Thomas Abt is a Senior Research Fellow for the Innovation in Citizen Security Project with The Growth Lab at the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University and Harvard Kennedy School. Abt is a former Senior Research Fellow and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy with the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).
Abt also serves as the Research Director for the Evidence-Informed Violence Reduction Project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Central American Regional Security Initiative (USAID CARSI). Thomas teaches and studies the use of comprehensive, evidence-informed approaches to reducing gun, gang, and youth violence, among other topics, and brings a wealth of experience in the crime, safety, and justice sectors from both a policy and practice perspective.
Before joining the PCJ Thomas Abt served as Deputy Secretary for Public Safety to Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York, where he oversaw all criminal justice and homeland security agencies, including the Divisions of Corrections and Community Supervision, Criminal Justice Services, Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the State Police. During his tenure Thomas helped to establish the Governor’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice in order to make recommendations for raising the age of criminal responsibility for juveniles. He also led the development of New York’s GIVE (Gun-Involved Violence Elimination) Initiative, which employs evidence-based, data-driven approaches to reduce violence. Finally, he created the Research Roundtable on Criminal Justice, a statewide criminal justice community connecting research with policy.
Before his work in NY State, Thomas served as Chief of Staff to the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) at the US Department of Justice (DOJ), where he worked with the nation’s principal criminal justice grant-making and research agencies to integrate evidence, policy, and practice. He played a lead role in establishing the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a network of federal agencies and local communities working together to reduce youth and gang violence. Thomas was also founding member of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, a place-based development effort that was recognized by HKS as one of the Top 25 Innovations in Government for 2013. He also participated actively in OJP’s Evidence Integration Initiative, which works to improve the quality, quantity, and translation of scientific evidence into criminal justice policy.
Thomas has also worked as an Assistant District Attorney and as a law firm associate. He received a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan and received a law degree with honors from the Georgetown University Law Center.