The WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center highlights the rigorous research and evaluation work that WestEd researchers are conducting in the areas of school safety, violence and crime prevention, juvenile and criminal justice, and public health. A primary goal of the Center is to become a “trusted” source of evidence on the effects of policies and programs in these areas.
In addition to conducting research and evaluation studies, Center staff promote the use of scientific evidence in making decisions about programs, policies, and practices relevant to justice and prevention.
See our list of distinguished advisors.
Senior Leadership Team
Anthony Petrosino (Director)
Anthony Petrosino is Director of the Justice & Prevention Research Center. He also serves as Senior Fellow and Affiliated Faculty at George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy. He has more than 30 years of experience collaborating on research and evaluation projects and has co-authored more than 120 articles, book chapters, and technical reports. Anthony was elected “Honorary Fellow” by the Academy of Experimental Criminology in 2005, received the Paul D. Hood Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field from WestEd in 2011, and the Robert F. Boruch Award for Contributions to Public Policy from the Campbell Collaboration in 2018.
Pamela MacDougall (Coordinator)
Pamela MacDougall is a Project Coordinator with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. Within the Justice & Prevention Research Center, MacDougall works closely with project teams to ensure that project deliverables are met, monitors the budget, organizes and monitors field research; schedules interviews and project activities; develops online questionnaires; analyzes and synthesizes survey data; contributes to evaluation report and proposal writing, and conducts background research, and quantitative and qualitative data analyses. She also works with projects to develop and maintain databases to organize, manage, and present information and data. She received a BS in liberal arts with a concentration in legal ethics from Salem State University.
Shaun Ali is a Senior Justice Technical Assistance Specialist with WestEd’s Justice and Prevention team, currently providing technical assistance (TA) to Second Chance Act grantees through the National Reentry Resource Center, and providing TA to state education agencies through the Center to Improve Social Emotional Learning and School Safety (CISELSS). Prior to joining WestEd, Ali supported two Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) grants focused on youth violence prevention. Ali started his career in criminal justice as a victim liaison for the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section. After that, he spent a number of years supporting state, local, and tribal justice agencies through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, National Training and Technical Assistance Center. Ali served as a key consultant for a large-scale transformation project for all of the justice agencies of Riverside County (CA) and has volunteered in radicalization prevention efforts and school discipline reform efforts in his local community. Ali received a Master’s in Sociology from Arizona State University and a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from George Mason University.
Ashley Boal is a Senior Research Associate with the Justice and Prevention Research Center at WestEd. She brings experience directing and coordinating complex, multi-year projects that rely on collaboration and coordination with diverse stakeholders. Dr. Boal is well-versed in the integration of quantitative and qualitative methodologies and has experience designing and executing mixed-methods projects. She has worked on projects that span diverse content areas including criminal justice, violence against women, mental and physical health, substance use, and education. Currently, Dr. Boal is the Co-Investigator for two studies funded by the National Institute of Justice, a study of state school safety centers, and a study of training for law enforcement related to internet crimes against children. Her work has been published in prominent academic journals including Psychological Assessment, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, American Journal of Community Psychology, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, and Violence and Victims.
Trevor A. Fronius
Trevor A. Fronius is a seasoned leader who brings more than a decade of experience conducting research and evaluation projects in justice, school safety and climate, violence prevention, and public health sectors. These projects include experimental and quasi-experimental studies focusing on issues such as school-based law enforcement and threat assessment, chronic absenteeism, community-based violence, reentry, and systems-involved and opportunity youth. In addition, his past work includes research on social capital and community violence as well as published research reviews of restorative justice in schools, school-based policing programs, and community-based violence prevention strategies. Fronius received his M.S. in criminal justice studies from Bridgewater State University and his Ph.D. in criminology and criminal justice studies from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
Sarah Guckenburg, MPH, is a Senior Research Associate with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. She has led or collaborated on a variety of research and evaluation projects focusing on violence prevention, juvenile justice reform, school safety, and other public health issues. Examples of her current projects include the evaluation of Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education (AWARE) project in Vermont, a grant working to support system-level improvements for school-based mental health services in three school districts, an evaluation of alcohol and drug prevention programs in Montgomery County, PA, and case studies of youth advisory councils in juvenile justice settings funded by Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Joseph M. McKenna
Joseph M. McKenna is a Senior Research Associate in WestEd’s Justice & Prevention Research Center. As part of his work for the Center, he is currently the Principal Investigator on an NIJ-funded evaluation of statewide school safety centers. McKenna also collaborates on other research and technical assistance projects in the areas of school safety, policing in schools, juvenile justice, mental health, and trauma. He has served as project director for many federal and state-funded research and technical assistance grants. Before coming to WestEd, McKenna served as the Executive Director of Safety and Student Support for Comal ISD (Texas) where he was responsible for implementing best practices to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment. As a part of this work, he oversaw the district’s safety, student support, and health service departments. Joe also spent seven years at the Texas School Safety Center as the Associate Director where he oversaw operations of both the research and education divisions.
