Julia Lesnick

Julia Lesnick is an emerging scholar of youth justice. Her research agenda aims to shift policy, practice, and public narratives investing in youth to pursue a more just society. She takes a multi-disciplinary approach grounded in social welfare, sociology and developmental psychology to examine the following areas: young people’s experiences with policy advocacy and implementation; the use of evidence to inform juvenile system change; emerging alternative models of youth justice practice; and public and political narratives about youth justice.

As a second-year doctoral student at UCLA, Julia’s research focuses on juvenile legal system change. Some of her recent and ongoing projects include a first-authored critical review of paradigms influencing national trends of juvenile system reform, leading a qualitative study of stakeholders’ visions for the future of youth justice, conducting a comprehensive synthesis of evidence on credible messenger mentoring with youth in the juvenile system, collecting data for evaluation of a youth re-entry program, and serving as a research consultant for the state of California in the implementation of juvenile justice reform legislation.

In addition to her research at UCLA, Julia is a practitioner and advocate for justice. Prior to UCLA, she worked as a program analyst at the NYC Division of Youth and Family Justice and in community-based social services, as a therapist and case manager for youth on probation, and as a teacher in prison-based college degree program. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development from Cornell University in 2018, and her Master’s of Social Work from UCLA in 2023.

Ultimately, Julia aspires to a career conducting research that advances equitable, youth-centered, and community-led change in youth justice policy and practice. She aims to contribute innovative, applied research that bridges organizing, science, policy, and practice to promote socially just youth policy.