John Roman

John Roman, Ph.D. is a senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where his research focuses on evaluations of innovative crime control policies and justice programs. Dr. Roman is also the executive director of the District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute (DCPI) and manages DCPI’s operations, provides oversight of all research, and leads the development and implementation of the cost-benefit model. He directs several studies funded by the National Institute of Justice, including two randomized trials of the use of DNA in property crime investigations, an evaluation of post-conviction DNA evidence testing to estimate rates of wrongful conviction, and a study developing a blueprint for the use of forensic evidence by law enforcement. Dr. Roman is the coeditor of Cost Benefit Analysis and Crime Control, and, Juvenile Drug Courts and Teen Substance Abuse and the author of dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters. Dr. Roman serves as a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania and an affiliated professor at Georgetown University.


Introducing the Pay for Success Initiative at the Urban Institute

By Erika Poethig and John Roman and Kelly Walsh and Justin Milner  ::  March 16th, 2015

One of the great policy challenges of our time is how best to address vexing social issues with limited public resources. Years of research have helped us develop a rapidly evolving evidence base about what works to address challenges like healthy child development, juvenile delinquency, and homelessness, but we often lack the funding flexibility to […]

Read More


What we can learn about criminal justice from our wounded warriors

By John Roman and Sam Bieler  ::  November 11th, 2014

Today, Tuesday, November 11, is Veterans Day. In the media, there will likely be loose talk acknowledging the service of those who sacrificed for our country while serving in the US military. But it’s unlikely we’ll hear much specific talk about just what that sacrifice was, and what we can learn from it. Over the […]

Read More

#GamerGate, victimization, and the role of the FBI

By John Roman  ::  October 28th, 2014

Few events are more disturbing to decent people than a wolf pack’s anonymous attack on an individual. In the age of the internet, this happens when one person is descended upon by a huge volume of threats or action perpetrated by many. Usually the attackers remain anonymous. The anonymity is comforting to the attackers and […]

Read More


Google and Apple aren’t letting police into your phone. What does that mean in the fight against crime?

By Dave McClure and John Roman  ::  September 19th, 2014

On Wednesday night, Apple announced that its new operating system won’t allow the company to get past your password on a protected device, even if it is to help law enforcement. “On devices running iOS 8, your personal data… is placed under the protection of your passcode,” Apple’s new privacy policy states. “…Apple cannot bypass […]

Read More

Here's how can maximize their innovative effort to collect police shooting data

By Zach McDade and John Roman  ::  August 21st, 2014

    In the wake of the recent deaths at police hands of Michael Brown, Kajieme Powell, and so many others, people have rightly called for a thorough empirical analysis of how often and under what circumstances the police shoot civilians. Unfortunately, to our knowledge, the data don’t exist for that analysis. This is likely […]

Read More

Should we arm citizens and let them police themselves?

By Sam Bieler and John Roman  ::  August 18th, 2014

    A city with limited resources and stubbornly high crime rates, Detroit is ripe for justice system innovation. Police Chief James Craig has seized on this opportunity, implementing a broad range of changes to the department. These reforms appear to be making an impact. In the past year, Detroit has experienced significant declines in […]

Read More

Social impact bonds: Solving government problems in four (not so) easy steps

By John Roman  ::  July 18th, 2014

    At the cutting edge of new social innovation financing are social impact bonds (SIBs), a potentially transformative idea. SIB transactions merge traditional public/private partnerships and performance based contracting. Private investors invest in demonstrated social programs, with a promise from government to repay that investment, plus a profit, if predetermined performance targets are met. […]

Read More

Why don’t governments implement evidence-based best practices?

By John Roman  ::  June 19th, 2014

In 1975, Robert Martinson famously wrote that “nothing works” in treating convicted criminals and thus he concluded that rehabilitation in any form was not cost-effective. As discouraging as the criminal justice research was at the time, it was no more pessimistic than education, or public health, or child welfare research. Today, however, we have mountains […]

Read More

How government can (finally) start paying for success

By John Roman and Kelly Walsh  ::  June 11th, 2014

Government doesn’t always work as well as it should, but there are solutions. Today we released new research on the five steps to implementing a pay for success (PFS) project. This is a new concept that can break through traditional barriers to government efficiency to help deliver social programs that produce a public good, government […]

Read More