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Duke Law starts a center dedicated to the science of criminal justice reform

The Duke Law School is opening a new center dedicated to the science of criminal justice. 

The Duke Center for Science and Justice will be led by Brandon Garrett, L. Neil Williams, Jr. professor of law, according to a news release from the Duke Law School. Students in law, medicine, public policy, arts and science will conduct research to discover solutions for criminal justice reform.

The center will focus on three areas of education: how to inform jurors about the possibility of errors in evidence; the reasons why judges may choose not to use risk assessments to redirect offenders from prison and need for alternatives to incarceration and detention before trial; and needs of North Carolinians who have their driver’s licenses suspended.

Garrett’s previous research has explored preventing wrongful convictions and reforming criminal procedure. At Duke, he established the JustScience Lab and studied juveniles in North Carolina who had been sentenced to life without parole, the effects of fees and fines and potential improvements to eyewitness identification.

He will be accompanied by researchers from the School of Medicine, who will add a public health perspective on issues of criminal justice. In particular, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science is collaborating with the Department of Population Health Science to study the connections among violence, mental health and substance abuse services. 

The researchers also plan to investigate the effectiveness of criminal deterrents and re-entry programs.

The Charles Koch Foundation, which donates to criminal justice and policy reform initiatives, provided a $4.7 million grant to start the center. 

“Driven by innovative, research-based programs like this one, the nation is undergoing a major rethinking about how we approach criminal justice,” said Ryan Stowers, executive director of the Charles Koch Foundation, in the release.

Maria Morrison profile
Maria Morrison

Maria Morrison is a Trinity senior and a digital strategy director for The Chronicle's 117th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 116.


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