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Utah Criminal Justice Center Announced

Professor Eric Luna

April 5, 2006 — In a unique and exciting partnership between three academic colleges and state government, the University of Utah has announced the establishment of the Utah Criminal Justice Center.

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

Together with the U.C.C.J.J.-the state agency that assists and coordinates the criminal justice operations of the various branches and levels of state government-the center will support collaborative work by scholars and researchers from the colleges of law, social and behavioral 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 Russell K. Van Vleet, professor of social work, are the center’s co-directors. “The center”s interdisciplinary nature and collaboration with government make it unique in American higher education,” Luna notes. “The mutual benefit for all participants-state officials and agencies as well as university professors and students-offers a model of synergistic enterprise between academe and government.”

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

“In just the last five years,” adds Michele M. Christiansen, executive director of the U.C.C.J.J., “the consortium has conducted more than 40 studies addressing research and policy questions that directly affect our state’s criminal justice system.” The center will expand the potential of this collaboration, building on existing research capabilities, access, and support. “The center has the potential to position the University on the leading edge of collaborative teaching, research, and outreach programs,” notes J. Steven Ott, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science. “It will also strengthen the U’s relationship with and service to state government.”

Adds Scott M. Matheson Jr., dean of the law school, “This center offers significant potential for research, learning, and policy development in the criminal justice field. It will facilitate valuable interaction between academic experts and criminal justice participants.”

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