Vera Institute and CUNY Graduate Center Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in Applied Justice Research (AJR) – deadline March 27, 2017.

The Vera Institute of Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center are pleased to offer a pre-doctoral Fellowship in Applied Justice Research (AJR) for a current Graduate Center Fellow (GCF). This fellowship is an opportunity to spend time at the Vera Institute and work with Vera research staff on ongoing projects related to the institute’s core areas of focus. There are a number of opportunities to join ongoing projects, listed below. This fellowship is an opportunity to be part of a Vera research team for one academic year, participate in applied research, and potentially test new ideas and research approaches to Vera’s existing work. There is one fellowship available for a Graduate Center Fellow for the 2017-18 academic year.


Application Requirements


Students should submit:

  • A 2-page proposal narrative that addresses, under specific headings, the “project of interest” and short descriptions describing “potential research questions” that the student is interested in addressing and the “relevant experience”, and “research methods” the student would use to answer those questions.
  • Letter of support from faculty advisor
    • Including recognition that the faculty advisor should have quarterly updates with each fellow’s Vera supervisor
  • Current resume or CV
  •  2017-2018 CUNY Vera Fellowship Cover Sheet with signature of Executive Officer

Students interested in more than one project should submit one application per project. Selected applicants will be asked to interview with Vera staff, depending on their project of interest, and additional materials may be requested.

Fellowship Details and Deadlines

The Fellow will be expected to spend three days per week at Vera’s offices between September 1, 2017 and May 30, 2018. Over this period, the fellow will be embedded within a research team and will contribute to Vera work products. The AJR Fellow will be encouraged to identify opportunities to publish and otherwise disseminate products from Vera projects and to explore opportunities to expand Vera’s work in new directions. The Fellow must currently hold a Graduate Center Fellowship (GCF), the student will continue to receive the GCF funding, but will be permitted to substitute the work at Vera for their normal GCF service.  Vacation and time off will be discussed with each applicant, but will not follow the academic calendar.


Applications are due in full by March 27, 2017.

Interviews will be scheduled throughout April.



Email any questions to LeShae Henderson:

Email final application materials to Jim Parsons: and LeShae Henderson:




Applied Justice Research (AJR) Fellowship Projects:


1) AJR Immigration Fellow

Center on Immigration and Justice

The applied research of the Center on Immigration and Justice (CIJ) supports the movement toward a just government system for immigrants in the U.S.  A large part of CIJ research is comprised of evaluations and independent research into vulnerable populations, such as unaccompanied children, and their ability to receive fair and just treatment within U.S. Immigration Courts. With funding from the National Institute of Justice and various foundations, CIJ research has also addressed some of the starkest justice problems in the U.S.: improving identification of labor and sex trafficking victims, studying the needs and experiences of unauthorized, unaccompanied immigrant youth and investigating reasons for underreporting of hate crimes among immigrants and other diverse groups. CIJ research endeavors are based in respect for human dignity, public safety and racial and ethnic justice.

Vera is interested in developing research in several priority areas, including but not limited to the following: 1) expanding research into the potential impact of providing immigrants with legal counsel in  local jurisdictions across the U.S.; 2) promoting and evaluating holistic legal services models for immigrants; 3) explicating the interrelationship of mass incarceration and immigration; 4) exploring understudied “shadow” administrative processes used to remove people from the U.S. without deportation proceedings in Immigration Court ; 5) furthering research on victimization, law enforcement and immigrant rights, and 6) assessing the impact of changing immigration and justice policies on local communities around the U.S..

In collaboration with Vera staff, the AJR Immigration Fellow will develop a research project in any of these areas using appropriate methods of data collection and analysis; approaches may include impact evaluation, performance measurement, cost-benefit analysis, community-based participatory research, mapping or other innovative techniques in addition to standard quantitative and qualitative methods. The Fellow will have an opportunity to contribute to publications in various forms.




2) Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Center on Sentencing and Corrections and Substance Use and Mental Health Program

Incarcerated people placed in segregation (commonly ‘solitary confinement’) are held in heavily isolating conditions, often restricted to a small cell for a minimum of 23 hours per day. Citing the potentially devastating psychological and physiological impacts of this practice, a diverse range of international and national bodies, advocates, policymakers, the U.S. Department of Justice, and corrections practitioners have called for prisons and jails to reform their use of segregation. However, there are still significant gaps in our knowledge relating to how segregation is used across the country.

Vera is embarking on a new set of research activities to (1) document and describe the various policies governing segregation across the United States, (2) analyze administrative data from eight state departments of corrections to identify the characteristics of people placed in segregation, the reasons they are placed there, and patterns and biases in its use, and (3) evaluate the impact of working in these conditions on the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of corrections officers in two states.

Vera is seeking a pre-doctoral fellow that will leverage the project’s multi-site administrative records (8 states) to explore the similarities and differences among states’ use of restrictive housing.  The fellow will also contribute to the work of Vera’s research team, which will include the analysis of a national survey on the use of solitary confinement in prisons and jails.



3) AJR Policing Fellow

Program in Policing

A growing awareness of the myriad ways the justice system is failing the poor and indigent, the undocumented, the mentally ill, and especially people of color has prompted calls for reform from street protestors to the President. As the frontline of the justice system, police are perceived as directly responsible for disturbing patterns in use of force and indirectly responsible for the epidemic of mass incarceration. In many parts of the country, there is profound distrust between the police and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect. A root cause of this distrust is a policing paradigm almost exclusively focused on driving down the crime rate, a paradigm that too often comes with collateral consequences of racial profiling, heavy-handed response to some offenses (or offenders), and inadequate response to others. Within these communities, the “traditional” model of policing engenders cynicism about our laws and justice system, ironically undermining public safety and making law enforcement more hazardous.


Central to any reform are the following questions, all of which must be answered by all stakeholders, including members of the community who receive (or should) receive police service:

  • What is the role of police in the 21st century?
  • How can police agencies be accountable and provide services that reflect the needs of the communities—that are becoming more diverse as the country approaches being majority minority—they serve?
  • What do communities want and need from police, as one actor in a complex and opaque justice system?
  • How can reform agendas of policing leaders be adopted by city leadership, police chiefs, and rank and file?
  • Who is best suited to police work, and how can law enforcement recruit these people?


The Research Fellow will develop research projects that enable Vera to offer significant contributions to answering these questions. In particular, Vera is eager to use research to enable a role as a national thought leader on “Right Sizing the Role of Police.” Today’s police officers are increasingly tasked with responding to a variety of social problems, including homelessness, mental illness, parent-youth conflict, and drug abuse, which might be better dealt with through other governmental or NGO channels. In many of these situations, arrest- the primary tool of responding officers- is at best a temporary, suboptimal solution and at worst leads to further, more serious criminal justice involvement. Likewise, any successful reduction of mass incarceration almost certainly requires a reduction in arrests. Vera can lead the field in rethinking the role of police in solving social problems that do not require criminal justice intervention and/or require a multi-system response.


4) Incarceration Trends Project Fellow

Center on Sentencing and Corrections

The Incarceration Trends Project (ITP) seeks to advance research on the prevalence and impact of incarceration at the local-level. Vera’s ITP dataset merges 45 years of county-level jail population data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Census of Jails and Annual Survey of Jails, county-level prison population data from state departments of correction statistical reports, and resident population demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau. For more information, see the ITP data tool at and complete details on the ITP dataset in Incarceration Trends: Data and Methods for Historical Jail Populations in U.S. Counties, 1970-2014 (Kang-Brown, 2015).

Vera is seeking a pre-doctoral fellow that will use this dataset to explore the factors the drive the wide variation in prison and jail incarceration rates observed in the more than 3,000 U.S. counties. The fellow will also contribute to the research activities of the ITP team and help shape the future direction of the project.

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