“In order to be smart and effective about decarceration we say that you cannot only reduce the incarcerated population; you must simultaneously reduce social disparities within our criminal justice system, specifically dramatic racial disparities, economic disparities, and behavioral health disparities.”

Dr. Matthew Epperson &
Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis

In this episode, our guests Dr. Matthew Epperson and Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis discuss their research and efforts to provide an alternative to the mass incarceration movement in the United States. Both are scholars and leaders of the Smart Decarceration Initiative, and they describe their mission and goals. They argue that our current system of mass incarceration should be replaced with effective and sustainable alternatives that protect society as well as assist people who have committed crimes.

Matthew Epperson, PhD, associate professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, is co-founder and co-director of the Smart Decarceration Initiative. His research centers on developing, implementing, and evaluating interventions to reduce disparities in the criminal justice system. His primary area of focus is on understanding and addressing person and place-level risk factors for criminal involvement among persons with mental illnesses. Professor Epperson’s interests also include developing conceptual, evidence-based frameworks for effective and sustainable decarceration. His scholarship and teaching aim to build and advance the capacity of the social work profession to address these challenges and opportunities for criminal justice transformation.


Carrie Pettus-Davis, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University, is founding director of the Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation and co-founder and co-director of the Smart Decarceration Initiative. Professor Pettus-Davis completed her doctorate in social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds a master of social work administration and bachelor’s degrees in social work and psychology from the University of Kansas. Prior to joining academia, she spent more than a decade designing and delivering programs in criminal justice and community settings. Professor Pettus-Davis focuses her research on the development and implementation of innovative services and policies impacting adults in the criminal justice system and their loved ones.

Interviewer: Patricia Logan-Greene, PhD

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