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Network Leadership


Pajarita Charles, PhD

Assistant Professor

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Phillipe Copeland, PhD

Clinical Assistant Professor

Boston University

Matt Epperson, PhD

Associate Professor

The University of Chicago

Carrie Pettus-Davis, PhD

Associate Professor

Florida State University



Sophia Sarantakos, PhD, MSW


Aaron Gottlieb, PhD, MSW

Behavioral Health

Michael Fendrich, PhD


Caroline Harmon-Darrow, MSW

Jenny Afknich, MSW


Peter Treitler, MSW

Social Work Profession

Erin Kerrison, PhD

Leah Jacobs, PhD, MSW


Institute for Justice Research

& Development

Florida State University

Smart Decarceration Project

University of Chicago

Center for Social Development

Washington University in St. Louis


During the past five years, members of the Promote Smart Decarceration network

and their colleagues have:

• Published numerous book chapters and

peer-reviewed articles, such as  "Improving the

Evaluation of Adult Mental Disorders in the

Criminal Justice System With Computerized

Adaptive Testing," co-authored by network

co-lead Matt Epperson, in the Psychiatric

Services Journal

• Edited a book, Smart Decarceration:

Achieving Criminal Justice Transformation

in the 21st Century. Co-edited by network

co-leads, Matt Epperson and Carrie PettusDavis, the book contains 15 chapters by

researchers, practitioners, and advocates

providing context, concepts, and strategies

for achieving decarceration

• Developed a curriculum guide, "Smart

Decarceration Practice Behaviors for

Social Work Competencies," for teachers

and students of social work. The document

presents Smart Decarceration practices

within the framework of the Council on

Social Work Education's (CSWE) nine core


• Advocated for bail and prison reform at the

local, state, and federal levels, including

at the White House, where network co-lead

Carrie Pettus-Davis participated in a Prison

Reform Summit

• Delivered a Congressional briefing on

"Black Lives Matter: Social Work and the

Future of Policing," along with the Grand

Challenges to Achieve Equal Opportunity

and Justice and Eliminate Racism

• Convened two national conferences,

"From Mass Incarceration to Effective and

Sustainable Decarceration" in St. Louis

in 2015 and "Tools & Tactics: Promising

Solutions to Advance the Era of Smart

Decarceration" in Chicago in 2017

• Responded to COVID -19 by surveying

prisoners about their reactions to the

communication and containment strategies

employed by prison officials in relation

to the pandemic

• Participated in numerous virtual events,

including a both/and or either/or exercise

around social work and policing, hosted by

The Social Work Podcast, as well as a virtual

convening of the Prosecutors Research

Network, a virtual summit on the State of

Incarceration at Arizona State University,

and a virtual panel discussion on "The Role

of Prosecutorial Discretion in Driving Mass

Imprisonment," hosted by the University

of Utah

• Created new courses at schools including

the University of Maryland School of Social

Work and the University of Chicago School

of Social Service Administration


Network members have articulated the following objectives for the next five years:

• Assemble a special issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior on Smart Decarceration

• Formulate plans for more explicitly addressing racial equity in their work

• Continue to advocate for their policy recommendations to:

1. Restrict the use of incarceration whenever possible

2. Reduce racial and economic disparities through decarceration efforts

3. Remove civic and legal exclusions for people with criminal charges and convictions

4. Reallocate resources to community-based supports

An Impact Report at Year 5 of the 10-Year Initiative | 29


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