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Welcome to the Lab

Our work starts with stakeholder questions and problems. The Lab’s interdisciplinary team then helps identify, implement, and evaluate solutions—building scalable models for change. Meet the key players in that process.

Core Team

Making progress possible

Our small but dynamic, interdisciplinary team supports groundbreaking projects that help stakeholders navigate the complicated criminal justice system. This core team is supported by an indispensable network of researchers, graduate students, the UNC School of Government, court system stakeholders, and funders.

Photograph of Jessie Smith

Jessie Smith


Photograph of Alex Cowell

Alex Cowell

Research Director

Photograph of Maggie Bailey

Maggie Bailey

Assistant Director

Photograph of Ethan Rex

Ethan Rex

Data Manager

Photograph of Hannah Turner

Hannah Turner

Senior Project Manager

Photo of Jamie Vaske

Jamie Vaske

Senior Research Associate

Photograph of William Taylor

William Taylor

Data Analyst

Together our core team provides expertise in multiple disciplines—including law, economics, social work, city and regional planning, public policy, public administration, public health, political science, and data science. 

Advisory Board

Offering valuable insight

To ensure critical stakeholder feedback on priority projects—including guidance on new and emerging opportunities—we’re counselled by our Advisory Board. Their wide-ranging experiences and diverse perspectives help illuminate areas where supportive actions will generate the greatest impact.

Trey Allen

Associate Justice, North Carolina Supreme Court

Jason Armstrong

Chief of Police, Town of Apex

Nathan Babcock

Consultant, Atlas Political Consulting

Charles S. Blackwood

Sheriff, Orange County

Courtney Crowder

Managing Director & Chair of Advocacy, APCO Worldwide

Jon David

District Attorney, Prosecutorial District 15

Mary Pollard

Director, Office of Indigent Defense Services

Nathaniel J. Poovey

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, Superior Court District 19

Gary Salamido

President & CEO, NC Chamber


Driving our projects

Our stakeholders represent all corners of North Carolina and all stakeholders in the criminal justice system—including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, clerks of court, magistrates, sheriffs, chiefs of police, county commissioners, business leaders, and legislators, among others. 

Have a project in mind?

Graduate Students

Instrumental in our work

Part of The Lab’s strength comes from working with graduate students—the best and the brightest—from Ph.D. and master’s programs at UNC and across the country. This includes those getting advanced degrees in public health, criminology, information and library science, city and regional planning, public administration, forensic psychology, and related fields.

Are you a graduate student interested in working with us?

Affiliated Researchers

Providing added expertise

Affiliated researchers from UNC and other universities contribute to our data-based strength. We also partner with researchers from world-class nonprofit organizations like Policy Research Associates, The Pew Research Center, and RTI International. 

Are you a researcher interested in our work?

Our Funders

Supporting all we do

In addition to UNC School of Government support, the Lab’s work is funded through grants and gifts from donors, as well as contracts and subawards. The diversity of our funders reflects the diversity of the stakeholders we support. We’re incredibly grateful for donor support. 

Arnold Ventures

Charles Koch Foundation 

Richard J. Reynolds, III and Marie M. Reynolds Foundation 

RTI International 

The Pew Charitable Trusts

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation 

Interested in partnering?

“Research, scholarship, and data will help local leaders keep communities safe while honoring the dignity of each person touched by the justice system. We are excited to continue to support UNC’s Criminal Justice Innovation Lab in its mission to help improve public safety and strengthen communities.”

Core Values

Providing our framework

In everything we do—from supporting efforts to keep communities safe, to providing tools to pinpoint problems, find solutions, and measure outcomes—we adhere to these fundamental principles.

We promote no political ideology—working with stakeholders regardless of affiliation and never allowing personal political views to influence our work.

Rather than championing specific policy solutions, we provide the tools, data, and expertise stakeholders need to craft their own paths forward.

Stakeholder needs drive our work. We deliver accessible, timely, relevant, and actionable information to help stakeholders identify and solve problems in their communities.

We embrace a team-based approach. By merging stakeholders’ expertise with our own interdisciplinary skills, we harness the power of collaboration.

We foster fairness in all endeavors—within the criminal justice system, towards stakeholders and their communities, and in our own policies and practices.

We make our work accessible to a diverse spectrum of stakeholders and explain our methodologies, decisions, policies, and limitations, clearly and openly.

We are honest, consistent, and ethical in everything we do—externally and internally.

We always welcome constructive feedback, new ideas, and alternative approaches.

With precision, care, and accuracy, we provide the tools, data, and expertise to help stakeholders meet their goals.