Graduate students tackle public policy issues in Cook County

More than 2 million people are incarcerated in the United States, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Civic Consulting Alliance has joined forces with the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy's new "Policy Labs" program to create a Lab that helps address this issue in Cook County.

The Lab consists of three projects with two public sector clients: the Cook County Health and Hospitals System and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. Curated by Civic Consulting, the projects help students apply their rigorous education and professional skills to real-world policy challenges while providing solutions to the organizations dealing with those challenges. The projects aim to estimate the return on investment of a street-level mental health program, identify where street-level mental health programs would have the greatest impact, and illuminate factors contributing to high incarceration rates.

"It's one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about making policies, and another thing entirely to apply them," said Harris School Dean Daniel Diermeier. "By tying them together, the Policy Labs are enhancing the preparation of our students to hit the ground running by the time they graduate."

As of mid-March, the students had completed the first of two 10-week quarters on their projects. The final quarter will wrap up in June.

The program teaches students to do what Civic Consulting does every day: help clients make significant public policy decisions. This is why Civic Consulting is a perfect partner for our students.

Daniel Diermeier


Dean, The University of Chicago

Harris School of Public Policy