Newswise — Berkeley, CA—May 12, 2011... UC Berkeley Law School today announced the merger of three critically-acclaimed think tanks into one research powerhouse. The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity; the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice; and the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic & Family Security have joined together to form the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy (Warren Institute). The consolidation will allow for greater collaboration among scholars and policy experts.

The institute’s core research areas will include education; health, economic & family security; immigration; voting rights; and criminal justice.

Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley, Jr., said the merger will strengthen the institute’s vital mission: to study society’s most difficult problems and build consensus for reform. Tackling social policy is “an increasingly vital part of the law school’s public mission,” Edley said. The merger also means the law school can create a greater synergy among faculty, students, and research units.

“These three centers have been very productive and successful on their own,” said Edley. “But the consolidation will improve our nimbleness in assigning research and inviting scholars to study urgent social and legal issues.”

From the moment he arrived in Berkeley in 2004, Edley—who created the original Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute—has made multidisciplinary law and social policy work one of his central goals. Law scholars and campus partners collaborate with national experts to inform legislators, business leaders, and practitioners. “Our research centers have become an indispensable component of how Berkeley Law connects with the rest of this great university and with decision-makers nationwide,” Edley said.

Barry Krisberg, the Warren Institute’s research and policy director, is a lecturer in residence and former distinguished senior fellow at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice.

“The main idea in unifying these centers was to broaden and deepen their intellectual and policy contributions,” Krisberg said. “Merging allows us to work together in new and creative ways, draw upon this expanded expertise across all of our centers, and capitalize on high-impact research opportunities that benefit one another.”

Krisberg rattles off issues he expects will benefit from the combined institute, including education reform and voting rights. “Our education researchers can tap the knowledge of colleagues who are experts on juvenile justice and immigration, both issues that are tightly woven into education,” he says. “Meanwhile, our voting rights work is better positioned to incorporate key criminal justice components, such as whether parolees should be allowed to vote.”

In addition to Krisberg, the institute’s program leadership includes Managing Director Andrea Russi, who also directs the Criminal Justice program; Director of Health, Economic & Family Security Ann O’Leary ’05; Director of Immigration Aarti Kohli; Director of Voting Rights Ana Henderson; Acting Director of Education Tia Martinez; and Distinguished Senior Fellows Maria Echaveste ’80 and Jeanne Woodford, former warden of San Quentin State Prison.

“The streamlined institute allows us to go beyond artificial research boundaries and look at health and economic security with a new focus,” said Ann O’Leary. “For example, we can tap the expertise of our immigrant rights colleagues to study the impact of the economic downturn on immigrant families. We can work with criminal justice experts to examine whether people who’ve spent time in prison have equal access to health care.”

The Warren Institute’s combined programs have already published a number of influential reports and policy briefs this year on U.S. immigration enforcement, paid family leave, and health outcomes for boys and young men of color. The institute will also host several forums in coming months. Topics include the future of juvenile justice in California, services for crime victims, Title VI reform, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in California.

About University of California, Berkeley, School of Law For over a century, Berkeley Law has prepared lawyers to be skilled and ethical problem-solvers. The law school’s curriculum—one of the most comprehensive and innovative in the nation—offers its J.D. and advanced degree candidates a broad array of nearly 200 courses. Students collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners working on legal issues at more than a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes, and clinical programs within its Boalt Hall complex. Follow us on twitter.