Rutgers School of Criminal Justice

Dr. Vivian C. Smith


NIH/NIDA Post-doctoral Fellow National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.


Vivian C. Smith, Ph.D., (née Pacheco) is a National Institute of Health/National Institute of Drug Abuse Post-Doctoral Fellow at the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. in New York and adjunct professor at Temple University. She received her doctorate degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University, School of Criminal Justice in May 2011. Her dissertation work entitled, “Substance-abusing Women Offenders as Victims: Chronological Sequencing of Pathways into Criminal Behavior,” challenged the position of childhood victimization in women’s pathways into crime, highlights the various paths women travel to the criminal justice system and the importance of taking age into account. Dr. Smith holds a Master’s in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University and Bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Minor in African American Studies from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Dr. Smith’s research focuses on gender, crime and justice issues, understanding the effects of substance abuse, and prisoner reentry. As part of her postdoctoral fellowship, Vivian is conducting a process evaluation of the Newark Community Collaborative Board (a board in charge of creating a health intervention for returning offenders). The study is part of a larger project being spearheaded by Dr. Liliane Windsor in the Rutgers University-Newark School of Social Work, designed to examine the innovative health interventions for distressed neighborhoods. Vivian has a forthcoming co-authored article in Feminist Criminology centered on methamphetamine and the war on drugs against women. Dr. Smith has presented her research at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, American Society of Criminology Conferences, and at the annual meeting for the Society of Study of Social Problems. She will serve as the keynote speaker for the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program 2011 Induction Ceremony at Henderson State University (AK), an organization in which she was a former member while at the University of Maryland.
Dr. Smith’s interest in gender, crime, and justice issues was sparked during her internship at a Newark-based substance abuse treatment program. Vivian interacted and listened to many of the women’s stories regarding their drug use, relationships with loved ones, their children, and past sexual and/or physical abuse. The narratives of these women varied in terms of empowerment and victimization. It was this juxtaposition that led her to investigate women’s pathways into the criminal justice system. Thus far, her greatest contribution temporally organizes the position of childhood victimization in women’s pathways into crime. Her passion for understanding women’s criminality led her to seek research projects involving females with substance abuse diagnoses and histories of sexual and physical abuse. She was part of a multiphase women and reentry project, where she collected and analyzed archival data from a women’s prison. She also created and facilitated a reentry survey instrument to women soon to be released from prison and halfway houses.

Lastly, Vivian anticipates that the area of women and crime will continue to expand in the field of criminology and criminal justice; although prior theories and studies using women-only samples have suffered from the criticism of methodological inadequacy and relevance (Belknap, 2007). She is certain that research with only women, absent from a comparison to men, can efficiently produce meaningful, relevant results about women’s criminal behavior. It will also strengthen the confidence and credibility of feminist research. Brown (2002, p. 30) encapsulate this movement by stating; “the move to a broader concept of human process away from the dichotomous gender frame removes women from an automatic position of ‘minority’ and frees them for autonomous self-exploration and development.” Nevertheless, the introduction of Feminist Criminology as a journal, the number of well received presentations focusing on gender differences at the American Society of Criminology, and the additional scholarly works marking the experiences of women, are indications that the field of criminology continues to make strides toward understanding and responding to gender-responsive needs.

Contact Information:

National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.
71 West 23rd Street
8th Floor

New York, NY 10010