Our Team



Associate Professor, University of Chicago's Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Dr. Epperson has more than 20 years of clinical, administrative, and research experience in behavioral health and criminal justice settings. He has conducted formative process and outcome evaluations of numerous criminal justice interventions, and developed, implemented, and evaluated interventions for justice-involved individuals with serious mental illnesses.

Learn more about Matt

Hannah Lee, LSW, MSW

Hannah Lee, LSW, MSW

Project Coordinator, University of Chicago's Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Hannah serves as the Project Coordinator for the Smart Decarceration Project at the University of Chicago. She has over a decade of direct service, managerial, and clinical experience, tackling social issues such as housing rights, incarceration, access to higher education, and community mental health. She holds a BA and MA in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, and a MSW from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Research Affiliates


Kathryn Bocanegra, A.M., LCSW, PhD is a post-doctoral fellow at Loyola University of Chicago’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice. She is Senior Advisor to the Attorney General of Illinois providing oversight on crime victim and violence prevention services. She received her PhD in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. Her research includes both quantitative and qualitative research on community violence prevention, community corrections, assisting crime victims, and behavioral health services for forensic populations.

Sadiq Patel, PhD, MS, MSW, is an NIMH Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard University School of Medicine. He received his PhD in Social Work and MS in Biostatistics from the University of Chicago and MSW from the University of Michigan. His research integrates statistical, geospatial, and data science methods to examine health outcomes and health care policy among underserved populations. 

Rachel Garthe, MS, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois School of Social Work. She earned a BA in Psychology from North Central College and a MS and PhD in Developmental Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Garthe completed two years of post-doctoral training at the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Her research examines the etiology and prevention of youth violence in peer and romantic relationships within high-burden urban communities.


Leon Sawh is an Associate/Scientist in the Division of Health and Environment at Abt Associates. From January 2017 to July 2020, he was Research Manager of the Smart Decarceration Project. Leon has also held positions at several research and policy centers including the VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission and the Massachusetts Center of Excellence for Specialty Courts. His research interests include diversion programming, community corrections, co-occurring disorders, homelessness and veterans issues.

Graduate Research Assistants


Emily Claypool, A.M., is a doctoral student who is interested in deinstitutionalization, clinical interventions as well as the social life and historical emergence of evidence-based practices and programs. Thinking about power, control and scientific discourse, her research draws from the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies (STS).

Kathryn Frances, LMSW, is a doctoral candidate.  Her research interests include using qualitative methods to explore the social and political intersections between access to housing and criminal justice involvement.

Samantha Guz is a doctoral student, whose research focuses on services for vulnerable populations and the quality of life outcomes associated with those services. 

Sophia Sarantakos is a doctoral candidate. Her research interests include criminal-legal actors as street-level bureaucrats, discretion and decision-making among criminal-legal actors, and discretion as a tool to transform penal policies and practices.

Hanna Sharif-Kazemi is a second-year master’s student at the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Her research interests include race, gender, and legal system involvement; the effects of criminal legal reform policies; and the criminalization of youth. Prior to joining the Smart Decarceration Project, Hanna worked at the Federal Defender Program for the Northern District of Illinois, as well as provided research assistance on projects which evaluated the health outcomes of incarcerated individuals and the needs of juvenile justice-involved girls.