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Managing Director of the Criminal Justice Research Center, Penn State

Dr. Gary Zajac is the founding Managing Director of the Criminal Justice Research Center (formerly the Justice Center for Research) and Associate Research Professor at The Pennsylvania State University and a member of the graduate faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts.

He has been Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator on 14 Justice Center projects focusing on courts, corrections, sentencing and policing. His studies at the Center have encompassed racial disparity in capital sentencing, rural criminology, implementation science, inmate social networks, evaluation of domestic relations programs, and specialty courts, including the national evaluation of the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) Demonstration Field Experiment, funded by the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Dr. Zajac has served for many years as a peer reviewer for the National Institute of Justice and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and for journals including: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, The Prison Journal (also board member) and Criminology and Public Policy. His scholarly work has appeared in many journals and books, including Journal of Experimental Criminology, Criminology and Public Policy, Crime & Delinquency, Criminal Justice and Behavior and The Prison Journal. He has advised dozens of state, local and international corrections agencies and organizations on the development of research capacity and the implementation of research-based practice.

Prior to joining the Justice Center, Dr. Zajac was Chief of Research and Evaluation in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for thirteen years, where he initiated and led numerous studies and evaluations of PADOC programs and related topics, partnering with external researchers and securing third party grants. The research partnership model that Dr. Zajac developed there won the 2008 Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments, being recognized as a model for knowledge creation and transfer.

During Dr. Zajac’s tenure in the PADOC, this model resulted in 18 major grant supported studies totaling over $4 million in external support, and promoted the diffusion of evidence-based practice within the PADOC.