Utah Criminal Justice Center Announced

In a unique and exciting partnership between three academic collegesand state government, the University of Utah has announced theestablishment of the Utah Criminal Justice Center.

An announcement reception will be held on April 11 at 3:30 p.m. in thefoyer of the S.J. Quinney College of Law. Speakers will include Gov.Jon Huntsman Jr.; Chief Justice Christine M. Durham of the Utah SupremeCourt; and President Michael K. Young of the University of Utah.Members of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice willattend. The event is free, and the public is invited.

Together with the U.C.C.J.J. – the state agency that assists andcoordinates the criminal justice operations of the various branches andlevels of state government�the center will support collaborative workby scholars and researchers from the colleges of law, social andbehavioral science, and social work. Its objectives include:

  • conducting beneficial research on criminal and juvenile justice issues in Utah,
  • teaching an interdisciplinary curriculum in criminal and juvenile justice, and
  • training and placement of students in the Utah criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Erik Luna, Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair in Law, and RussellK. Van Vleet, professor of social work, are the center’s co-directors.”The center’s interdisciplinary nature and collaboration withgovernment make it unique in American higher education,” Luna notes.”The mutual benefit for all participants�state officials and agenciesas well as university professors and students�offers a model ofsynergistic enterprise between academe and government.”

Almost from its inception in 1983, U.C.C.J.J. has worked with thecolleges through an informal consortium. Van Vleet was hired in 1992 todevelop courses in juvenile and criminal justice and to serve as aconsultant and researcher for the state. Interested scholars fromacross the campus have been provided “with an opportunity tocollaborate on research grants and evaluations,” says Jannah Mather,dean of the College of Social Work.

“In just the last fiveyears,” adds Michele M. Christiansen, executive director of theU.C.C.J.J., “the consortium has conducted more than 40 studiesaddressing research and policy questions that directly affect ourstate’s criminal justice system.” The center will expand the potentialof this collaboration, building on existing research capabilities,access, and support. “The center has the potential to position theUniversity on the leading edge of collaborative teaching, research, andoutreach programs,” notes J. Steven Ott, dean of the College of Socialand Behavioral Science. “It will also strengthen the U’s relationshipwith and service to state government.”

Adds Scott M. MathesonJr., dean of the law school, “This center offers significant potentialfor research, learning, and policy development in the criminal justicefield. It will facilitate valuable interaction between academic expertsand criminal justice participants.”

The center was formally approved by the Utah Board of Regents on March 10, 2006.