Gary Zajac joins Justice Center for Research as managing director

April 19, 2010

Gary Zajac, chief of research and evaluation at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, has been appointed the first managing director of the Penn State Justice Center for Research, a cooperative venture of the College of the Liberal Arts and Outreach.

“Gary brings to this new endeavor a wealth of experience in criminal justice grant acquisition and management,” said Doris MacKenzie, Justice Center director. “His expertise will be invaluable to faculty and students University-wide, as we seek to promote, fund and engage in research that seeks to answer critical questions about criminal justice issues at work in 21st century society.”

Working on-site at Penn State Outreach’s Justice and Safety Institute (JASI), Zajac will interact with JASI’s considerable network of criminal justice professionals to identify issues where academic research and theory may inform the debate and aid local, state, national and international policymakers.

Zajac comes to the Justice Center after serving with the Department of Corrections (DOC) since 1997. There, he initiated and led numerous studies and evaluations of DOC programs and related topics, partnering with external researchers and securing third-party grants. The research partnership model that Zajac developed within the DOC won a 2008 Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments, which recognized it as a model for knowledge creation and transfer.

Zajac’s model engages external research partners and leverages third-party funding. During his tenure in the DOC, this model resulted in 18 major grant-supported studies totaling more than $4 million in external support. The model also has promoted the diffusion of evidence-based practice within the DOC. Selected projects conducted within this model included “Community Corrections Centers, Parolees and Recidivism: An Investigation into the Characteristics of Effective Reentry Programs in Pennsylvania” (with University of Cincinnati); “A Multi-Site Evaluation of Prison-Based Drug Treatment: A Research Partnership Between the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Temple University”; and “An Outcomes Evaluation of the Long Distance Dads Program at SCI-Albion” (with Penn State).

Zajac is currently a criminal justice co-investigator on a National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study with Temple University and the DOC titled “Criminal Justice Drug and Alcohol Treatment Study 2.”

Zajac also has worked extensively with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) as a longtime Research, Evaluation, Data Collection and Analysis Advisory Committee member and also has served as an adviser to other PCCD committees, including the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee. He has served for many years as a peer reviewer for the National Institute of Justice and for journals including Drug and Alcohol Dependence, The Prison Journal (also a board member) and Criminology and Public Policy.

His scholarly work has appeared in many journals and books, including Criminology and Public Policy and Crime and Delinquency. He has advised dozens of state, local and international corrections agencies and organizations on the development of research capacity and the implementation of research-based practice. Prior to joining the DOC, Zajac had worked in teaching and research capacities with the University of Pittsburgh and served as visiting scholar from Pitt to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He also has served as a public policy fellow at Temple University.

Zajac received his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. His principal research interests include evidence-based practice in offender intervention, criminal justice program evaluation and most recently implementation science. He began his academic career at Penn State, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in political science.

Zajac can be reached in his office at JASI in The 329 Building at Innovation Park on Penn State's University Park campus at 814-867-3651 or through the Justice Center in 327 Pond Building at 814-867-3292 or

  • Gary Zajac, above, has been appointed the first managing director of the Justice Center for Research.

    IMAGE: Penn State Outreach Marketing

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010