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.

Current Research Assistants

Smart Decarceration Project

Kathryn Frances, LMSW, is a first year PhD student at the School of Social Service Administration. 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 second year PhD 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 first year full time master’s degree student. His interests include the intersections of criminal justice-involved youth of color in urban environments, treatment of people with serious mental illness in the criminal justice system, and community-based alternatives to incarceration.

Ameenah Rashid is a second year full time master’s degree student. Her research interests include gender responsive interventions and approaches to re-entry for women and girls, cultural identity strengthening/ formation as a form of healing and empowerment for African-Americans, building social capacity, and social change leadership.

Sophia Sarantakos is a fourth year 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.

Briana Payton is a first year full time master’s degree student, planning to concentrate in administration. Her research and practice interests revolve around youth development, education and decriminalization/restorative justice work.Your content goes here.

Research Affiliates

Kathryn Bocanegra, LCSW, is in her fifth year of the doctoral program. Her research examines the impact of criminal justice interventions on neighborhood social dynamics and neighborhood safety. Her dissertation is a spatial analysis of probation in Cook County, examining neighborhood-level predictors of the spatial distribution of probationers as well as the association between neighborhood-level factors and individual probation outcomes.

Sadiq Patel is a doctoral candidate in Social Work and an MS Candidate in Biostatistics. He is a researcher at the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention. His research uses statistical, geospatial, and machine learning methods to examine environmental and social risk factors that influence vulnerability for adverse behavioral and health outcomes among underserved populations.

Julian Thompson is a seventh year doctoral candidate. His research interests are broadly: crime, law, and punishment, race and ethnicity, urban poverty, and behavioral health. He examines the extent to which legal control and regimes of punishment intersect with inequality and practices of rehabilitation.

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