Past Program


Serial failures to redress social, legal, and economic injustice and structural racism underpin violence and disproportionally shape politics, policing, and judicial systems around the world. Yet bold reforms in different jurisdictions suggest that cross-cutting interventions can be cost-effective and foster more humane, inclusive and healthier societies. What can we learn, share and take to scale for long-term results?

This working group will look at how institutions might consider human dignity as a core value in structuring and transforming justice systems in policy and practice, looking beyond simple reform-oriented changes. It will highlight jurisdictions where cultures of mass incarceration and punitive justice have successfully shifted to cultures of rehabilitation, restorative justice, or proactive prevention and where those reforms have remained durable (with lessons learned for not only where they have succeeded but also where they have not). It will examine how public authorities (police, prosecution, judiciary) engage with citizens (and vice versa), where individuals may have agency within the system, and in particular whether it might be possible to soften the adversarial process. It will explore the most innovative approaches that effectively address individual lived experience, cultures of violence, and unequal treatment before the law, particularly as these impact racial or ethnic minorities and other historically-marginalized groups, and look for new intervention points that might reduce violence, injustice, racism, and bias within the justice system. It might also consider whether decentralized (whether regionally or institutionally) structures provide greater circumstantial flexibility, or if decentralization might lead to unequal application of justice. And it might explore how to strengthen resilience within communities to their experience of crime and violence, drawing on research from conflict or post-conflict environments and the trauma youth have suffered in those contexts, with an eye to what has worked in building peace, trust, and human rights in the context of violence transformation.

Participation in this program is by invitation only.

Program Format
Goals & Outcomes
Executive Summary

The initial focus group meetings in January 2021 showed a desire to build out connections and conversations across the profiles who participated in the three different focus groups as originally constructed, to work on more specific points of intervention and some big, potentially transformative ideas that could help shape the future of criminal justice systems.

Participants in this initiative may join as many working groups as they want to and which they feel are relevant to their own work. Outcomes from each will be shared with the broader group to keep everyone informed of the work of the different groups and to allow them to join other conversations during the year if they would like to.

Each working group will meet virtually approximately once per month. By September 2021, each will have produced a report of findings and recommendations, in which they will:

  • generate ideas, critical questions, and research outputs on pertinent topics;
  • appraise measures and interventions along a continuum of radical innovation, gradual reform, and/or maintenance of the status quo; and
  • set priorities and build visibility for Phase 2 of the project.

As per the strong interest expressed by Fellows during the initial set of focus group meetings, they should also identify specific global examples of transformation that may serve to inform ideas for other places and jurisdictions represented by other Fellows.

Initiative Objective

In many countries around the world, including the United States, there is growing recognition among policymakers and reform advocates that effective criminal justice reform must look beyond the toolkit and institutions of the criminal justice system itself. In a growing number of settings, innovations based on community-centered, cross-sectoral approaches and socially integrative methods of engaging young people and violent offenders before, during, and after they encounter the criminal justice system, are proving to be more humane, just, and effective. 

To catalyze global research-based exchange to tackle youth violence and promote youth safety and criminal justice reform, including the seeding of new strategies in the United States, Salzburg Global Seminar is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the David Rockefeller Fund on a major multi-year initiative. 

The initiative will address the current structural, legal, economic, and social weaknesses and inefficiencies of judicial and custodial systems across multiple countries and jurisdictions. Working with diverse stakeholders from around the world, including young adults, it will identify the most innovative and effective approaches, tools, and technologies, in and outside the criminal justice system, to enhance public safety and community cohesion, reduce crime and incarceration, and help transform judicial and prison systems. 

Key trends and drivers that will influence the future of reform efforts worldwide include:

  • Changing demographics 
  • Decolonization and contested legacies that drive demand for diversity, equity, and inclusion in policing, judicial, and law enforcement structures 
  • Climate change and migration 
  • Unequal representation and access to justice 
  • Constraints on public justice system budgets and shrinking resources for legal aid 
  • Political and societal determinants of (in)justice 
  • Rapid and unequal urbanization with increased spatial and social segregation 
  • Uses and abuses of new technologies 
  • Radical changes in the labor market and future economic opportunities
  • Measures introduced as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic
Goals & Outcomes

This multi-year initiative aims to:

  1. Enhance community safety and cohesion
  2. Reduce violence, crime and incarceration 
  3. Transform judicial and prison systems 

In addressing these three goals, the initiative aims to accelerate systems change and lasting results at three levels: 

  1. Individual lived experience by enhancing community safety and cohesion.
  2. Individual/community interactions with systems of authority, law and order by reducing violence, crime and incarceration.
  3. System/institutional mandates, funding, staffing, metrics and accountability by transforming judicial and prison systems.

For each level of intervention, the participants in the initiative will identify and evaluate approaches, tools and technologies in four specific fields:

  1. New intervention points that could have long-term benefits for reducing violence, injustice, racism, and implicit bias/prejudice in and outside criminal justice systems.
  2. Multi-country comparisons, focusing initially on national/subnational jurisdictions that have pioneered successful approaches in criminal justice policy and practice.
  3. Direct engagement of people and communities of color and other marginalized communities to learn from and amplify their voices.
  4. New initiatives to change attitudes, behaviors, and investments, responding to racial and social justice protests in the United States and around the world and to risks and demands driven by the pandemic.

Salzburg Global, partners and participants in the initiative will communicate and disseminate the most promising research-based strategies to reduce rates of violence, incarceration, and recidivism to policymakers and communities in the US and globally through publications, media, products, video interviews/documentaries, targeted recommendations, and a future cross-sector research agenda.

To view the Executive Summary, please go here.