- Soledad McGrath
- Andrew Papachristos
- Ciera Bates-Chamberlain
Research Project Description
It is well-established that racially charged criminal justice policies and practices have negatively impacted the health and well-being of communities of color. Equally well-documented is evidence of the public health challenges faced by returning citizens and the communities poised to receive them. Yet, results from re-entry programs are mixed; and nearly half of all formerly incarcerated Black and Latino men in Illinois return to prison in their lifetime, an indication that the reentry field may be failing to address the core needs of returning citizens. The Decarceration Fellowship seeks to improve individual outcomes and opportunities for recently returning citizens while also building future leaders who will use their skills and experiences to challenge overly punitive and racially charged criminal justice policies and practices. While similar programs exist for justice-impacted individuals with a track record of leadership, no existing research efforts assess the use of community organizing as a tool for achieving positive reentry outcomes and social change among individuals who have been released in the past 12 months—the most vulnerable time period for returning citizens.
The research team will use primarily qualitative research methods to document the implementation process and generate preliminary evidence on the effectiveness of the Decarceration Fellowship program. The research design includes interviews with program participants, observations of programmatic activities, and the collection and analysis of program-level data. This project will provide preliminary evidence on the impact of engaging recently returning citizens in a formalized community organizing and leadership training program while exploring if the program increases civic, social, and political involvement and broader systems change.
Soledad A. McGrath is a Research Professor at Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research and the Executive Director of the Northwestern Neighborhood & Network Initiative. Andrew Papachristos is a Professor of Sociology and Faculty Fellow at Northwestern's Institute for Policy Research, and the Faculty Director of the Northwestern Neighborhood & Network Initiative (N3). Rev. Ciera Chamberlain is the Executive Director of Live Free Chicago.
Andrew Papachristos is a Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University and the Faculty Director of the Northwestern Neighborhood & Network Initiative (N3). His research aims to understand how the connected nature of cities-how their citizens, neighborhoods, and institutions are tied to one another-affect what we feel, think, and do. His main area of research applies network science to the study of gun violence, police misconduct, illegal gun markets, street gangs, and urban neighborhoods.
Rev. Ciera Bates-Chamberlain is committed to the fight for social and economic justice by strengthening communities through radical theology. As the Executive Director of Live Free Live Free Illinois, Rev. Ciera is working with black churches to create safe, economically viable, and self-sustained black communities. Ciera received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Lamar University, and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently studying at McCormick Theological Seminary for a Master’s in Theological Studies. Rev. Ciera is an adjunct professor at Northeastern University, a mental health professional, and a strategy consultant. Rev. Ciera is also a member of the Council on Criminal Justice, a JLUSA Fellow, and a 2022 candidate for Leadership Greatership Chicago. In addition to her commitment to racial justice, Ciera is a proud wife and mother of three daughters and a blended family of 8.