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Emily Turner L’09 works to develop mental health policies within the criminal justice system

April 04, 2014



My name is Emily Turner and I am a Senior Policy Analyst at the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Currently, I am working on a national initiative to help local jurisdictions develop policies that improve outcomes for people with mental health and substance abuse disorders who are involved in the criminal justice system. We go into a local jurisdiction and identify relevant stakeholders in the criminal justice and behavioral health system, develop a working group, and then analyze data to sit around and develop relevant policy.

As a Toll Public Interest Scholar at Penn Law, I found a great community of other public interest students and really was able to draw on their energy and learn a lot from the other scholars here at Penn as well as the other student community groups and my fellow students who really care and were very passionate about contributing to whatever public interest issue brought them to law school. The Toll Public Interest Center really connected me to the community in Philadelphia and beyond, to other people who were interested in doing data driven policy development work and I have benefited from that network long after leaving Penn.

I was actually a dual degree student. So, while at Penn Law I was pursing a masters in criminology. So, I really took advantage of Penn’s interdisciplinary focus and was able to take courses in the criminology program looking at, really identifying other criminal justice researchers in the field and engaging with them.

While at Penn I was part of the Prisoner Legal Education Clinic and traveled to Graterford Prison, developed lessons and was able to teach the law, although in many cases we learned a lot of law from the inmates that we worked with in the prison and that was a really great program that I got to participate in while I was at Penn Law School.

For me, I have always been about using research to promote policy change and using data to promote policy change and Penn is a great place to do that because of the interdisciplinary focus of everything that Penn is about.


Transcript edited for length