TSU nabs $2.7 million grant for criminal justice reform research

Texas Southern University on Monday announced it had received a five year, $2.7 million grant to put toward research stipends, scholarships and data collection in a new criminal justice center.

The grant, from the Koch Foundation-backed, D.C.-based Center for Advancing Opportunity, creates the center, which will be devoted to criminal justice research at the historically black university in an effort to create policy solutions to reform efforts.

Administrators expect researchers to partner with local Houston law enforcement agencies, including the district attorney’s office.

“We’ve got to go to work,” said Howard Henderson, an administration of justice professor at TSU, adding that research can help build an “equitable” criminal justice system. To his students, he said, “all of this is really for you.”

Henderson will be the center’s director.

It’s the largest grant TSU President Austin Lane has nabbed since taking office in 2016. The proposal had support from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and District Attorney Kim Ogg, both Democrats.

Both said university research will be important tools in solving complex issues, like mass incarceration.

“You’re trained to analyze the data we’re so busy creating,” Ogg said. “Many times we don’t have the hindsight (or) foresight to look at it.”

Jackson Lee, in an interview after TSU’s press conference, said the university is the right fit for the center because, as a historically black college it has long opened doors for vulnerable populations.

“It is a symbol of a place where we correct ill,” she said. “We can be a very effective tool with this grant to impact not only state and local legislation…we can also impact the national story, the national matrix.”

The Center for Advancing Opportunity was created in 2017 by the Koch Foundation-backed Thurgood Marshall College Fund to support faculty at historically black colleges and universities who research education, criminal justice and entrepreneurship.

Money from the Center for Advancing Opportunity can finance on-campus programming, scholarships, research and polling and original research, like the campus research center announced Monday at TSU.

Winston-Salem State University similarly received a $3 million grant to study barriers to economic mobility in North Carolina.

The Koch brothers have long funded conservative political candidates. Lane, who since becoming president has seen campus protests block two Republican politicians from speaking, said he has heard no pushback regarding the source of the money.

Many recognize that external research dollars are key to research, he said.

Jackson Lee said criminal justice is an issue on which people across the ideological spectrum can collaborate.

TSU’s location in Houston and pledged partnerships with law enforcement agencies made it an appealing choice to house such a center, said Gerard Robinson, the executive director of the Center of Advancing Opportunity.

Lane said the grant will support the research fully and will create a center for anyone to use to learn about mass incarceration or recidivism.

“So many problems have to be researched and addressed,” he said. “Many times, people come from an emotional standpoint…we’re coming from more of a research standpoint.”

Source: Houston Chronicle