Foundation system

‘Sense of duty’ drives MacArthur Foundation grant recipients

Earlier this month, two Ohio State University faculty members won a $500,000 Security and Justice Challenge grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which invests in efforts to increase reform criminal justice at the local level.

Beverly Vandiver, acting executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and professor in the Department of Humanities (College of Education & Human Ecology), and Camille R. Quinn, assistant professor in the College of Social Work, lead the project from the Kirwan Institute. Their work will use the institute’s evidence-based review practices to illuminate the role of implicit bias in criminal justice. Joining Vandiver and Quinn are Kyle Strickland and Kip Holley, also from the Kirwan Institute.

“We were one of the first places in the country to even start writing about implicit bias work,” Vandiver said. “The State of Ohio, by establishing the Kirwan Institute and establishing an institute on race and ethnicity, has done itself a tremendous service.”

“Working with the MacArthur Foundation is a privilege,” Quinn said, “as is engaging with other organizations that are studying the same structural issues.” She looks forward to collaborating “with organizations that are on the ground and engaging directly with people around these issues,” she said, adding, “We want to help them in a way that’s helpful to them. “.

The role of implicit or unconscious bias in the criminal justice system cannot be overstated, both educators agree.

“It fits into almost any setting,” Vandiver said. “It’s part of the mindset of the people running the justice system.”

These biases have resulted in a significant overrepresentation of black people throughout the criminal justice system, but especially in jails and prisons. According to the Safety and Justice Challenge, “while blacks and Latinx make up 30% of the American population, they make up 51% of the prison population.”

The impact of this time behind bars has costs beyond what is immediately apparent. The imprisoned person’s family and community also often suffer financial, physical and emotional consequences. The Safety and Justice Challenge seeks to find solutions to the growing number of people incarcerated in the United States and the ramifications this has in communities.

“There are usually people who support prevention or intervention,” Quinn said, when it comes to keeping people out of jail. “I see the value of both.”

Quinn also sees the value in working with someone like Vandiver. Both women have experience as practitioners, which they say is an advantage when working with Kirwan’s data-driven approach.

Camille Quinn“With a bit of luck [our work] will bring relief from the burden at some point,” Quinn said. “That’s how we think about research: there has to be some utility, something that people can take away and apply immediately.”

This utility is important not only to the organizations involved in the grant, but also to the Columbus community, Quinn said.

“For Kirwan as an institution and also for the State of Ohio as a land-grant institution, part of our obligation and duty is to ensure that the community we serve benefits from this job,” Quinn said.

While the task at hand is daunting, Vandiver and Quinn see Ohio as being in a better position than the other states.

“At this point,” Quinn said, “where reform measures are absolutely necessary, to be in a state open to reform efforts that others aren’t even considering, we’re ahead of the curve.”

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