Meet Our Lab Members

Current Lab Members

Pajarita Charles

Principal Investigator

Pajarita Charles is an Assistant Professor at the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work and an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty, the Center for Law, Society, and Justice, and the Justice Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research centers on the development, implementation, and testing of family-focused preventive interventions to promote positive outcomes for children and families affected by the criminal justice system. Dr. Charles’ efforts foster research, practice, and public sector partnerships to build capacity for reform and the reduction of the footprint of the criminal justice system. She is a co-leader of the national Promote Smart Decarceration grand challenge network for the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare and frequently collaborates with local and state organizations to provide expertise and guidance on issues pertinent to families impacted by the criminal justice system.

Jacqueline Buck

Doctoral Student
Lab Manager

 Jacque is a Joint MSW/PhD student in the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, with a background in community-based participatory mental health research and implementation science methodology as a clinical research coordinator. Her broad interests include community reentry, alternative sentencing, criminal legal reform, violence prevention and intervention, and family well-being. In her studies, Jacque aims to explore interventions to promote positive outcomes for individuals affected by the criminal legal system and avenues for criminal legal policy change and advocacy.

Evelyn Coker

Doctoral Student

Evelyn is a Clinical Social Worker from Chicago, Illinois with a background in community mental health, juvenile justice, and nonprofits. Her broad interests include the impact of trauma in shaping the lives of youth, families, and communities. In her studies, Evelyn plans to focus on assessing how to improve the social-emotional skills of adolescents and emerging adults to reduce criminogenic risk factors, gang activity, and participation in violence. She is also the author of 'Get L.I.T.: A Teen Girl's Journal to Learning Intentional Tools for Positive Personal Development' and her company Morning Joy, LLC provides Get LIT Groups to female students in 5th-8th grades in the Chicagoland area.

Sarah Jensen

Doctoral Student

Sarah Jensen is a Joint J.D./Ph.D. candidate in the Law School and Department of Sociology at UW-Madison. Her research interests focus on families impacted by incarceration and the collateral consequences of the criminal legal system. She currently works on three projects about enhancing contact between incarcerated parents and their children: 1) a technical assistance project for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Parenting Inside Out (PIO) program, 2) a feasibility study on subsidized video visiting technology and guided visit coaching, and 3) an evaluation study of a literacy program connecting children and parents through interactive reading workshops and video recorded book readings.

Gene Grade

Undergraduate Student

Gene is a senior studying sociology, public policy, and education services. They joined the lab in the summer of 2021 through the public policy certificate program. Their interests include criminal justice reform, family relationships, and community building. Gene cannot wait to apply the incredible amount they have learned in the lab to future sociological research and fieldwork! When outside the lab, they enjoy throwing pottery, baking, and cuddling their housemates' cats.

Annie Hedges

Undergraduate Student

Annie is a senior studying Health Promotion and Health Equity, along with certificates in Criminal Justice and Global Health. She joined the lab in the fall of 2022 through the criminal justice certificate program. Her interests include criminal justice reform and policy change to promote positive outcomes for those impacted by the criminal legal system. In her free time, she enjoys going on walks, cooking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Jillian Klener

Undergraduate Student

Jillian is a senior studying psychology and criminal justice. She joined the lab in fall of 2022 through the criminal justice certificate program. Jillian is interested in reforming practices in the criminal legal system to improve mental health services for those who are incarcerated and their support system. Outside of the lab, she enjoys dogsitting, baking, and skiing with her twin sister.

Kayla Markus

Undergraduate Student

Kayla is a senior studying psychology, sociology, and criminal justice. She joined the lab in the summer of 2022 through the criminal justice certificate program. Her interests include policy and law and how it relates to gender and sexuality. Outside of the lab, Kayla loves to read, take naps, and spend time outside - all with her dog Ruby keeping her company. 

Former Lab Members

- Allison Hoekstra, MSW
- Anna Kay, MSW
- Bailey Kusilek, BS
- Besa Asani, BSW
- Claire Tseng, MSW
- Haeun Lee, BS
- Hayden Buske, BS
- Kristen Wimmer, BS
- Layne Wetherbee, BSW
- Lydia Goblirsch, BS
- Siri Schroeder, BS
- Taylor Clark, BS
- Mark Moralez, MPA
- Summer Mitchell, BA
- Amber Lahti, BS
- Luke Muetner, PhD
- Adrianna Galindo, BS
- Alli Burgdorf, BA
- Jasmyne Short, BSW
- Gwendolyn Coale, BSW
- Nina White, BA