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Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice

Mission

The Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School is a nonpartisan, national research and policy hub producing and disseminating research designed to prevent errors in the 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. 

Approach

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 criminal justice error. Rather than focusing primarily on individual cases or on remedying past errors, the Center works to identify institutional and policy-level barriers to fairness and accuracy and then to implement solutions that prevent future mistakes. The Center focuses primarily on two types of error: (1) wrongful arrests, incarcerations or convictions; and (2) policies or procedures that result in disparate outcomes among similarly-situated individuals.  We analyze these situations using a broad range of techniques with proven success in reducing errors in such diverse industries as healthcare, aviation, and manufacturing, among others. 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; measuring and improving justice system quality; critically evaluating the science underlying current forensic practices and developing new breakthroughs; improving incentives and accountability for prosecutors (e.g., absolute vs. qualified immunity); identifying best practices in indigent defense that can reduce error; redress for victims of institutional misconduct; 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 and accuracy of our legal system.

Leadership

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.