Jessica Saunders

Senior Criminologist
Santa Monica Office


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

Media Resources

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Jessica Saunders is a criminologist at the RAND Corporation with over fifeteen 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 large scale NIJ-funded school safety program evaluation, the Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center for Small, Rural, Tribal, and Border Criminal Justice Systems, an examination of the Israel National Police, and the effectiveness of correctional education. 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

  • Evaluation of Open-Air Drug Market Interventions
  • Evaluation of Predictive Policing
  • Evaluation of Cincinnati's Walking School Bus for Violence Prevention
  • National Law Enforcement Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) - Small, Rural, Tribal, Border (SRTB)

Selected Publications

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

John MacDonald and Jessica Saunders, "Are immigrant youth less violent? Specifying the reasons and mechanisms," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 641:125-147, 2012

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

Jessica Saunders, Russell Lundberg, Anthony Braga, Greg Ridgeway, and Jeremy Miles, "). A synthetic control approach to evaluating place-based crime interventions," Journal of Quantitative Criminology

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


  • 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