Our Team



Associate Professor, University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

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

Leon Sawh

Leon Sawh

Research Manager, University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

Leon Sawh serves as Research Manager for the Smart Decarceration Project at the University of Chicago. Leon has nearly 15 years of research and administration experience focused on the development, implementation and evaluation of substance use and mental health disorder, housing, and criminal justice programming. Leon received his Master of Public Health from Emory University and is currently completing his doctoral studies in the School of Criminology and Justice Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
bethany Ulrich

bethany Ulrich

Project Coordinator, University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

Bethany serves as Project Coordinator for the Smart Decarceration Project at the University of Chicago.  She has more than a decade of experience in managing and growing public health and community-based initiatives in the U.S. and Mexico.

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.

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.

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. 

Graduate Research Assistants

Smart Decarceration Project

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.

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).

Mario McHarris is a full time master’s student, concentrating in social administration. His research interests include the intersections of race and class in prosecution and sentencing, treatment of individuals with serious mental illness in the criminal justice system, and community-based alternatives to incarceration.

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.

Charlotte Goff is a master’s student, concentrating in social administration. She is interested in how policy interventions can be leveraged to change the current incentive structure of the criminal justice system and ways to strengthen social support for children and youth with system-involved caregivers.  

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

Briana Payton is a full time master’s degree student, concentrating in social administration. Her research and practice interests revolve around youth development, education, decriminalization, and restorative justice work.

Hanna Sharif-Kazemi is a master’s student planning to concentrate in social service administration. Her research interests include juvenile justice systems, services, and responses, as well as the intersection between race, gender, and legal system involvement.