Our Approach

(Read a Spanish PDF.)

The Justice Collaboratory is an interdisciplinary group of scholars at Yale University and beyond. We develop new theories and conduct original empirical research to improve the criminal justice system.

Our goal is to bring the latest ideas in the social sciences to bear on current problems, and our core approaches include:

  • Legitimacy and procedural justice. We study popular legitimacy and develop theoretical models for the creation and maintenance of public trust.
  • Networks and network analysis. We import network models into the arena of criminal justice to both identify perpetrators and victims of violence and understand how police behaviors diffuse through departments.
  • Adolescent development. We contribute to research on the neuroscience of development and write about the process through which children and adolescents acquire their orientations toward the law and legal authority.
  • New models for understanding bias. We apply insights about the evolving nature of bias to evaluate criminal justice policies and practices.


Our Vision

Justice Forward is our vision for building a fairer and effective justice system. To move justice forward, we must:

  • Arrest the persistence of inequality and draw down the concentration of criminal justice exposure that itself can become criminogenic
  • Mobilize and engage community members as co-producers of justice who have a stake in realizing justice-oriented goals
  • Advance understanding of the reality that offending and victimization are concentrated and intertwined within the same small social networks

Building this vision requires that we:

  • Transform the Goal: Legitimacy. The central goal of the criminal justice system must be to increase cooperation and trust between individuals and the state.
  • Transform the Focus: Communities. Criminal justice exposure is fundamentally linked to underlying inequalities in distributions of wealth and power; it burdens the same neighborhoods that have been weighed down by inadequate housing, failing schools, food insecurity, lead poisoning, and so on—often for generations. Communities, not individuals, are the most meaningful unit of analysis.
  • Transform the Language: Public Safety, Offending & Victimization. Public safety is not just the reduction of harm, the maintenance of order, or promotion of security. Rather, safety requires freedom from personal victimization, community disenfranchisement, and government overreach.