The University of Pennsylvania Law School is launching a center dedicated to policy and research of the U.S. criminal justice system, with the help of a $15 million donation from investment banker Frank Quattrone and his wife Denise Foderaro.

The Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice aims to identify crucial problems within the justice system, and to take a scientific and interdisciplinary approach to developing solutions.

The fairness of the criminal justice system has personal resonance for Quattrone, who in 2003 was charged with interfering in a federal investigation of Credit Suisse. He was convicted in 2004, but the verdict was overturned in 2006 and the charges dropped the following year. He became involved with the Northern California Innocence Project during that legal battle.

Penn Law administrators plan to work with academics, judges, prosecutors and legislators.

"It will extend to justice the same revolution in evidence-based approaches and outcomes that are already taking place in medicine and education, by evaluating the justice system broadly to determine why systemic problems occur and how best to address them for the long term," dean Michael Fitts said.

The center’s research agenda may tackle possible ways to eliminate wrongful convictions, forensic practices and new breakthroughs, accountability for prosecutors, and the role of politics, economics and the media on the fairness of the U.S. system.

"Our system of justice may very well be the best in the world, but with each passing day the frequency and sometimes tragic consequences of its mistakes, as well as the risk of random unfair outcomes for all Americans, are becoming better understood," Quattrone said.

"It is our profound wish that this new center will serve as a world-class policy hub for researching and debating the system’s most crucial problems, as well as in developing concrete, credible, evidence-based solutions to catalyze long-term structural improvements."

To that end, the center will host conferences, workshops and other events to assess research and debate policy. The first symposium is slated to take place during the next academic year. Penn students will also have opportunities to get involved. The center will benefit from Penn’s interdisciplinary focus, with involvement expected from the university’s business, criminology, engineering, public health, social sciences, medicine and communications schools.

"Penn is the ideal host for the center due to its outstanding overall academic credentials as well as its particular strengths in law, criminology, engineering, life sciences, medicine, public policy, social sciences and statistical analysis—all of which will come into play in advancing the justice system to the next level," Foderaro said.

The money is from the Frank and Denise Quattrone Foundation. The couple both are Penn alumni. Foderaro is a research assistant for the National Registry of Exonerations and has been active with the Innocence Project. Quattrone is the chief executive officer of global investment bank Qatalyst Group.

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