With support from Arnold Ventures, the CCJS Professor and Chair will help oversee the administration of four $100,000 grants to early-career members of the Racial Democracy Crime and Justice Network—a group of scholars that will be coming to the University of Maryland in summer 2024
Thanks to the support of Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing problems in the United States, four scholars from underrepresented groups will be able to pursue projects that could, in the words of Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice Professor and Chair Rod Brunson, “change the trajectory of their career.”
With Lauren Krivo, Professor Emerita in Rutgers University’s Department of Sociology, Brunson will oversee the new grants program. Grant applications are open now through February 15 to members of the Racial Democracy Crime and Justice Network (RDCJN) who are interested in finding ways to improve fairness and justice in community supervision.
“This new program aligns with our interest in advancing racial equity and community safety and supporting evidence-informed community supervision reform and policy change,” said Jocelyn Fontaine, Vice President of Criminal Justice Research at Arnold Ventures. “I am so excited about this program’s potential to advance equity in justice reform by supporting and elevating the work of emerging scholars in the Network. The scholars have diverse lived experiences and expertise, and a deep understanding of social programs, all of which are critical to informing policy solutions to community supervision.”
The RDCJN, founded at Ohio State University and currently housed at Rutgers University, is a group of more than 150 scholars who are committed “to exploring the implications of crime and justice processing for citizens’ participation in a democracy.”
“I am thrilled that Arnold Ventures invested in this program that will advance racial equity in community supervision and promote innovative research by scholars from underrepresented groups in our network,” said Krivo, former Co-Director of the RDCJN. “Doing so supports the vision guiding our Network since its inception nearly 20 years ago—to broaden perspectives and participation inside and outside the academy in order to create more equitable evidence-based solutions to problems of crime and justice.”
Krivo and Brunson will help select the grant program awardees, distribute $100,000 to each, and pair those awardees with senior members of the RDCJN who will act as the awardees’ mentors. In so doing, the small grants program creates an experience not often given to scholars early in their careers, a time that Brunson explains can be especially challenging for those who took positions at a university that doesn’t have a strong research infrastructure; who have research agendas that haven't historically attracted a lot of interest from funders; and/or who are interested in making the transition to a more research-focused university, but don’t yet have the research portfolio to successfully do so.
“I am eager to learn from the scholars’ research and partnering with the Network and scholars to ensure the lessons and findings from the studies inform justice reform and community safety solutions,” added Fontaine.
With the exception of funding and project timeline—which will support projects’ costs for a two-year period beginning Aug. 31, 2023—the small grants program’s scholar-mentor structure is similar to the RDCJN’s Summer Research Institute (SRI), through which six to eight scholars work with a mentor on a related project that they then present to senior members of the RDCJN.
“I have been involved with the network since its inception, as I was a graduate student at Ohio State University when it was conceived,” explained María Vélez, CCJS Associate Professor. “I participated in the SRI twice, and got two really good publications out of it because of the mentorship and time the institute gave me; and ultimately, it helped me solidify my case for tenure. The SRI is invaluable, and the network truly transformative for the people who are part of it.”
2023 will be the last year Rutgers University hosts the RDCJN SRI before it transitions to UMD, a move Brunson believes will benefit scholars and the university.
“UMD’s proximity to Washington, D.C. increases scholars’ accessibility to key policymakers and think tanks, and on campus, many esteemed, interdisciplinary researchers,” said Brunson. “More broadly, however, the Racial Democracy Crime and Justice Network’s move to UMD signals to the rest of the field, because our criminology and criminal justice program consistently ranks the best in the nation, that this is where investments should be made; if UMD is seriously committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, then the rest of the field should follow suit.”