Jorja Leap has been a member of the UCLA faculty since 1992. As a trained anthropologist and recognized expert in crisis intervention and trauma response, she has worked nationally and internationally in violent and post-war settings. Dr. Leap has been involved with training and research for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as part of post-war development and conflict resolution in Bosnia and Kosovo. Closer to home, she worked with the families of victims of the 9/11 WTC disaster. Since that time, Dr. Leap has focused on gangs, gang violence and youth development at the local, national and international level.
Research and Community-based Initiatives
Dr. Leap’s research interests focus on gangs and at risk youth. Her current work is designed to reduce community-based violence and promote pro-social attitudes within violence-plagued neighborhoods, informing policymakers and practitioners through rigorous research and evaluation-based knowledge and evidence. As part of these efforts, Dr. Leap is currently the senior policy advisor on Gangs and Youth Violence for Lee Baca, Sheriff of Los Angeles County. She also serves as an advisor on Gangs and Youth Development programs for the Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development, and the Los Angeles Unified School District Safety and Violence Prevention Executive Advisory Committee. As part of the Advancement Project, Dr. Leap helped to organize and establish the Violence Reduction Applied Research Group, which is charged with developing suggested evaluation measures for anti-gang programs in Los Angeles City and County. Additionally, Dr. Leap is affiliated with the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Public Policy Institute, serving as an evaluator and advisor for their community-based programs. Along with her efforts in Los Angeles, Dr. Leap serves as an expert reviewer on gangs for the National Institute of Justice. She has testified at local, state and federal legislative committee hearings and at numerous Congressional briefings. Additionally, Dr. Leap has spoken nationally and internationally on gang violence and youth development. She also has served as an expert in death penalty sentencing hearings and has offered expert testimony in criminal cases involving youth and emerging adults. As a result of this work, Dr. Leap now serves as the director of the UCLA Life History and Social Justice Project.
Current Projects and Writing
Drawing on her expertise in qualitative research and ethnographic methodology, Dr. Leap has conducted numerous evaluations of anti-gang programs including the ABC Unified School District Safe Schools Healthy Students Violence Prevention Program, Communities in Schools Gang Intervention Program, the Aztec Fire Crew Gang Re-entry Program, the LAUSD Anti-Gang Youth Lead Program and the Unity Collaborative Gang Intervention Program. In 2008, Dr. Leap and Dr. Todd Franke received funding from the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation to initiate a two-year longitudinal evaluation of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the United States. In 2010, they subsequently received funding through Homeboy Industries to evaluate the HBI-Los Angeles County Gang Intervention and Re-entry Project. Based at the Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities, these efforts will be expanded to ultimately follow the Homeboy program for five years, and will be the first longitudinal research study of anti-gang efforts ever completed.
In 2011, Dr. Leap began work on a two-year initiative funded by The California Wellness Foundation to inventory community-based efforts, conduct focused evaluation and build capacity in youth development programs throughout California. As part of this initiative, she is now Director of the UCLA Adolescent Health Partnership Project. Dr. Leap is also currently a lead member of the multi-disciplinary team implementing the parenting program, “Project Fatherhood,” in the Jordan Downs housing project of Watts, South Los Angeles. In addition, she serves as a member of the Jordan Downs Community Advisory Committee.
Dr. Leap is the author of numerous evaluation reports, articles, book chapters as well as the book, “No One Knows Their Names.” She is currently completing a chapter on gang membership prevention for a book to be published jointly by the National Institute ofJustice and the Center for Disease Control.
Her book “Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Drugs, Love and Redemption” was published by Beacon Press in March 2012.