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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

Rule of Law Collaborative receives two grants to support initiatives at home and abroad

On August 22, 2018, the Rule of Law Collaborative at the University of South Carolina (ROLC) received a gift of $95,500 by the Vital Projects Fund, Inc. to support research on the roles and responsibilities of sheriffs across the 50 states.

The Sheriff Accountability Project will look at the role of sheriffs across the United States, with particular focus on their extra-judicial powers and unique funding structures.

“Sheriffs occupy a unique role in law and in lore and yet research on their powers and roles is surprisingly lacking,” explains ROLC Director Joel Samuels. “The research at the heart of this inquiry will allow us to better understand what sheriffs do and why they do it and to understand what their powers are and what constraints exist on those powers. These are the very questions at the heart of understanding the rule of law in a democratic society.”

Jessica Pishko, a ROLC Visiting Fellow and journalist whose work focuses on criminal justice, especially the connection between mass incarceration and county-level politics, will lead the project. “This research will help to explain what sheriffs do and how their responsibilities and powers impact the lives of many citizens, particularly those living outside of urban centers without city police departments,” explains Pishko.

The gift by the Vital Projects Fund will support the Sheriff Accountability Project and will also provide for the overall activities of ROLC both at home and abroad.

On September 10, 2018, ROLC announced that it had been awarded $4.75 million by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) to assist developing, fragile, and post-conflict countries in building the rule of law. With these funds, ROLC will research, design, and implement programs that lead to responsive, flexible, and cutting-edge programming on rule of law and justice reform. The program will be called Justice Sector Training, Research and Coordination Plus (JUSTRAC+).

“Under the JUSTRAC+ program, ROLC will build on past successes to continue working with the U.S. Government to improve the quality of rule of law programming around the world,” said Samuels. “This award recognizes the years of hard work by the members of the team at the Rule of Law Collaborative and the growing acknowledgement of USC as a national and global leader on rule of law issues.”

For the past four years, ROLC has designed and implemented JUSTRAC, a program aimed at developing deep experience in designing and delivering knowledge and skill acquisition activities on rule of law to the agencies of the U.S Government and other justice sector constituencies. The JUSTRAC+ program will build on JUSTRAC to continue the learning and development for U.S. Government officials engaged in rule of law programming around the world.

ROLC works to develop rule of law as a discipline, advance theoretical and research-based applications in the field, and refine policies relating to rule of law development. With more than 60 faculty associates across a range of disciplines, ROLC takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the rule of law.

To learn more about this project and other activities at the Rule of Law Collaborative, visit

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