Jonathan Nakamoto is a Senior Research Associate with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. He is currently the Co-Director of an evaluation of a teen pregnancy prevention program named Project With, which is being implemented in Los Angeles County Probation Department youth camps. The evaluation is using a quasi-experimental design to rigorously examine the impact of the program on the participating youth. Previously, Nakamoto led a cost analysis of another teen pregnancy prevention program named Healthy U that was implemented in juvenile justice facilities in Oregon. Nakamoto has used experimental and quasi-experimental research designs to evaluate the impact of a range of education interventions. His published work in peer-reviewed journals has employed a number of analytic techniques including hierarchical linear modeling, structural equation modeling, multiple imputation, and meta-analysis. Nakamoto received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Southern California.
Staci Wendt is a Senior Research Associate with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. She currently directs experimental and quasi-experimental projects related to juvenile and adult criminal justice and youth development. For example, she currently directs the evaluation of the Alameda County Justice Restoration Project, which utilizes a randomized control design to investigate the impact of a peer-coaching model for post-release services. She also directs the evaluations of California’s Improving Outcomes for Victims of Human Trafficking project, of Riverside County’s Juvenile Justice and Crime Prevention Act services, and of the California Department of Educations Expanded Learning programs. Previously, she was co-Principal Investigator of the 5-year randomized control trial researching the impact of an app developed specifically for male, justice-involved youth to decrease unplanned teen fatherhood.
Colleen Carter is a Research Assistant with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. She contributes to research and program evaluations related to youth voice, juvenile justice, teen pregnancy prevention, and student social-emotional health. Carter serves as a liaison to diverse stakeholders in juvenile justice agencies, probation departments, and community-based organizations. Her responsibilities include data collection, site visits, survey development, database management, analysis, and product dissemination. Carter came to WestEd with 12 years’ experience in the occupational health and safety profession, protecting the health of workers and the community. Ms. Carter received a MS in public health from Tulane University and a BS in wildlife biology from Humboldt State University.
Arena C. Lam is a Research Associate with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. Lam works on evaluations related to criminal and juvenile justice, teen pregnancy prevention, human trafficking, school-based health services, college affordability, and teacher preparation. She has extensive experience analyzing complex criminal justice and education data of various research designs (randomized controlled trial, quasi-experimental, longitudinal, and cross-sectional). As part of her work in evaluation studies and publications in peer-reviewed journals, Lam utilizes analytic techniques such as survival analysis, regression, hierarchical linear modeling, structural equation modeling, and person-centered approaches. Lam received a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Education, both from the University of California, Irvine.
Cosette Lias is as a Research Assistant in a joint position with the Strategic Resource Planning and Implementation Team and the Justice & Prevention Research Center. Since joining WestEd, she has worked on projects for clients including the California Department of Education, the National Governors Association, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She has a passion for applying equity frameworks and critical race theory to research methods and resource allocation evaluations. Some of her skills include conducting literature reviews, surveys, and interviews and developing and evaluating policy options. Cosette received an MA in Public Policy with a concentration in Education from UCLA and a BA in Philosophy from Amherst College.
Jorge Mahecha is an experienced consultant in psychometrics, program evaluation, and learning assessment. He recently taught a course on psychometrics for doctoral students at the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development at Boston University. Mahecha also worked as a consultant for the International Rescue Committee, where he designed an evaluation system for teachers in high-conflict areas in Afghanistan. As a consultant in Bogotá, Colombia, Mahecha worked with local and international organizations to build research partnerships. He is one of the cofounders and board members of Teach for Colombia, a member of the Teach for All network.
Currently, Mahecha is a doctoral candidate in the Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment program at the Lynch School Of Education And Human Development at Boston College. His research interests include program evaluation, causal inference, and psychometrics. He earned master’s degrees in Education at Boston University and at Los Andes University in Bogotá, Colombia.
