Spotlight | John Jay College of Criminal Justice


 Each month, the Office of Sponsored Programs will spotlight a different PI and their research. If you are interested in being featured in our next spotlight, please email  . Please be sure to provide us with an abstract (3-5 paragraphs) about your research, explanation of your recent project, the amount your project (s) were funded for, special events that you are hosting or coordinating, obstacles or challenges you faced during the application process, if applicable, and a photo of yourself .   

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Dr. Deborah Koetzle is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Management and the Executive Officer (Director) of the Criminal Justice Ph.D. program at John Jay College. 

Dr. Koetzle’s research interests center around effective interventions for offenders, problem-solving courts, risk/need assessment, and cross-cultural comparisons of prison-based programs.  She is P.I. of a Bureau of Justice Assistance award to the New York City Probation Department ($750,000, sub-award $189,000 to John Jay) to implement and evaluate a specialized supervision unit for 16-24 year-olds in NYC.  She is also senior advisor on a US Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs funded project ($499,974) to provide technical assistance, training, and research to help reduce prison crowding in Salvadoran prisons. 

Dr. Koetzle has been working with the New York City Probation department since 2012, when she trained probation officers on the use of standardized risk/need assessments to help determine the level of supervision and services to provide to probationers.  In 2015, it was determined that adolescent and young adult offenders (ages 16-24) were significantly more likely to be rearrested than older probationers and were in need of specialized services, which led to the creation of the “Anyone Can Excel” (ACE) unit, implemented in 2016.  ACE is a three-stage model of probation supervision; participants receive individualized case plans based on assessment results, participate in cognitive-behavioral groups, and receive transition planning to help ensure post-supervision success.  Caseloads are smaller than average and probation officers are trained to enhance participant motivation, provide brief interventions, and help participants develop pro-social skills like problem-solving and decision-making.  In addition to providing technical assistance, Dr. Koetzle and Ph.D. candidate Susruta Sudula are engaged in evaluation activities to assess the unit’s effectiveness.  They recently completed a process evaluation, finding that the unit is largely operating as designed and that the number of individuals rearrested was lower than expected.  They are currently in the beginning stages of an outcome evaluation, which will examine whether ACE participants have lower rates of recidivism than a comparable group of non-ACE participants.  This evaluation will be completed in October 2019.

In addition, Dr. Koetzle is working with John Jay professors, Drs. Jeff Mellow (co-PI) and Hung-En Sung, Senior International Officer Mayra Nieves (co-PI), and Ph.D. student Lidia Vasquez on the prison crowding project.  Dr. Koetzle and her colleagues have spent 5 weeks in El Salvador and have hired and trained over 50 staff, including 36 Criminological Technical Team (CTT) members.  The staff are working in 6 prisons to assist with identifying incarcerated individuals who are eligible for lower security prisons or early release.  In April, Drs. Koetzle and Mellow presented on the project at a workshop for penal judges and offered recommendations for incorporating empirically supported factors into their decision-making.  As a result of seeing the challenges faced by the Salvadoran prison system, Dr. Koetzle hopes to expand her research to explore whether US-based best practices around treatment and prison management can be successfully used in Latin American prison systems.