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Criminal justice reform, violence prevention are goals of new center at Mizzou

Social Work Researchers establish new center, academic minor to study criminal justice policies

February 19th, 2019

Story Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Across the country, families and lawmakers are demanding criminal justice reforms so systems can better serve communities in cost-effective ways. Now, a new center at the University of Missouri will bring together a diverse group of researchers, community stakeholders and students dedicated to criminal justice policy.

The newly established Center on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Priorities was founded by Kelli Canada and Clark Peters, associate professors in the MU School of Social Work and leading justice scholars. The goal of the center is to bring Mizzou to the forefront of issues of national importance, they said.

“This center, the first of its kind in Missouri, is filling a real need in the state and Midwest,” Canada said. “Throughout Missouri, many researchers and community organizations are interested in criminal justice interventions, yet there hasn’t been a central place where someone could find research and educational resources associated with the justice system.”

A core component of the new center is the recently established minor in criminology/criminal and juvenile justice at MU. Students who choose this minor will have a core foundation in understanding the justice system in America.

“Students are interested in criminal justice, but until now there wasn’t an option at MU to meet their needs,” Canada said. “This minor will help prepare students for careers in the criminal justice system while also providing them with an understanding of systemic racism, behavioral health and social justice.”

Through interdisciplinary research efforts, the center hopes to tackle issues such as violence prevention, mental health, substance use and juvenile justice. Currently, the center’s work includes the Boone County Violence Prevention Project, a research effort to enhance knowledge and skills about the impacts of trauma exposure on young people in elementary school facing disciplinary action. This project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“The justice system is bigger than just the courts and jails — it’s our schools and communities,” Peters said. “Through the research and training that will come from this center, we can take a holistic approach to reforming justice systems.”

Other MU faculty members who will work with the center include Eileen Avery, associate professor of sociology; Anne Dannerbeck-Janku, associate research professor of social work; Ashley Givens, assistant professor of social work; Dan Hanneken, instructor of social work; Kathleen Preble, assistant professor of social work; David Ruggeri, associate teaching professor of health sciences; Aaron Thompson, associate professor of social work; and Sarah Myers Tlapek, assistant professor of social work. Beth Huebner, professor of social work at University of Missouri – St. Louis, also is involved with the center.

The School of Social Work is in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. Peters also has appointments in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs and MU School of Law.