Laura Abrams

Professor Abrams’ scholarship focuses on improving the well being of youth and young adults with histories of incarceration. Her ethnographic studies have examined youths’ experiences of criminality, risk, and institutions seeking to reshape their identities through both therapeutic and punitive practices. These themes are presented in her 2013 book (co-authored with Ben Anderson-Nathe) Compassionate Confinement: A Year in the Life of Unit C, (Rutgers University Press). Her most recent book (c0-authored with Diane Terry) Everyday Desistance: The Transition to Adulthood Among Formerly Incarcerated Youth (Rutgers University Press, 2017), examines how formerly incarcerated young men and women navigate reentry and the transition to adulthood in the context of urban Los Angeles. Dr. Abrams is also the lead editor of a 2016 multidisciplinary volume on the role of volunteers and non-profits in changing lives and promoting more humane conditions in prisons and jails:  The Voluntary Sector in Prisons: Encouraging Personal and Institutional Change (Palgrave, 2016).

Dr. Abrams is currently involved in several studies concerning juvenile justice, reentry, and transition age youth both locally and globally. She recently completed a four year evaluation of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Foster Youth Strategic Initiative in Los Angeles and New York City. The Institute on  Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin also funded a pilot  study on global youth justice models in four countries, examining how age and culpability are constructed in law and practice. She is also working with Dr. Elizabeth Barnert at UCLA Department of Pediatrics on a study of very young offenders, incarceration, and health, funded by the University of California Criminal Justice and Health Consortium and the UCLA Faculty Senate Transdisciplinary Seed Grant. Dr. Abrams is currently partnering with professor Laura Wray-Lake (social welfare) on a study of civic engagement among urban youth.

In the community, Dr. Abrams has served as an expert witness for death row appeals and in cases involving minors fighting their fitness to be tried as adults. She has provided public and congressional testimony regarding treatment in the juvenile justice system, the reentry needs of youth, and effective practices for the reintegration of reentry youth into the community. Serving the larger social work profession, Dr. Abrams  is a former vice-chair of the Group for the Advisement for Doctoral Education (GADE) and is currently a board member at large for the Society for Social Work Research. She serves on the editorial board of Social Service Review, Qualitative Social Work, and the International Journal of Social Welfare.

Professor Abrams teaches the following courses: SW 211B- Theory II; SW 285- Advanced Research Methods with Children and Youth; SW286- Qualitative Research Methods; SW 229: The Craft of Social Welfare Scholarship, and SW 290T: Juvenile Justice Policy.

You can follow Dr. Abrams on Twitter or the Facebook page for the Social Welfare Chair

Recent News Releases and Media Interviews:

Vera Institute of Justice: Everyday Desistance

Growing Pains of Formerly Incarcerated Youth 

GPS Rules Send California Juveniles Into a Jail Cycle

Jailed Indiana Teens Reach a Crossroads

MPR News On Abuse in a Private Juvenile Facility

Seeking Justice for Juveniles

More Protections for Juvenile Offenders are Before California Legislators

Take Two: Is Jail for Juveniles Effective in Preventing Future Crime?

Juvenile Arrests Plunged Last Year, why?

Expanding rehabilitation Programs under Federal Decree- NPR

The California Report: NPR

Jorja Leap

Jorja Leap has been an Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Luskin School of Public Affairs since 1992. As a social work professional and recognized expert in gangs, violence, and trauma, she has worked both nationally and internationally in violent and post-war settings throughout her career. Dr. Leap applies a multi-disciplinary, community-based approach to her research and developmental efforts. Her current work focuses on gangs and community justice in multi-cultural settings, criminal justice and prison reform, and the dilemmas faced by individuals reentering society after incarceration, including women, a group often overlooked.

Dr. Leap has served as policy advisor on Gangs and Youth Violence for Los Angeles County, as an expert reviewer on gangs for the National Institute of Justice, and as the Clinical Director of the Watts Regional Strategy for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office. In addition, she has served as the qualitative research director for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) Program.  She has also been appointed to the State of California, Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), Standing Committee on Gang Issues. Drawing upon her research, Dr. Leap has provided commentary on numerous television, radio and newspaper stories about gangs. In 2009, Dr. Leap began a five-year longitudinal study of Homeboy Industries, focusing on the life histories of program participants as they encounter the dual challenges of leaving gang life and reentering mainstream society. This work has extended to assessing their social enterprise model, concentrating on the Homegirl Café and its training program for women. Along with this work, she offers expert testimony on the impact of violence and trauma in death penalty and capital cases.

