Jessica Saunders

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Senior Policy Researcher
Off Site Office


Ph.D. and M.A. in criminal justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; B.A. in psychology, Oberlin College

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Jessica Saunders is a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation with over 18 years of experience conducting research related to the criminal justice system. Her research interests include policing, immigration and crime, developmental criminology, evaluation research, and quantitative methods. Saunders has led several large-scale criminal justice and prevention evaluation efforts, including a multi-site open-air drug market intervention evaluation, NIJ's predictive policing evaluation, a state-wide school safety program implementation evaluation, evaluation of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program,an examination of the Israel National Police, and assessing the effectiveness of correctional education on recidivism. She spent five months in Afghanistan studying both the development and effectiveness of Afghan Local Police and U.S. military women working in combat positions for NATO Special Forces.

Saunders has authored a series of statistical and methodological pieces on emerging statistical techniques for measuring the development of delinquency and youth violence and their implications for youth intervention evaluations, as well as advanced new quantitative methods to overcome sampling bias when using quasi-experimental and observational data at the individual and geographic level in evaluation research. 

Saunders teaches criminology and public policy at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and prior to joining RAND, she was an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University. She received her Ph.D. in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2007 and was the recipient of the Rudin Fellowship for applied criminal justice research from 2005 through 2007. 

Recent Projects

  • Scaling Up Effective Violence Prevention in Schools
  • Evaluation of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative
  • Building Employee Resilience in Cutoms and Border Protection
  • Understanding Public Safety in the Mississippi Delta
  • Evaluation of Open-Air Drug Market Interventions

Selected Publications

Jessica Saunders, Tracking the Development of Delinquency, LFB Scholarly Press, 2009

Michael Robbins, Jessica Saunders, Beau Kilmer, "A Framework for synthetic control methods with high-dimensional, micro-data: Evaluating a neighborhood-specific crime intervention," Journal of the American Statistical Association, 2106

Jessica Saunders, Michael Robbins, and Allison Ober, "Moving from efficacy to effectiveness: Implementing the Drug Market Intervention across multiple sites," Criminology and Public Policy, 16(3):787-814, 2017

Jessica Saunders, Allison Ober, Dionne Barnes-Proby, and Rob Brunson, "Police legitimacy and disrupting overt drug markets," Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 39(4):667-679, 2016

Jessica Saunders, Priscillia Hunt, and John Hollywood, "Putting predictions into practice: An evaluation of Chicago’s Predictive Policing Program," Journal of Experimental Criminology, 2016

Jeremy Miles, Layla Parast, Beth Ann Griffin, Sue Babey, and Jessica Saunders, "A propensity matched population based study of the health benefits of dog and cats for children," Anthrozoos, 30(3):429-440, 2017

Honors & Awards

  • Certificate of Achievement, NATO Special Operations Component Command/Special Operations Joint Task Force -- Afghanistan
  • Bronze Medal Impact Award, RAND Corporation
  • Quantitative Analysis Fellowship, Bureau of Justice Statistics


  • Security camera in a classroom

    How Can the U.S. Do a Better Job of Keeping Kids Safe at School?

    Many proposals to improve school safety promote the use of technology, such as metal detectors and video cameras. How effective are these devices? The evidence is mixed.

    Mar 26, 2018 Fox News Channel

  • Chicago Police officers attend a news conference held by Superintendent Eddie Johnson announcing the department's plan to hire nearly 1,000 new police officers in Chicago, Illinois, September 21, 2016

    Pitfalls of Predictive Policing

    The Chicago Police Department's predictive policing program didn't work. To achieve even a 5 percent drop in the city's homicide rate, enormous leaps in both prediction and intervention effectiveness are necessary.

    Oct 11, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • Police in formation at a Memorial Day ceremony in Connecticut

    When It Comes to Police-Community Relations, 'Expect What You Inspect'

    As the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing report suggests, local governments should evaluate police on more than crime statistics, and police departments and officers should be held publicly accountable for meeting the community's expectations. Adding new dimensions of performance metrics would help.

    Mar 17, 2015 The RAND Blog