Dr. Pettus is one of social work’s leading experts on enacting data-driven solutions to criminal justice reforms. Her intervention development and policy reform work facilitates racial and economic equity throughout the criminal justice system, from an individual’s first contact with law enforcement to their release from incarceration. She concentrates her direct practice intervention research on working with community partners to develop and research behavioral health interventions to enhance positive social support, respond to lifetime trauma experiences among justice-involved adults, treat substance use and mental health disorders, and generate overall well-being for those impacted by justice involvement. Dr. Pettus’ work has broad policy impact and her prioritization of the rapid dissemination of research findings to policymakers, practitioners, and advocates ensures that data-driven innovations can be implemented in real-time. Dr. Pettus has grounded her career in intervention development and testing based on strong collaborations with correctional stakeholders, community partners, and individuals with incarceration histories, maximizing both the relevance of intervention content and the potential for effective interventions to be implemented in real-world settings.
Prior to joining JSP, Dr. Pettus founded and led the Institute for Justice Research and Development – a premier multidisciplinary research center located in the College of Social Work at Florida State University. As an associate professor and executive director there, she led a large team of faculty and staff dedicated to producing effective, sustainable, and equitable criminal justice reforms. Pettus is also co-founder of the Smart Decarceration Initiative and co-leads the Promote Smart Decarceration network of the Grand Challenges of Social Work initiative by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. Prior to joining academia, Pettus worked extensively as a social worker in varied mental health and corrections settings.
Professor Pettus completed a Doctorate in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds a Master of Social Work Administration degree and Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work and Psychology, all from the University of Kansas.
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