Dr. Leap has been deeply involved in creating and implementing action research and evaluation within underserved and marginalized populations.  As part of this, her work has centered on research for “A New Way of Life,” an innovative prison reentry program for women based in South Los Angeles as well as their National Safe Housing Network.   She is also currently engaged in the second part of a longitudinal study of the LAPD Community Safety Partnership, an effort led by civil rights attorney Constance Rice, focused on transforming law enforcement, particularly in the wake of the national protests focused on racial justice. Additionally, in 2015, Dr. Leap co-founded the UCLA Watts Leadership Institute, a ten-year initiative focused on building the indigenous leaders of the Watts community. More recently, she began working as the Lead Researcher on the White House Community Violence Intervention Collaborative, an effort underway in 17jurisdictions across the United States.  

Since 2011, Dr. Leap has served as the Executive Director of the UCLA Social Justice Research Partnership, which is affiliated with the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) Violence Prevention Alliance. She is also currently the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Community Based Public Safety Collective.  As part of her community based participatory research efforts, Dr. Leap has authored numerous reports, articles, and book chapters as well as the book, Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Love, Drugs and Redemption published by Beacon Press in 2012, with all proceeds going to Homeboy Industries and most recently the book: Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America’s Most Troubled Communities published by Beacon Press in June 2015, with all proceeds going to Project Fatherhood. She is currently at work on her next book, Entry Lessons: Women Fighting for Their Place, Their Children and Coming Home:  Women, Prison Reentry and Their Futures After Incarceration to be published by Beacon Press in 2022, with all proceeds going to A New Way of Life Reentry Project.  

In 2017, Los Angeles Magazine named Dr. Leap one of the 50 most influential women in Los Angeles.  In 2019, Dr. Leap was honored to be the recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award.

Learn more about Dr. Leap’s work.

 

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Todd Franke

Trained in social work and educational psychology, Professor Franke seeks to achieve a better understanding of, and improve the responsiveness of service systems in the fields of social services, education and health. Using cognitive theory to better define policy issues related to the integration of these two important fields, Dr. Franke’s research has focused in part on the impact of disability and chronic illness on school-age children. He is currently conducting a study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on the use of personal assistance services for children with disabilities. In addition, Dr. Franke studies how adolescents solve social problems; urban mobility and its impact on children’s education and social development; and how to successfully integrate health and social services in school settings.

Dr. Franke is active in several local and regional efforts to restructure social services in the schools, helping to conceptualize planning and implementation and the design of evaluation measures in Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest school district. He also serves as a consultant to local school districts for the preparation of funding proposals for Healthy Start, a state program to establish linkages between community social service agencies and schools. HIs primary work occurs at the intersection of youth violence (child welfare and gang involved youth) and education. In these areas he designs and undertakes evaluative research and has obtained over $9 million in research funding over the past 7 years. He is currently the Associate Director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities.

Dr. Franke has been involved with agencies that serve thousands of families representing unique geographic and cultural communities in California, particularly southern California counties. He recently prepared a report for the Los Angeles City Council which examines the measurement issues involved in assessing the success of gang-related and youth development prevention and intervention programs in the city. The link between involvement in the child welfare system and gang involvement is well documented. Dr. Franke is currently the Co-PI of the Best Start LA Initiative which aims to shape, strengthen and support five Los Angeles communities by building resources and providing access to activities that improve the well-being, development and care experienced by pregnant women, parents of newborns and children age 3 and under.

Dr. Franke was also the Principal Investigator for the First 5 LA-funded Partnership for Families Initiative, which is a secondary prevention initiative that is designed to prevent child maltreatment in vulnerable families. Dr. Franke has been the PI for the Small County Initiative, which was designed to systematically examine California’s efforts to build and enhance child abuse and neglect prevention efforts in 11 rural counties in northern California. Additionally, he has numerous years of experience in conducting cross-sectional and longitudinal research in the fields of education, child welfare and adolescent violence.