Bowen Law School Receives $1 million from Walmart to Fund Court Observation Project

The UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law has received a $1 million grant from Walmart, Inc. The grant will fund a Court Observation Project through Bowen’s new Center for Racial Justice and Criminal Justice Reform. Read Walmart’s full announcement here.

The project will introduce a state-wide court observation initiative that will create and share a transparent body of reliable data and research about Arkansas’s criminal justice system that is otherwise unavailable in the state. The goal is to use the data collected to craft targeted solutions, such as policy changes and training materials.

The project has two inaugural research modules. The first will survey pre-trial detention practices. The second will collect data on criminal charging.

“The project can provide valuable information and data about how the Arkansas criminal justice system operates. Policymakers can then use this data to develop strategies to improve the criminal justice system in Arkansas,” said Anastasia Boles, a law professor at Bowen and the center’s co-director.

Project faculty and staff will work with consultants, stakeholders and subject-matter experts to design the data collection sheet. After that, student fellows will work with court personnel and the project’s program manager to gather and compile data from criminal court proceedings throughout Arkansas.

Law school faculty will help develop assessments to track student progress. In addition, the project plans to work with faculty from partner institutions each semester to include as court observers a small cohort of undergraduate students who are interested in criminal justice and the project’s research.

“Developing the instruments used for court observations and sharing the data this project generates will improve the lives of all Arkansans,” said andré douglas pond cummings, associate dean for faculty development and the center’s co-director.

The primary goal is gathering data about the incarceration for many–particularly nonviolent offenders – and then improving outcomes for those already impacted by the justice system in its current form. These solutions will, for the first time in Arkansas, be based on accurate observed data that can be shared across the nation, building an infrastructure for positive change that can eventually have a global impact.

“The project is positioned to become a valuable part of Bowen’s core values of access to justice, public service, and professionalism,” said Dean Theresa Beiner. “I am grateful for Walmart, Inc.’s support.”