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Prison research and innovation

$200,000 Urban Institute grant supports corrections research, offender rehabilitation

Jan. 14, 2020
Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353, ricesm@missouri.edu

Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Social Work will play a central role in a new initiative aimed at improving the prison environment in Missouri. This week the Urban Institute, with support from Arnold Ventures, announced a $200,000 grant to support a collaborative effort between university researchers and the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Missouri was one of one five states chosen for phase 1 of the Prison Research and Innovation Network, along with Colorado, Delaware, Iowa and Vermont.

The research team, led by Kelli Canada and Clark Peters of MU, received an annual grant of $100,000 to support their work in the project. Canada and Peters co-founded the Center for Criminal and Juvenile Justice Priorities. Other researchers involved are Ashley Givens, assistant professor of social work at MU; Beth Huebner, professor of criminology and criminal justice at University of Missouri – St. Louis and Janet Garcia – Hallett, assistant professor at University of Missouri – Kansas City.

“We are excited to partner with the Department of Corrections on this important work,” Canada said. “This collaboration speaks to the land-grant mission of the University of Missouri, as our research findings will be put to use to improve lives in communities across the state.”

This is a picture of a man in prison.

The Urban Institute announced Missouri was one of one five states chosen for phase 1 of the Prison Research and Innovation Network, along with Colorado, Delaware, Iowa and Vermont.

The researchers will conduct climate surveys and collect data to provide objective analysis to the Department of Corrections for the research pilot project.

“I am a firm believer in using research and data to make good decisions,” Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe said. “We’re thrilled to work with the University of Missouri, to join the network and to implement evidence-based practices, policies and programs that advance our goal of improving lives for safer communities.”

The 4.5-year research project will be piloted at Moberly Correctional Center, a 1,800-bed minimum/medium-security facility located 35 miles north of Columbia. The prison is the inaugural site of the Missouri Veterans Project and the state’s first dorm for veterans. It houses two intensive therapeutic communities for offenders committed to personal growth and sobriety. It provides opportunities for offenders to give back through programs such as Puppies for Parole and Restorative Justice. It also offers 48 courses and groups that build skills in areas such as anger management, parenting, employability preparation, cognitive interventions, addiction management and understanding the impact of crime on victims.

“We look forward to supporting Missouri in its efforts to employ research and data to improve prison culture, operations, and design while creating more humane and rehabilitative correctional environments,” said Nancy La Vigne, vice president of justice policy at the Urban Institute. “Missouri’s leadership and commitment to transparency and accountability will help spur lasting change for people who live and work in prisons.”

The School of Social Work is in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.

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