Senior Fellow, Justice Policy Center
Urban Institute

Who We Are

At the nonprofit Urban Institute, we believe in the power of evidence to improve lives and strengthen communities.  Our employees are empowered to influence policy, open minds, shape decisions and offer solutions.  We encourage intellectual honesty, innovation, diversity, and mutual respect, and our analysis elevates the debate, wherever it takes place.

Urban’s greatest asset is our people. We strive to attract and cultivate a vibrant, creative, and diverse community. Our employees drive Urban’s mission through entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership, effective communication, results-orientation, and relationship cultivation. Our success depends on engaging individuals who possess and value these attributes.

The Opportunity

Justice Policy Center (JPC) is seeking an expert to join our leadership team as a senior fellow to lead collaboratively with an existing team of researchers at all levels on the Prison Research and Innovation Initiative (PRII) as well as generate and lead other significant research and policy projects.

PRII is a significant, $10M project (funded by Arnold Ventures) designed to use research, including administrative and qualitative data to shed light on the lived experience of people incarcerated in and staff that work in correctional facilities to improve transparency and accountability of prison systems and support improvements in policies, practices, and conditions. Prisons affect millions of lives, not just those who live and work in them but also the families left behind. Yet despite the scale and impact of prisons in the US, they are among the most understudied and least transparent public institutions in our country.

Urban is embarking on the second year of this five-year project and is working with five pilot sites (each consisting of a state prison/local researcher partnership) to leverage research and evidence to promote a transformation of the prison system and expose the profound impact conditions of confinement have on both the people who are confined there and who work within these facilities.

How you’ll contribute:

In addition to leading PRII, the senior fellow will conceptualize, fundraise for, and conduct additional research projects focused on a variety of criminal justice and community safety topics as well as apply innovative research designs and methodologies, direct statistical and qualitative analyses, and generate high quality products for diverse audiences.


Reporting to the vice president of the Justice Policy Center, the senior fellow will:

  • Serve as the Principal Investigator of PRII, collaborating around leadership with the project director, the existing PRII leadership team and a large project staff to successfully execute a highly complex quantitative and qualitative research project using a participatory research framework, and engaging quarterly with the project’s 16-member Advisory Board comprised of advocates, researchers, corrections officers/leadership, state leaders, and union representatives.
  • Collaborate with internal and external stakeholders (including funders) to generate new business development opportunities, the development of proposals, responses to solicitations, and other meaningful business cultivation activities.
  • Lead and significantly contribute to research project teams by assigning roles and responsibilities; managing team performance; monitoring project progress, budget and schedule; and designing and implementing strategy.
  • Serve as an inclusive, transparent leader who engages in authentic dialogue around issues of race and equity and seeks to build and grow a diverse team and body of work.
  • Oversee quality control activities for specific projects, including ensuring the accuracy of data management, analysis, and reporting.
  • Supervise researchers and provide guidance and mentorship as necessary.

What you’ll bring:

The successful candidate will bring most, if not all, of the following skills, experiences, and attributes:

  • Clarity of vision and political acumen required for complex, high-stakes research projects.
  • The ability to tap into a deep bench of relationships with stakeholders in relevant fields (corrections, community-based reentry).
  • Demonstrated track record of significant research management experience across several multifaceted research projects; experience as a national expert in one or more criminal justice topic areas preferred.
  • Strong leadership skills, including the ability to navigate multiple perspectives and points of view.
  • Experience working in or with diverse communities and advancing/applying a racial equity lens to justice research and policy work as well as a commitment to Urban’s DEI vision and mission (see below).
  • Exceptional quantitative/qualitative, analytical, and writing skills; participatory research experience; and substantive expertise in a JPC-related topic with a graduate degree (MA, MPP, PhD) in Criminology, Sociology, Statistics/Mathematics, Public Policy, Economics, or other similar social science field.
  • Track record of publication of research findings for multiple audiences through a variety of dissemination outlets from refereed journals to practitioner-oriented briefs.
  • Substantial experience interacting with criminal justice practitioners and community stakeholders, including those with lived experience with the criminal justice system.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills, including the ability to produce clear, concise, and compelling analysis of complex policy issues and research evidence and effectively interact with the media, association and advocacy partners, and other senior leaders the field.
  • Demonstrated track record of research fundraising and successful proposal development with experience in project management and the development of proposals for external funding, as well as existing funder relationships.
  • Strong people and team management skills, including experience coaching staff and teams to desired outcomes.
  • Commitment to the value every voice brings to the conversation in a concerted effort to make large scale, impactful, and inclusive changes through policy and research.
  • Collaborative, “can-do” attitude that will push the project forward, maintain interest and excitement among staff and partners, and serve as a motivating force for ambitious and complex initiatives.
  • Enthusiasm for working in a shared leadership role and experience facilitating professional development among peers.

What you’ll experience:

Working in the Nation’s Capital, the epicenter of public policy among a network of policy experts, you can expect to have an impact on policy areas you care about and work with great colleagues who are smart, mission-driven, and collaborative.  You will blend academic rigor with on-the-ground collaboration, be encouraged and supported to fulfill your potential through meaningful work that matters and, enjoy a welcoming workplace free from harassment, discrimination and intolerance.

In addition, Urban offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes: medical, dental, disability, and life insurance coverage.  Competitive paid time off allowance, and eligibility to participate in a generous retirement savings plan plus elect a pretax benefit for commuting expenses.
teran status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other protected status under applicable law.


Koya Leadership Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Molly Brennan and Shelby Woods are leading this search. Please make recommendations or express your interest in this role here or email All nominations, inquiries, and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The Urban Institute is committed to Equal Employment Opportunity without regard for race, ethnicity, gender, protected veteran status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other protected status under applicable law.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners, a member of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit

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