HBCU Criminal Justice Research Hub

The Center for Justice Research has received a $351,000 grant from the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity to form the HBCU Criminal Justice Research Hub. The Hub will facilitate a collaboration between HBCU researchers, community organizations, and community members working toward reducing mass incarceration and violent crime.
The Problem
Houston, along with many cities across the United States, has experienced a rise in homicides over the last few years, as well as high poverty and unemployment rates. These social distress factors and crime rates coincide with high incarceration rates, as Houston contains four of the top 30 zip codes in Texas with the highest prison populations. The State of Texas has a higher incarceration rate than the national average, and Houston and Harris County, like counties all over the country, disproportionately incarcerate Black adults and youth.

There is an urgent need for solutions that are developed collaboratively between local research institutions, community organizations, and community members with lived experience that are designed to keep individuals, particularly people of color, out of the criminal legal system while maintaining public safety. Criminal legal system involvement negatively affects employment opportunities and achieved socioeconomic status, housing access, mental health, and other health outcomes, and many of these factors, in turn, predict criminal legal system involvement. The cyclical nature of incarceration and violent crime is clear, but specific community needs and informed solutions require further investigation.
the rate of Black Americans incarcerated in state prisons compared to white Americans.
of children who are African American whose cases are waived to criminal court, despite African American children making up only 14% of the population.
the rate of Black Americans who experience gun homicide compared to white Americans.
murders per 100,000 people in Houston in 2021. The U.S. rate for the same year was 7.8 per 100,000.
Our mission is to reduce both violent crime and mass incarceration in Houston and beyond by bringing together researchers, local organizations, and community members with lived experience to collaboratively form culturally-responsive, data-driven solutions. In doing so, we also aim to reduce racial, ethnic, gender, and class-based disparities within the criminal legal system.
The HBCU Criminal Justice Research Hub brings together HBCU researchers, local organizations, and community members to collaboratively address rising violent crime rates and mass incarceration. We believe community input is vital to this work and that community members with lived experience are the true experts in this field. Together, we aim to develop non-punitive solutions to violent crime, given the negative effects of criminal legal system involvement for individuals, families, and whole communities.

In the first two years of this project, we will conduct public safety needs assessments in Houston and researchers’ respective cities. These reports, combined with community input gathered at our multiple Hub meetings, will allow us to determine culturally-responsive, data-driven interventions and policy recommendations. The Hub will also focus on researcher development, cultivating a diverse cohort of criminal justice researchers and social engineers.

Ultimately, the Hub aims to expand the capacity of HBCUs to address the root causes of mass incarceration and violent crime and inform interventions that uplift impacted communities.
Project Manager
Kiana Henley