer used as a solution to problems that are often rooted in poverty and racial inequality.

Our Story

The Justice Lab was founded in the fall of 2017 on the belief that justice policy should strengthen the bonds of family and community that are often threatened by poverty, crime, and punitive crime policy. Bringing together research expertise with a track record of policy innovation and collaboration with justice-involved people, we aim to advance a community-centered future for justice.

Our Strategies

Building on the experience of researchers, policy makers, advocates and justice-involved people, the Justice Lab follows four key strategies for reform:

  • Designing and implementing research that studies the effects of police, courts, and penal institutions, particularly in disadvantaged communities of color.
  • Providing a forum for researchers, policy makers, advocates, and community representatives to explore, debate, and disseminate new approaches to justice policy.
  • Developing and guiding fair and effective policies to reduce violence and crime, rather than redistribute it to the penal system.
  • Working with students to help build the next generation of researchers, advocates, and policymakers.

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Probation / Parole

Founded as either an up-front diversion from incarceration (probation) or a back-end release valve to prison crowding (parole), community corrections in the United States has grown far beyond what its founders could have imagined, with a profound, unintended impact on incarceration. With nearly five million adults under community corrections supervision in America (more than double the number in prison and jail), probation and parole have become a substantial contributor to our nation’s mass incarceration dilemma as well as a deprivation of liberty in their own right. The Justice Lab’s work on probation and parole investigates factors that have contributed to the almost four-fold expansion of community corrections since 1980, and develops policy options that can reduce unnecessary incarceration and supervision, increase the system’s legitimacy, and enhance public safety by allowing probation, parole, and community programming to be focused on those more in need of supervision and support. Learn more about our work on probation and parole.

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Emerging Adult Project

Bridging justice between childhood and adulthood

The Emerging Adult Project at the Justice Lab leads action research projects focused on 18-25-year-olds involved in the justice system. Our mission is to inform and drive developmentally appropriate and effective justice responses that advance successful paths to adulthood. Learn more about the Emerging Adult Project.

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Future of Youth Justice

Research and experience have shown that the youth prison model – placing delinquent youth into large, distant, prison like facilities – is fraught with high costs, poor outcomes, and endemic abuse. It has historically been resistant to reform. These negative impacts are not evenly distributed, but are disproportionately visited upon youth of color. The Future of Youth Justice should be grounded in communities, rather than institutions, and the youth prison model phased out in favor of community programming and small, rehabilitative facilities near youths’ home communities. Learn more about the Future of Youth Justice.

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About 600,000 people are released from state and federal prison each year, returning overwhelmingly to neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage. The Reentry Studies—the Boston Reentry Study and New York Reentry Study— are tailored to studying the process of transition from prison to community of a hard-to-reach population under contemporary conditions of mass incarceration. These studies provide substantive insight into the lives of the formerly-incarcerated men and women as they adjust to living in free society after incarceration.  Through a series of interviews and administrative records, the studies capture the effects of incarceration through a variety indicators, including residential mobility, housing security, relations with family and children, peer networks, earnings and job seeking, and health status and use of health services. Learn more about the Reentry Studies.

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After a sustained increase in the incarceration rate, the prison and jail population of the United States is now more than seven times higher than in the early 1970s. The growth in incarceration rates was produced by a transformation of sentencing policy and a new emphasis on incapacitation and deterrence as the main purposes of punishment. As incarceration rates have now started to decline slightly, a new conversation has started about alternatives to incarceration and continuing reductions in prison and jail populations. Research at the Justice Lab examines the consequences of high incarceration rates, intersections between incarceration and other social problems, conditions of extreme confinement, and how incarceration rates might be reduced to promote public safety and justice. Learn more about our work on incarceration.

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Join Our Team

We’re currently hiring for the following positions – please follow the link(s) to apply through the Columbia portal:

Research Assistant, Square One Project


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