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Johanna LacoeResearch Director, Berkeley

Headshot of Johanna Lacoe
areas of expertise
  • Criminal and juvenile justice
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Public policy analysis
  • Program evaluation
  • Quantitative methods


  • PhD, Public Administration, New York University
  • MPA, Public Policy Analysis, New York University
  • AB, Political Science, Brown University

Johanna Lacoe is a policy scholar with expertise in criminal and juvenile justice, education, employment, and housing. Dr. Lacoe first became interested in criminal justice in college, when she taught a debate class in a juvenile prison. Experiencing the conditions in which children were held and the stark racial disparities in our justice system gave shape to her career focused on identifying better ways to promote public safety, prevent crime, and support people who are impacted by the criminal legal system.

As Research Director at CPL’s Berkeley site, Dr. Lacoe designs and leads experimental and quasi-experimental research studies, partners with state and local agencies, and oversees research staff. One of the things she enjoys about being a manager is the opportunity to mentor staff, nurture their interests, and help them grow as researchers. Dr. Lacoe leads CPL’s criminal legal system research portfolio, including studies of pretrial reforms, diversion programs, and new models of public defense. She is co-principal investigator of the CPL team that provides objective research support to California’s Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code, and of an evaluation of the impact of California’s automatic record relief law.

Johanna’s research frequently connects siloed policy areas in order to better support vulnerable Californians. For example, she leads teams researching the intersection of the criminal legal, urgent/emergent care, and housing systems in Sonoma County and San Francisco, and she is co-PI of a project addressing food insecurity among college students.

Prior to joining the California Policy Lab, Dr. Lacoe was the Deputy Director of Justice Research and Analytics and a Senior Researcher at Mathematica. She also worked at the USC Price School of Public Policy, the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, the Vera Institute of Justice, and Social Policy Research Associates. Her work has been published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Urban Economics, Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, among others. She is the co-author of a number of CPL reports focused on criminal justice reforms, including bail reform, pretrial diversion programs, crime trends during the pandemic, and more. She is committed to serving as a thought partner to decision makers, improving public policy through research, and promoting public wellbeing in California and beyond.

Outside of work, Johanna serves as a Commissioner on the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Commission (appointed by Mayor London Breed) and on the Association of Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) Policy Council. She is also a parent volunteer in her childrens’ local public school.

contact details

2521 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94720

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