Jennifer Peirce

Study program:
Ph.D. Criminal Justice
Current affiliation:
City University of New York

Jennifer Peirce (criminal justice, City University of New York) is exploring how prison governance reforms in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last twenty years have influenced detention conditions and rehabilitation initiatives.

Jennifer Peirce (criminal justice, John Jay College, The Graduate Center, City University of New York) analyzes the political and organizational elements of prison reform processes and efforts to expand alternatives to incarceration in contexts of high crime and violence, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. She has worked for several international development organizations, with a focus on transitional justice, security sector reforms, and community-based violence prevention projects. She also has experience in gender-based analysis and program monitoring and evaluation.

Doctoral research

Reforming Prison Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Comparative Analysis

In the context of post-conflict transitions and high levels of crime, prison systems have received relatively little attention, even though they face serious challenges, such as overcrowding and violence. In recent years, there have been increasing efforts to reform prisons, including creating more humane detention conditions, treatment services, and alternatives to incarceration. Despite the fact that a lesson learned from police and judicial reforms is the importance of governance and organizational change, there is little research about changes in the way prison systems are managed. This project will analyze governance dimensions of prison reform, in the framework of international security sector reform. Specifically, it will examine how prison governance models in Central America and the Caribbean have changed over the past twenty years, and how these changes have influenced prison systems' capacity to fulfill security and rehabilitation functions.

Jennifer Peirce is a doctoral student in Criminal Justice at John Jay College and the Graduate Center, at the City University of New York (CUNY), in New York City. Her research analyzes prison reform processes, alternatives to incarceration, and reentry issues, in the framework of broader criminal justice system reforms, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Jennifer was part of the Citizen Security and Justice team at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), where she worked on the design, implementation, and evaluation of crime prevention, juvenile justice, prison reform, and restorative justice projects in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. Jennifer joined the federal public service of Canada through the Recruitment of Policy Leaders (RPL) program in 2008. As an analyst with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development (DFATD), Jennifer worked on bilateral relations and political and human rights issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean. She also managed program funding for transitional justice, victims’ rights, conflict mediation, and police reform issues in Guatemala and Colombia. Previously, Jennifer lived for several years in The Gambia, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, working with non-governmental organizations focused on women’s rights, youth violence prevention, and economic and social justice advocacy.

Jennifer holds an M.A. from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University and a B.A. in International Development Studies and Spanish from Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College. Her research addressed social movements’ responses to urban violence and post-conflict challenges in Latin America. Jennifer’s writing has been published in The Paterson Review and Studies in Religion, as well as in the IDB’s Technical Papers series and its Sin Miedos blog on citizen security.

While living in Ottawa, Jennifer was the volunteer Chair of the Board of Directors of One World Arts, a nonprofit organization that offers arts programs for social change. She has also volunteered with YouthBuild USA, Discovery University/The Ottawa Mission, and the Elizabeth Fry Society. Jennifer was born and raised in Calgary, and enjoys skiing and hiking in the mountains.