The Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation is dedicated to staying at the forefront of knowledge in reducing the size of the criminal justice system and the cycle of incarceration. Because the evidence-base for services for justice-involved individuals and their families and effective policy-making is limited, we take an evidence-driven approach. We apply a gold standard lens to defining evidence-based practices. Those practices meeting the gold standard include services approaches and interventions that have undergone a randomized controlled trial conducted with a vulnerable and marginalized sample and that have resulted in positive client outcomes.

Our evidence-driven principle recognizes that we have to look to cutting edge interventions that have been developed with other vulnerable and marginalized populations who may not have had an incarceration history. Therefore, in addition to analyzing research with people involved in the criminal justice system, we examine research conducted on people with substance use disorders, people with serious mental illnesses, individuals who are homeless, veterans of warzones, and juvenile justice involved youth. Lessons learned from this breadth of research is incorporated into our conceptual models and policy and practice innovations. We share the knowledge we gain through reentry practice briefs, scholarly publications, speeches/presentations, workshops and training institutes.

Highlighted working papers

Studies of incarcerated men report up to 98% have had at least one lifetime traumatic experiences – many have experienced multiple traumas. With nearly 600,000 men releasing from correctional facilities each year, there is an urgent need to develop targeted interventions for incarcerated men. We propose a conceptual model of a multi-phased trauma intervention to guide practice and research on adapting existing trauma treatment approaches to the special circumstances of men releasing from incarceration.  Conceptual Model to Guide Practice and Research in Trauma Interventions for Men Releasing from Incarceration 

Approximately 77% of people who release from prison are rearrested for a new crime within five years. No standard model of reentry program exists and current approaches to reentry program practice are insufficient. Thus, a new framework for prisoner reentry practice is needed. We propose a new model based on five key mechanisms of action that are empirically and theoretically associated with recidivism. Using prior research, the Five Core Facilitators of Well-Being Development are intermediate outcomes around which reentry programming can be standardized and evaluated.  The Five Core Facilitators of Well-Being Development Model

The incarceration rate is a function not only of criminal behavior but of decisions made by police officers, prosecutors, and judges. These local actors have considerable discretion whether to conduct a search, make an arrest, charge a person with a crime, classify a crime as a misdemeanor or felony, or issue a lengthy prison sentence. This could result in a higher rate of incarceration than is socially optimal if local actors derive benefit from incarceration yet only consider their private cost, ignoring costs to the state. Charging local governments on a per-prisoner basis for the cost of incarceration could induce local actors to internalize the externality and reduce the number of prison admissions. This study uses a two-agent, partial equilibrium model to illustrate how a Pigouvian tax could achieve the socially optimal level of incarceration. Using a Pigouvian Tax to Reduce Incarceration

Prison-based Programming: A Point-In-Time Survey of State Department of Corrections explores programming (i.e., trauma, reentry, family, traumatic brain injury) within prisons throughout the U.S. to address the needs of incarcerated individuals to begin to understand their effectiveness and efficacy. This paper is the first step to identifying gaps in implementation of programming within prisons and their effectiveness. Certain focus is placed on traumatic brain injury assessment and treatment with their higher frequency in prison systems. Every department of corrections in the U.S. was contacted to produce this research, and nearly all provide some level of treatment, yet recidivism rates remain extremely high.


McLaughlin, M., Pettus-Davis, C., Brown, D., Veeh, C., & Renn, T. (2017). The Economic Burden of Incarceration in the U.S. St. Louis, MO: Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation. Economic Cost of Incarceration

Pettus-Davis, C. Doherty, E.E., Veeh, C. Drymon, C*. (in press). Deterioration of social support for emerging adults post-incarceration. Criminal Justice & Behavior. 

Pettus-Davis, C., Veeh, C., Davis, M*., Tripodi, S. (in press) Gender differences in social support among men and women releasing from prison. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 

Veeh, C., Renn, T., & Pettus-Davis, C. (in press). Promoting reentry well-being: A novel assessment tool for individualized service assignment in prisoner reentry programs. Social Work. 

Pettus-Davis, C., Dunnigan, A.*, Veeh, C., Howard, M.O., Scheyett, A.M., Roberts-Lewis, A. (2017). Enhancing social support post-incarceration: Results from a pilot randomized controlled trial, Journal of Clinical Psychology. Online first. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22442

Veeh, C., Tripodi, S., Pettus-Davis, C., Scheyett, A.M. (2016). The interaction of serious mental disorder and race on time to reincarceration. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Online first. doi: 10.1037/ort0000183


This Decarceration Strategies Report, Guideposts for the Era of Smart Decarceration, is a result of our efforts to build consensus and articulate priorities that stakeholders have identified as feasible and likely to produce meaningful impact in the era of decarceration. Integral to ensuring that smart decarceration is achieved is that the ideas and needs of multiple stakeholders are represented. This report contains a set of guideposts and action steps for stakeholders identified over a three staged process of soliciting input from 307 advocates, practitioners, reformers, and researchers.   

The National Survey of Community Bail Funds, report summarizes the history, purpose, and status of seven revolving bail funds currently operating across the country. United in their mission to undermine cash bail systems, which result in the disproportionate pretrial incarceration of poor people and people of color, the seven funds vary widely in their organizational structures, how they identify and accept clients, and in the way they interact with recipients and local criminal justice systems. Along with highlighting the various configurations of these funds, the goal of the report is to understand factors in their implementation and success for the benefit of researchers, organizations, and individuals interested in studying or replicating the revolving bail fund model. 

Evidence-Driven Housing Practices for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals, is a report that provides a summary of housing initiatives for formerly incarcerated individuals that have been evaluated for effectiveness. Without stable housing, an individual’s chance of recidivism is increased significantly. The report explores the Oxford and Housing First models as tools to reduce recidivism by providing safe, inclusive, and sober housing for individuals returning from incarceration.


The Comprehensive Behavorial Health Manual braids together a potent menu of interventions for practitioners to use in meeting the unique needs of the formerly incarcerated. All the interventions used in the CBHM are based around a theoretical framework that guided their selection in order to systematically target individual factors most likely to both increase well-being and decrease risk of reincarceration. The CBHM also provides a standardized approach that can help practitioners track individuals’ progress over time and make informed treatment decisions.

The Support4Familes Treatment Manual integrates components from four existing evidence-based interventions focused on family skills training. These interventions were designed for families of other high-risk or high-need individuals who are not criminal-justice involved but whom place similar demands on their families.

Support Matters is an intervention to build and srengthen positive social support for men transitioning from prisons to communities.