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Stanford Criminal Justice Center (SCJC)

Major Initiatives

The Stanford Criminal Justice Center serves as a research and policy institute on matters related to the criminal justice system. Our efforts are geared both towards providing public policy and research expertise to the public sector, as well as providing pedagogical opportunities to Stanford Law School students with academic or career interests in criminal justice. The SCJC is currently working on the following research and policy initiatives

Renewing Communities: California Pathways from Corrections to College: In collaboration with the Warren Institute at Berkeley Law and with funding from the Ford Foundation, the Stanford Criminal Justice Center is spearheading an initiative to expand post-secondary educational opportunities for people in the criminal justice system in California. The project involves identifying existing and promising service delivery models for jail- and prison-based education, as well as services within the community; researching best practices; analyzing the criminal justice and educational landscape for California; and building support for and developing a demonstration pilot project for the State of California. For more information, click here.

Evaluating the Impacts of California’s Criminal Justice Realignment: The Stanford Criminal Justice Center is undertaking a number of research projects aimed at better understanding the implementation and effect of California’s Public Safety Realignment legislation. In particular, through four research projects, we are analyzing the extent to which California’s move to downsize state prisons through Public Safety Realignment legislation has changed the decision-making and resource allocation of the primary actors in the criminal justice system. See California Realignment page for additional information on our research portfolio in this area.

Life in Limbo – An Examination of Parole Release for Prisoners Serving Life Sentences in California: The SCJC is in the midst of a major comprehensive analysis of the lifer population in California. The impetus for this study is both the significant nature of the population and major legal and policy changes that have occurred to the parole process for lifers in recent years. In particular, more than 32,000 individuals are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole in California, a growth in the overall prison population from eight percent in 1990 to 20 percent in 2010. Our research includes a thorough analysis of 750 Board of Parole Hearings transcripts from 2007–2010 to identify factors and circumstances that correlate with parole grant decisions. In addition, we are conducting qualitative interviews with commissioners responsible for making parole release decisions to better understand how they approach their work. The first of our reports on this complex – and yet to be examined – topic was issued in Fall 2011 and includes a description of the scope of the population, the process by which they are considered for release onto parole, and initial analysis from our transcript research.

The report is available here.

Professor Petersilia's Fall 2012 Advanced Criminal Law & Public Policy Practicum produced two new papers on the lifer parole process:

Parole Board Enhancements and the Use of Base Term Enhancements by Eric Dunn and Michael Ruiz (2013)

Rebutting the Presumption: An Empirical Analysis of Parole Deferrals under Marsy's Law by David Friedman and Jackie Robinson. (By permission of the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, from the Stanford Law Review Online at 66 STAN. L. REV. 173 (2014). For information visit

Project ReMade – Promoting Entrepreneurship among Formerly Incarcerated People: We sponsor a pro bono project that seeks to promote the reentry of formerly incarcerated people through the fostering of entrepreneurship skills and training. Stanford Law School students teach a 12-week course to Project ReMADE participants covering a range of relevant business topics. In addition, each participant is paired with a mentor team comprised of Stanford Law School and Graduate School of Business students and community business executives to help them develop their individualized business plans. To learn more about this initiative, see

San Quentin Prison Workshop: The SCJC coordinates a 15-week academic workshop in winter/spring for Stanford University graduate students and Prison University Project students at San Quentin prison. The theme of the 2014 course is "Carceral State: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Current Controversies." 

Parallel Justice: We have launched a new pro bono project that provides education and application assistance for available state compensation benefits to crime victims in East Palo Alto. In addition, we are developing a community resource bank of donated goods and services to benefit crime victims.