Assistant Professor Pajarita Charles to Co-lead Social Work Grand Challenge

Pajarita Charles
Pajarita Charles

Assistant Professor Pajarita Chalres was recently named a co-lead on a national initiative to address the need for smart decarceration policies. The Promote Smart Decarceration Grand Challenge focuses on reducing the number of people in jails and prisions; remedying racial and behavioral health disparieties among people incarcerated; and maximizing community well-being. The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare created this program as a part of 12 Grand Challenges to “champion social progress powered by science.”

The Promote Smart Decarceration Grand Challenge organizes social work researchers, practitioners, and policy makers across the country to leverage and “ignite social work achievements” in addressing mass incarceration in the United States through policy recommendations, research publications, development of network resources, and integrating evidence-based research about smart decarceration into social work education.

Phillipe Copeland, Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Social Work was also named a network co-lead.

Dr. Charles recently launched the Lab for Family Well-being and Justice at the UW-Madison School of Social Work to bring attention to criminal justice-related issues throughout Wisconsin. In addition to publishing papers, team members have presented to the Wisconsin Legislative Children’s Caucus, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Learning Exchange, and academic conferences. The lab is establishing partnerships with local jails, state prisons, and area non-profits. Dr. Charles also brought the Returning Prisoner Simulation to the School of Social Work and her work on helping to establish a parenting class for individuals incarcerated in jail has been featured in the Wisconsin State Journal and the Isthmus.

Dr. Charles is also an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Center for Law, Society, and Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research broadly centers on the development, implementation, and testing of family-focused preventive interventions to promote positive outcomes for children and families affected by the criminal justice system.