Melba Pearson new director of policy, programs at Center for the Administration of Justice

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FIU has named former prosecutor and ACLU of Florida deputy director Melba V. Pearson the director of policy and programs for its Center for the Administration of Justice.

In this role, Pearson will help manage the center’s $3.7 million MacArthur Foundation-funded project to improve prosecutor efficiency and fairness through data-driven analysis and performance measures. The goal is to reduce racial disparities, as well as increase transparency and community engagement. The project is a partnership with prosecutors in Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Charleston, Jacksonville and Tampa.

“Ms. Pearson is a nationally recognized expert on prosecutorial reform with over 20 years of experience as a senior prosecutor and policy expert,’’ said John F. Stack, founding dean of the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, which houses the center. “With Ms. Pearson on board, FIU will be able to help establish the center as the national leader in prosecutorial research and reform.”

Pearson, who served as a senior prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for 15 years, was instrumental in the expansion of the office’s Community Prosecution Unit, which uses innovative, data-driven programs to prevent and reduce crime.


She previously served as president of the National Black Prosecutors Association, co-chair of the American Bar Association and president of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association.

Nationally recognized as an expert on criminal justice reform, she frequently appears on CNN, Al-Jazeera and ABC. Her legal analysis has been published in the Huffington Post, The Hill, the Miami Herald and the Orlando Sentinel.

“I am thrilled to begin this next chapter at FIU, which has a long track record of academic excellence, deep community roots and diversity,’’ Pearson said. “Together, we will realize our vision of equitable prosecution using data to measure office-wide performance and develop real reforms.”

FIU’s Center for the Administration of Justice is a multidisciplinary team of faculty and other experts in criminal justice, rule-of-law reform, prosecution, policing, juvenile justice, forensics, political science, public administration, and public policy.

In collaboration with FIU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and through partnerships with judicial, law enforcement, government and community agencies, the center is engaged in research, training and public education on a variety of topics, including hate crimes, crime prevention, recidivism and more.

To date the center has received more than $50 million in external funding for research, including the MacArthur Foundation funded prosecutor project—the largest MacArthur grant ever awarded to FIU.

“While the research aspect of the project has been acknowledged nationally, there are tremendous technical assistance and community engagement opportunities that the research team has not been able to fully tackle” said Besiki Kutateladze, an associate professor of criminal justice and criminology who oversees the project. “We look forward to having Ms. Pearson assist us in expanding this critical work to promote fairness and transparency in the criminal justice system.” 


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