Turning Passion into Practice

Ann Douds

by Brooke Braun

After working as a trial lawyer for twelve years, Justice Law and Crime Policy (JLCP) doctoral candidate, Ann Douds decided to join the inaugural class of the JLCP program to apply her legal background to helping achieve societal changes. When you're trying cases, you've educated maybe twelve jurors, and changed the life of maybe one person, she said. It's like building a sandcastle with a spoon; you do good stuff, but you're not sure it's going to make a difference in too many people's lives.

At Mason, Douds is already making an impact in her chosen area of focus. Along with faculty member Catherine Gallagher, Douds has helped to organize the Federal Initiative on Juvenile Justice Health, a joint endeavor between the Office of the Surgeon General and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The federal initiative is designed to coordinate the myriad of previously disconnected, isolated agencies that determine juvenile policy.

[The initiative is] designed to bring the best minds together, figure out what should be done, and then make it happen across the country, Douds said.

Thus far, Douds has published two articles, helped with numerous manuscripts under review, and presented seven papers at five conferences. Additionally, she has interacted with bodies which both make and influence national juvenile delinquent policy, including presenting research findings in Atlanta at the Centers for Disease Control. For these achievements, along with her outstanding classroom performance, Douds won one of the first Dean's Challenge Awards of $5,000. She plans to write her dissertation on improving adolescent immunization rates among delinquent juveniles.

Douds became interested in her specialty of the correlation between health and delinquency in the context of to juvenile justice while handling pro-bono child abuse cases as a trial lawyer. I would help one kid, get that kid away from a bad situation, but there was nothing else, policy-wise, in place to help that kid after I did my job, she said. What I came to realize is that a lot of these kids are just not well cared for. I think we can do a lot, because I think there is a link between physical health and delinquent behavior.

While still practicing law, Douds taught adjunct undergraduate classes for several semesters at Mason. She began to discuss with Gallagher her frustration with the limitations of legal practice to influence policy change. She said this friendship, along with conversations with other faculty members, many of whom had formerly been practicing attorneys, helped her choose Mason as the place to expand her law orientation into the policy arena.

The initial camaraderie with Gallagher turned into a more formal partnership, as Douds now serves as her research assistant. Douds said that this type of faculty-student partnership is pervasive throughout the entire department. She also cited exceptional peers as a perk of the program.

I love the coursework,” she said. To have meaningful, academically sound conversations, that's something that doesn't happen often in the real world. The research has probably been more rewarding than I anticipated, because we have found ways to get [it] out there.”

Douds is happy with her career change. "I want to keep doing exactly what I'm doing, but on the other side of the podium," she said.

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