The Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School is a national research and policy hub created to catalyze long-term structural improvements to the US criminal justice system. The Center takes an interdisciplinary, data-driven, “systems approach” to identifying and analyzing the most crucial problems in the justice system, and proposing solutions that improve its fairness for the benefit of society. Its research and programs are independent and unbiased, engaging all parties required to effect substantial change for the better — academia, the judiciary, law enforcement, defense and prosecution, legislators, forensic and social scientists, victims’ rights advocates, the media, and others.
The fundamental accuracy and fairness of the American criminal justice system was once taken for granted. In recent years, however, scientific advances such as those in DNA testing have challenged our idealism by revealing errors in findings of guilt and innocence, with significant consequences to individuals, families, and the system as a whole. Further examination by scholars and attorneys across the nation has led to the recognition that a wider variety and higher occurrence of errors exist, eroding the public’s faith that justice is universally achieved.
The Quattrone Center is of first-of-its-kind organization focused explicitly on inter-disciplinary, data-driven policy level research and recommendations designed to address the system factors that lead to unjust outcomes. Rather than focusing primarily on individual cases, the Center works to identify institutional and policy-level barriers to fairness and accuracy. Housed at the Law School, the Center draws on Penn’s unrivaled interdisciplinary strengths, involving scholars from disciplines across the Penn campus, including Business, Communications, Criminology, Engineering, Medicine and Public Health, and Social Sciences.
The Center hosts conferences, symposia, workshops, roundtables and other scholarly activities to generate knowledge and debate and policy ideas addressing major issues confronting the justice system. Students involved in the Center’s research and programming gain the expertise needed to become the next generation of criminal justice policymakers and professionals. Event participants include not only academic scholars and think-tank researchers, but also real-world practitioners including lawyers, law enforcement officials, judges, legislators, scientists, and the media.
The Center’s areas of investigation include assessing the frequency, causes of, and ways to reduce/eliminate wrongful convictions; redress for victims of institutional misconduct; critically evaluating the science underlying current forensic practices and developing new breakthroughs; improving incentives and accountability for prosecutors (e.g., absolute vs. qualified immunity); measuring and improving justice system quality; and delineating the roles of politics, economics, and the media in shaping justice system fairness.
By integrating world-class scholarship from across the University with the perspectives of nationally prominent practitioners, the Center’s analysis and recommendations serve to shape public deliberations and improve the fairness of our legal system. Penn is the ideal host for the Center due to its outstanding overall academic credentials as well as its particular strengths in law, criminology, engineering, life sciences, medicine, public policy, social sciences and statistical analysis—disciplines all of which come into play in advancing the justice system to the next level. The Center, and Penn as a whole, seek to inspire and support collaborative ventures that provide novel perspectives on our current practices, generating applied scholarship that enhances the efficacy, transparency, and accountability of the criminal justice system.
The Quattrone Center is led by an Academic Director–a recognized leader in the field of criminal justice policy with an interdisciplinary background–and an Executive Director with significant experience in the criminal justice sector and a record of outstanding organizational leadership. They are supported by an Advisory Board comprised of justice system leaders from diverse professional backgrounds, as well as dedicated and informed individuals concerned with ensuring the quality of the system.