Danielle has a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from UCLA. Before joining WestEd, she worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, as an assistant on the COVID-19 Response Team serving housing shelters and people experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles area. At the height of the pandemic, Danielle had a dual position as the COVID-19 Response Specialist for the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission where she worked directly with LA County Department of Public Health to facilitate COVID-19 outbreak investigations and quarantine/isolation measures. During her downtime, Danielle volunteers as a crisis counselor at Didi Hirsch’s Mental Health Services: Suicide Prevention Center as she plans to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist in the near future. Her research interests align with alleviating the burden of serious mental illnesses amongst marginalized groups, particularly at-risk ethnic youth. Danielle is excited to be at WestEd and she looks forward to sharpening her research skills and continuing to network with the vast array of diverse researchers.
Jessica Norton is a research associate with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. Jessica works on various evaluation, research, and review projects in youth mental health, delinquency, juvenile justice involvement, and school and family contexts. Jessica earned her master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in the same field. She also holds a certificate in Advanced Research Methods for Developmental and Family Science and has expertise in longitudinal data analysis. In her previous positions, Jessica has conducted research and evaluation with private, public, non-profit, and government agencies on projects related to substance use, bullying, school safety, youth sexual risk and pregnancy, and juvenile offending and recidivism.
Leigha is a research assistant for the WestEd Justice and Prevention Research Center. She has a background as a research assistant in two forensic and correctional psychology labs with a focus on justice-involved youth and adults. She has experience with re-entry, correctional treatment, and trauma and maltreatment with previously incarcerated individuals. Additionally, she has a background in evaluating the effects of Child Protective Services involvement and complex trauma on juveniles. Leigha holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas Tech University and is currently finishing her master’s in forensic psychology from George Washington University.
Sarah Russo is a Research Assistant in Division II, Justice and Prevention Area. She conducts research and program evaluation activities, including data collection tool development, qualitative and quantitative data collection, management, and analysis, and reporting. Some of Sarah’s projects include evaluations of teen pregnancy prevention initiatives for justice-involved youth, programs addressing human trafficking among transition-aged youth, training for law enforcement investigating technology-facilitated crimes against children, and state school safety centers. Prior to her work at WestEd, Ms. Russo served as the lead data analyst for the Community Based Crime Reduction grant initiative in Los Angeles to develop violent crime prevention and reduction strategies in MacArthur Park. Ms. Russo obtained a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Alexis Stern is a Research Associate with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center, contributing to research and evaluation projects in areas including juvenile justice reform, school climate, and public health. Her work at WestEd has included supporting a case study of a juvenile justice youth advisory council, a report on school climate and suspensions in California schools, and an evaluation of a framework for school-based law enforcement in Texas. Her current responsibilities include contributing project management, writing, survey development, analysis, and interview support for school climate, school safety, and juvenile justice projects. Alexis received a master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University.
Hannah Sutherland is a Research Associate with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. As part of her work, Ms. Sutherland’s responsibilities include a variety of research and evaluation tasks for studies within the areas of justice, public health, and education, including qualitative data collection, survey development and implementation, data analysis, and reporting. These studies focus on violence prevention, drug and alcohol prevention, adult recidivism reduction, school safety, disconnected youth, restorative justice, teen pregnancy prevention, juvenile drug courts, and various other programs protecting at-risk youth. She received a BA, with double majors in psychology and political science, from Westfield State University and an MS in criminal justice from Salem State University.
Darius D. Taylor is a Research Associate with the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center. Mr. Taylor historically has focused his academic and research experiences within the fields of behavioral health, chronic disease epidemiology, and biostatistics. He brings to the JPRC team a sound quantitative background and passion for change within the fields of education, justice, health, and social action. He operates at the intersection of art and research. Darius’ passion lies in using art to provide spaces for healing, empowerment, and social transformation. Specifically, as it relates to the social consequences of educational testing, trauma, anti-Blackness, and systems change.
Justine Zimiles is a Research Assistant at WestEd’s Justice & Prevention Research Center. Her work focuses on program evaluation activities, including coordinating data collection, developing data management systems, online survey administration, statistical analysis, and report writing. Her current projects relate to juvenile justice prevention, victims of human trafficking, and health equity technical assistance. She received a BA in psychology from the University of Rochester and a master’s degree in applied psychology from San Diego State University. She has prior experience working in a mental health research setting, as well as teaching statistics and English as a foreign language.