Special RFP: Criminal Justice Reform


J-PAL North America's crime and violence prevention work seeks to identify and promote evidence-based practices to reduce crime and violence, increase opportunities for individuals who are at-risk for involvement in the justice system, and foster the fairness and efficacy of the institutions and laws that make up the criminal justice system. 

This special request for proposals is focused on randomized evaluations of mechanisms for criminal justice reform. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, evaluations of interventions designed to: 

  • Eliminate bias and foster equity at all points in the criminal justice system
  • Enhance community safety through effective and fair policing strategies
  • Mitigate the financial and logistical burden of pre-trial court involvement
  • Divert individuals that do not pose a flight or safety risk away from detention and incarceration
  • Foster the social and economic reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals
  • Stop the revolving door of recidivism
  • Meet the unique needs of justice-involved youth and young adults
  • Ensure efficacy in under-researched contexts, such as rural jurisdictions

This list is not exhaustive: any proposal that explores criminal justice reform is potentially in scope. We are accepting applications for full research projects, pilot studies, and travel/proposal development grants.


*Updated April 9, 2020* Please note the following changes to our request for proposal processes in response to the COVID-19 crisis:

  1. All applications must follow J-PAL’s COVID-19 response guidelines in regard to in-person interactions with subjects.
  2. If your proposed project will feature in-person interactions with subjects, please note that the evolving situation could result in changes to these guidelines at a future date. Therefore, please be sure to include the following in your application materials:
  • Budget Narrative: Include a discussion of what funds will and will not be spent in what timeframes if the proposed project is paused, modified, or dissolved because of COVID-19 related disruptions.
  • Proposal Narrative: Outline aspects of the proposed project that can be completed right away vs aspects dependent on the status of the COVID response more broadly. The proposal should also include plans for conducting fieldwork, and how this will evolve should COVID-19 prevent in-person contact.

Types of Proposals

  1. Full Research Projects: Full research projects are typically awarded between $150,000 and $250,000 with a maximum award size of $400,000.  Researchers must propose a clear and well-developed research question including detailed randomization design and power calculations according to relevant minimum detectable effect sizes. 
  2. Pilot Studies: Pilot studies are eligible for up to $50,000 in funding. However, researchers applying for research management support (RMS, formerly known as STReaM)  may apply for funding up to $75,000 to account for J-PAL NA staff time.
  3. Travel/Proposal Development Grants: Travel/proposal development grants are eligible for funding up to $5,000. These grants are to be used for early stage activities with the goal of launching a randomized evaluation in North America

In this RFP cycle, we will be offering the opportunity to receive research management support (RMS). This is a program that provides approximately six months of research management support from J-PAL NA staff. This support can be used for either full studies or pilots, and may include tasks like coordinating communication across stakeholders, refining randomization implementation design and consent procedures, pilot design and implementation, and study process monitoring. In addition, we recognize that ongoing research projects are navigating new challenges in response to COVID-19, and many researchers are designing new evaluations to evaluate and support response efforts to the pandemic. Through RMS, our team offers hands-on support to ongoing projects as they think through modifications to the project, such as impact to timelines, navigating conversations with research partners, and adapting to phone or virtual research methods. We encourage researchers whose North America-based projects have changed as a result of COVID-19, or who are designing new research related to the virus or response efforts to apply for RMS. For more information about RMS and to apply, please visit the RMS webpage or email us at [email protected].


*Updated April 9, 2020* Please note the following funding opportunities in addition to regular proposals submitted to this RFP:

  1. Proposals for NEW projects that will generate rapid, actionable insights that can help inform policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposals will be reviewed under our standard evaluation review criteria as well as their potential to produce informative and timely findings to address the current crisis.
  2. Proposals for ADD-ON FUNDING to conduct outcomes and descriptive work on COVID-related matters as part of existing RCTs, whether or not funded by J-PAL originally. The proposed add-on work does not necessarily need to relate to the primary themes supported by the initiative (e.g. a randomized evaluation focused on criminal justice outcomes can use the funds to also incorporate a survey that is about health outcomes).


February 3. 2020 – RFP is issued
May 1, 2020– Proposal Submission Deadline
Week of June 22, 2020– Awards Announced


Who may apply?

For all proposals, the pool of eligible applicants includes J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL post-docs, and invited researchers. For travel/proposal development grants and pilots, the pool of eligible applicants is extended to include graduate students who have a J-PAL affiliate on their thesis committee, or who are supervised by an affiliate if a student is pre-thesis. All proposals may include collaborators outside of this network, but the principal investigator (PI) must be an eligible applicant. 
Eligible applicants can submit a maximum of three proposals per twelve-month period, per initiative. Note: PI and co-PI status are counted towards this limit.

Who will review applications?

The Review Board is composed of J-PAL North America’s Scientific Directors Amy Finkelstein and Lawrence Katz, as well as J-PAL affiliate Judd Kessler. Each proposal will be peer reviewed by one member of the Review Board and two researchers and/or policy experts not on the Review Board. The Review Board will meet to agree on final funding decisions.

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