Eastern Michigan University launches SMART community project focused on matters pertaining to criminal justice policy in Southeast Michigan

The Southeast Michigan Criminal Justice Policy Research Project (SMART) will host two events to celebrate its launch: a webinar to discuss education’s place in criminal justice reform and abolition, and a virtual roundtable on addressing sexual assault ju

YPSILANTI — Eastern Michigan University has launched SMART, the Southeast Michigan Criminal Justice Policy Research Project, which is a collaborative endeavor that serves as a:

  • Clearinghouse for the collection and dissemination of research on matters pertaining to criminal justice policy in Southeastern Michigan;
  • Mechanism for the education and professional development of EMU students at the graduate and undergraduate level;
  • Linking space in which community groups, governmental organizations, and the broader EMU community can encounter each other, share ideas, and collaborate;
  • Generative engine in which such collaboration can foster new and original engaged research on matters of concern to all participants.

The project was founded by EMU Associate Professor of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology, Kevin Karpiak, after recognizing a need in Southeast Michigan for more research and education on criminal justice policies and systems locally. 

“After speaking with various local community groups, activists, politicians, criminal justice practitioners, educators, and others, I realized that Ypsilanti and surrounding communities were lacking a place to explore, research and discuss challenges and issues within the local systems, but that there was a great desire for something of the sort,” said Karpiak. “Given EMU’s resources in terms of faculty experts, research opportunities, community connections, among other reasons, I knew that we had to spearhead this opportunity for the community.”

The SMART launch events

The SMART launch is being celebrated with two virtual events in April to celebrate.

The first event, Future of Criminal Justice Education, will be hosted on Thursday, April 1 at 6:30 p.m. In the wake of calls for criminal justice reform and abolition, many criminologists are confronting the complicity of the field in addressing systemic racism (among other issues) and its role in supporting law enforcement and the carceral state. This webinar will discuss how educators can use the classroom and programs to better confront these issues and whether we should continue to offer majors such as ours. The event will be hosted via ZOOM, and can be registered for through the event registration page.

On Thursday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m., the Sexual Assault in Washtenaw County: Challenges and Strategies for Achieving Justice webinar roundtable will outline persistent challenges to the administration of justice for sexual assault cases in Washtenaw County, as well as new innovations in how they might be addressed. The panel will be moderated by Eastern Michigan University Professor Dr. Paul Leighton and will include the following speakers: Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit, SafeHouse Center Executive Director Barbara Niess-May, and Eastern Michigan University Title IX Coordinator Anika Awai-Williams. The event will be hosted via ZOOM, and can be registered for through the event registration page.

The future of SMART

In addition to expanding programming and hosting more future events that educate the community and help address issues in the criminal justice system, the project also plans to participate in more community-engaged research projects responding directly to specific requests from local communities.

A “Brown Bag” series will be hosted regularly, in which SMART-affiliated researchers, criminal justice practitioners and community advocates can gather in order to conduct a detail-oriented and substantive conversation about a particular piece of criminal justice policy. A list of previous such brown bags, as well as abridged minutes from those discussions can be found on the SMART website.

SMART will also plan to regularly host roundtable discussions featuring experts in a variety of criminal justice fields exploring matters of broad public concern.  A list of previous such roundtables, as well selected recordings and supplementary materials, can be found on the Roundtable Discussions page.

SMART-affiliated researchers are currently conducting multiple on-going research projects pertaining to issues of criminal justice policy in Southeastern Michigan, and will continue to explore additional research opportunities.

For more information about SMART and its upcoming activities and projects visit the project’s website, subscribe to the SMART email list, or email emu_smart@emich.edu. Updates can also be found through the SMART Twitter and SMART Facebook pages.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

March 24, 2021

Written by:
Morgan Mark

Morgan Mark