09 Sep 2020

Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Patrick Webb, Participates in Foundational Research for Criminal Justice Reform

On July 23, 2020, Dr. Webb participated in a roundtable discussion with criminal justice professionals from across the United States. The discussion was based upon the results of data collected and identified in a report based on a research initiative launched in 2017 when the Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO) was created through a partnership between Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries, in collaboration with Gallup, to give voice to members of “fragile communities” across the country.

The goal is to help fulfill CAO’s mission of moving people living in fragile communities from promise to prosperity through supporting research. CAO addresses that mission through three pillars of focus: ensuring all students have access to quality education, identifying barriers to entrepreneurship and job growth and supporting research to better understand and solve challenges within the criminal justice system. CAO supports three research centers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that disproportionately enroll low-income, first-generation and academically underserved college students, many of whom come from fragile communities in the United States. The CAO-supported Centers are: 1) The Center for the Study of Economic Mobility at Winston Salem State University, 2) The Center for Justice Research at Texas Southern University and 3) The Center for Educational Opportunity at Albany State University.

CAO defines fragile communities in America as those characterized by high proportions of residents struggling in their daily lives and possessing limited opportunities for social mobility. This definition is tied to the literature on concentrated poverty and disadvantage dating back to the mid-1980s. Although people are not born fragile, too many are born into situations that make it difficult to overcome adversity and build better lives for themselves and their families. The Gallup research on which this report is based allows people living in such circumstances to identify barriers and offer solutions; as such, the report is important to stakeholders who are interested in an opportunity agenda.

Findings in the current report are based on the third representative survey of 6,941 residents in fragile communities in 47 states and the District of Columbia between November 6, 2019 and January 7, 2020. The results can also serve as a baseline against which to assess the impact of events in the first half of 2020, most notably the effects of: 1) the COVID-19 crisis on residents’ perception of their health and economic status, and 2) the deaths of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police, most notably the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer, as well as subsequent demonstrations, may have had on the residents’ confidence in and perceptions of the U.S. criminal justice system.