Charles Koch Foundation Supports Florida State University Breakthroughs in Criminal Justice Research

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The Charles Koch Foundation has provided a generous gift of over $6.5 million to support the groundbreaking work being conducted at the Institute for Justice Research and Development (IJRD) in the Florida State University College of Social Work.

These contributions will support and expand the reach of IJRD’s pioneering scientific, policy and practice endeavors, all designed to improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities impacted by criminal justice system involvement. The core values of IJRD are the rapid dissemination of data-driven discoveries to catalyze transformative real-world change and using innovation to ameliorate racial, economic and health disparities in criminal justice reform.

IJRD Founder and Executive Director Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis is a leading expert on enacting data-driven criminal justice reforms, dedicating her entire career on addressing such issues, first as a social worker and now as an academic. In addition to leading IJRD, she is the co-founder and director of two national reform initiatives—the Smart Decarceration Initiative and Promote Smart Decarceration grand challenge network—and serves as a principal researcher with Safe Streets and Second Chances, a national reentry policy and practice reform initiative.

“We are established leaders of social change and have the human capital, infrastructure, expertise and passion required for success,” Pettus-Davis states. “Generous funding from the Charles Koch Foundation has enabled us to dramatically expand our scope, unleashing the full potential of our data-driven reform work.”

Under Pettus-Davis’ direction, the scope of IJRD research projects is truly inspiring. Formed only within the last year, their scholars have nearly two decades of experience conducting rigorous research in real-world settings in collaboration with government, business, academic and nonprofit partners. Beginning with a team of four faculty members and two employees, today the IJRD team is more than 90 strong with faculty, staff and students living and working in ten states. Dean Jim Clark from the FSU College of Social Work is an enthusiastic supporter. “The Charles Koch Foundation is making it possible to scientifically test the 5-Key Model, and this represents an enormous contribution to criminal justice reform that is intentional, sustainable, and transformational.” Provost Sally McRorie sees the grant as underscoring the important work of FSU because “Finding evidence-based solutions to truly big problems, like the impacts of recidivism on individuals, families and communities, exemplifies the important research done at Florida State University, with critical support from concerned organizations like the Charles Koch Foundation.”

“The current model for criminal justice has failed individuals and communities,” said Charles Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “IJRD’s unique approach brings together researchers and practitioners focused on tackling recidivism, and we are excited to support this team as they seek to improve reentry outcomes.” The 5-Key Model, which currently is implemented across 91 prisons and 22 urban and rural counties within seven states, is a unique, holistic program that works with incarcerated individuals as they leave prisons. This period of transition—from prison to community—is referred to as the reentry period and provides an excellent opportunity for trained specialists to work with individuals and help them thrive when they return home. “Nearly 12,000 people are released from prison every single week in our country, and most of them will be reincarcerated within five years,” Pettus-Davis notes. “This affects these individuals, surely, but it also means their children and families suffer. We created the 5-Key Model with scholars and formerly incarcerated experts to stop the churn of incarceration, release, and re-incarceration for good.” The five keys to reentry success are healthy thinking patterns, meaningful work trajectories, effective coping strategies, positive social engagement and positive interpersonal relationships.

The 5-Key Model is highly individualized, strengths focused and helps formerly incarcerated individuals develop the skills and support they need to reach their full human potential versus focusing on what they cannot achieve. “Generations of families have been impacted by incarceration,” says Pettus-Davis. “Our work has the potential to heal families and interrupt this destructive cycle.”