Principal Research Associate

New York, NY
Full Time
Research-Practice Strategies
Mid Level

The Center for Court Innovation is committed to reducing crime and incarceration, addressing violence, supporting survivors, and building communities while strengthening public trust in justice. The Center seeks justice for marginalized groups, bringing an equity lens – particularly a racial and gender equity lens – to its work. For 25 years, the Center has worked to foster justice and equity to create safe, healthy, and thriving communities and, ultimately, to transform the justice system.

The Center is an 800-employee, $100 million nonprofit that accomplishes its vision through three pillars of work: creating and scaling operating programs to test new ideas and solve problems, performing original research to determine what works (and what doesn’t), and providing expert assistance and policy guidance to justice reformers around the world.

Operating Programs
The Center’s operating programs, including the award-winning Red Hook Community Justice Center and Midtown Community Court, test new ideas, solve difficult problems, and attempt to achieve systemic change within the justice system. Our projects include community-based violence prevention programs, alternatives to incarceration, reentry initiatives, and court-based initiatives that reduce the use of unnecessary incarceration and promote positive individual and family change. Through this programming, we have produced tangible results like safer streets, reduced incarceration, and improved neighborhood perceptions of justice.

Researchers at the Center conduct independent evaluations, documenting how government systems work, how neighborhoods function, and how reform efforts change things. We believe in the “action research” model; accordingly, our researchers provide regular feedback on the results of the Center’s own operating programs. The Center has published studies on topics including youth in the sex trade, reentry, gun violence, and drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Our researchers have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals.

Policy & Expert Assistance
The Center provides hands-on, planning and implementation assistance to a wide range of jurisdictions in areas of reform such as problem-solving courts (e.g., community courts, treatment courts, domestic violence courts), tribal justice, reducing incarceration and the use of fines/fees and reducing crime and violence. Our current expert assistance takes many forms, including help with analyzing data, strategic planning and consultation, policy guidance, and hosting site visits to its operating programs in the New York City area.


The Principal Research Associate will play a leading role in the many projects within the portfolio of work conducted by the Research-Practice Strategies (RPS) team.  Reporting to the Director of Research-Practice Strategies, the Principal Research Associate will work on projects related to system-level reform efforts in the criminal legal system, with a focus on: (1) pretrial justice; (2) reentry; (3) progressive prosecution; and (4) public defense. At the outset, specific projects will include a national research and technical assistance partnership to develop evidence-based pretrial reform models, evaluation support for reentry programs around the country, a mixed methods study of prosecutorial responses to cases involving violence, and research in support of strategic planning around Sixth Amendment rights. These projects require demonstrated experience with fieldwork in criminal legal system policy environments, a deep understanding of evaluation design and implementation, research translation for different audiences (e.g., practitioners, policy makers, community members), strong presentation and writing skills, and the rigorous use of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Additional projects may be added based on the successful candidate’s skills, interests, and experience.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Lead the conceptualization, design, and implementation of a range of research, program evaluation, and policy reform efforts with minimal supervision;
  • Conduct fieldwork (including quantitative and qualitative data collection), analyze data, and interpret findings with minimal supervision;
  • Provide data-driven technical assistance (e.g., research translation for practitioners, strategic planning, data-driven reform strategies) to partner jurisdictions;
  • Provide training to partner jurisdictions on key evaluation concepts such as process and impact design, measures, and sampling strategies;
  • Collaborate with a variety of stakeholders (e.g., police, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, etc.) in partner jurisdictions across the country;
  • Draft, revise, and edit grant proposals for Federal and private funders;
  • Draft, revise, and edit progress reports and policy-oriented products (white papers, presentations, web content, fact sheets);
  • Disseminate research findings and policy implications to policymaker and practitioner audiences, as well as to researchers;
  • Collaborate with other senior staff on the Research team in the planning and implementation of new and ongoing department initiatives;
  • Serve as a project manager or principal investigator on multiple projects, including the tracking of timelines and deliverables, budget monitoring, reporting to funding agencies on milestones, and overseeing the work of more junior researchers;
  • Facilitate trainings and webinars for stakeholders;
  • Conduct site visits that might include logic modeling exercises with stakeholders, interviews, and presentations on relevant research topics;
  • Center racial equity in research and publications;
  • Perform other duties, as assigned.

Position Type:  Full-time. The standard work week is 35 hours, Monday through Friday.

Qualifications: The ideal candidate will have a master’s degree or PhD in criminal justice, public policy, sociology, psychology, or a related field and a minimum of 2-3 years of experience or a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 5-7 years of experience conducting research related to criminal legal system policy or reform in an academic, governmental or nonprofit context. Must have prior experience serving as a principal investigator, developing/writing grant proposals, and supervising junior researchers. Candidate will have knowledge of local and/or national criminal legal systems as well as an interest and commitment in criminal legal system reform, systems change work, and social justice. Strong research and analytic skills are a must (e.g., research and evaluation design, developing fieldwork protocols, conducting interviews and focus groups, management of complex datasets, data coding, descriptive and inferential statistics). Experience using syntax-based statistical software, (e.g., SPSS, SAS, Stata, R) and qualitative analysis software (Atlas.ti, DeDoose) is required. The ideal candidate must be able to be autonomous, is highly organized, has excellent time management skills, exceptional oral and written communication skills, and willingness to travel. Experience working directly with criminal legal system agencies (e.g. courts, prosecution, defense, or law enforcement) or system-impacted individuals is preferred. Sense of humor, critical thinking skills, and ability to manage a fast-paced work environment are a huge plus.

Compensation: Salary is commensurate with experience.  The Center for Court Innovation offers an excellent benefits package including comprehensive healthcare with a national network, free basic dental coverage, vision insurance, short-term and long-term disability, life insurance, and flexible spending accounts including commuter FSA. We prioritize mental health care for our staff and offer services like Talkspace and Ginger through our healthcare plans. We offer a 403(b) retirement plan with a two-to-one employer contribution up to 5%.

The Center for Court Innovation is an equal opportunity employer. The Center does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, national origin, age, military service eligibility, veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or any other category protected by law. We strongly encourage and seek applications from women, people of color, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities as well as individuals with prior contact with the criminal justice system.

As of September 9, 2021, all new hires are required to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, unless they have been granted a reasonable accommodation for medical, disability or religious reasons by the Center’s Human Resources Department.

In compliance with federal law, all persons hired will be required to verify identity and eligibility to work in the United States and to complete an employment eligibility verification document form upon hire. Only applicants under consideration will be contacted. No phone calls please.


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