Arnold Ventures, a leading funder of criminal justice initiatives, announced the hiring of Jennifer Doleac, an economist in the field of evidence-based criminal justice policy, as executive vice president of criminal justice.
Doleac will succeed Jeremy Travis, who joined Arnold Ventures in 2017 and oversaw what the philanthropy calls a period of significant growth in the criminal justice portfolio, adding initiatives in policing, reintegration, corrections, prosecution, public defense, and fines and fees, Arnold said.
“I am delighted to welcome Jennifer to Arnold Ventures. She is an accomplished scholar and leader in criminal justice reform with a deep commitment to rigorous research and evidence-based policymaking,” said Travis. “I am confident that Jennifer’s vision and expertise will help advance our mission to create lasting change in the criminal justice system.”
Arnold said Doleac will lead the organization's mission of translating research and data into policy with a goal of promoting community safety and improving the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. Arnold's website said it had made nearly 100 grants for criminal justice projects.
Doleac is an associate professor of economics at Texas A&M University and the director of the Justice Tech Lab, which conducts research related to crime and the criminal justice system. She is a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center, a research fellow at IZA — Institute of Labor Economics, and the host of the “Probable Causation” podcast.
Her work has been published in numerous academic journals, including the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Review of Economics and Statistics, and the Journal of Labor Economics.
Some criminal justice advocates have taken exception to Doleac's hiring.
Sociologist Alex Vitale of Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center, coordinator of a Policing and Social Justice Project, wrote Arnold that he had found Travis "open to critical ideas and motivated by a strong ethical core. I feel none of that for Ms. Doleac. She has taken numerous positions based on one or two econometric studies that fly in the face of common sense and decades of alternative findings just to aggrandize herself at the expense of communities subjected to abusive policing and corrections policies that she supports such as the criminalization of Naloxone, the treatment of people with mental health challenges in the criminal legal system, and amplifying arguments to expand policing."
Vitale charged that Doleac "has been unwilling to engage with those who disagree with her views, has no standing in the communities most affected by policing and incarceration, and is deeply distrusted by most of my intellectual and political colleagues."
A group of black Arnold grantees that did not identify itself further wrote Arnold that Doleac "has consistently demonstrated a lack of understanding and skill in critical areas that are essential for success in this role ... Doleac has never managed a team, she is narrow-minded and solely focused on econometrics ... she has never done policy work, she has never done advocacy work and she lacks common sense."