Headshot of Dr. Shelley Brown

Dr. Shelley Brown

Headshot of Dr. Mazhar Bhutta

Dr. Mazhar Bhutta

by Nathaniel Whelan

In May 2022, Dr. Shelley Brown from Carleton University and Dr. Mazhar Bhutta from PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi in Punjab, Pakistan successfully secured an additional CAD$70,000 to further develop and implement their Probation Services and Assessment Plan (P-SAP).

Currently, the Punjab Probation and Parole Service Department in Pakistan does not have a systematic means of assessing the risks, needs, and strengths of women on probation, making it difficult to know what programs and services they should receive to help them transition into life post-incarceration.

P-SAP is Brown and Bhutta’s response. The goal of this project is to develop and test an easily administered and sustainable assessment measure in partnership with probation officers working in the region. It is designed to determine the risks of individual women, what personal strengths they can leverage, and what services they require to participate as active citizens.

Back in March 2021, more than a full year before acquiring this new funding, Brown received $9,400 from Carleton through the International Research Seed Grant (IRSG) to put toward their joint project. The IRSG is an internal funding program that supports faculty members in starting new international research collaborations. Projects are expected to be globally focused and lay the foundation for building long-term strategic research-based partnerships.

Work first began when Bhutta, who already had experience testing a Canadian-developed risk/needs assessment on a sample of men in Pakistan, reached out to Brown to ask if she would be interested in teaming up.

“Pakistan is a developing country,” Bhutta explains. “Criminal justice here in general, and correctional services in particular, need revolutionary changes to deal with offender populations in the context of identifying risks, needs, and social strengths. We need to learn lessons from international best practices.”

Bhutta continues: “Dr. Brown’s research expertise and skills are unprecedented. She introduced innovative thought that focused on offenders’ strengths as opposed to exploring risks. I emailed Shelley for academic collaboration and now we are working together. She has been very kind and cooperative.”

Brown immediately recognized Bhutta’s name through their connection with the late Stephen Wormith from the University of Saskatchewan, who during his career was internationally recognized and published extensively on risk assessment and treatment for justice-involved men.

“It was our shared mentor who initially brought us together,” Brown says. “But the project also excited me. I could not pass up the opportunity to help build something new in a non-western country committed to probation reform. However, it was Dr. Bhutta’s enthusiasm and openness that sealed the deal.”

Together, they developed the P-SAP, which was specifically designed from the ground up for women in Pakistan. The testing phase began in spring 2022 with two of Bhutta’s graduate students interviewing women on probation in accordance with the P-SAP. Probation officers are also being consulted as part of the study to gain their perspective as well. Bhutta is providing on-going supervision to ensure the students’ safety and adherence to the planned methodology.

Both partners have expressed that this project would not have been possible without the respective contributions of the other, underlying the importance of international collaborations. Brown brought the women-centric scholarly and measurement expertise in the context of corrections, while Bhutta brought the cultural and translation expertise (English to Urdu), knowledge of corrections in the region, as well as his pre-existing partnerships with the Punjab Probation and Parole Service Department.

“International collaborations are vital to advance knowledge and for our general wellbeing. We get to learn different perspectives and new ways to put research into practice. It is easy (and comfortable) to work in our own respective cultural silos, but collaborating with international colleagues creates opportunities to solve perennial problems using novel methods and ideas obtained from our partners.”

-Dr. Shelley Brown

The Office of the Vice-President (Research International) at Carleton views the IRSG program as a catalyst for international collaboration, but also as an investment in future grant applications to external agencies. As a result of the P-SAP project, Brown and Bhutta submitted another proposal to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan under the Local Challenge Fund program for which they were awarded the additional CAD$70,000.

With this new grant, they hope to validate their initial findings under the IRSG, expand their pilot study to include men on probation, in addition to more women, and create a revised P-SAP measure. This updated plan will be designed to be used by probation officers. Based on the severity and number of risks and needs identified by the P-SAP, offenders can be assigned to different supervision levels with varying degrees of oversight.

“Our ultimate goal is for the probation department in Punjab to permanently adopt our P-SAP measure to help women (and men) on probation receive the services they need to remain crime-free whilst living peaceful lives,” Brown says.

This new funding has also allowed Brown and Bhutta to expand their partnership and bring on a third researcher, Dr. Nadia Khadam, who currently serves as the head of the law department at Fatima Jinnah Women University in Punjab, Pakistan. With over 12 years of experience conducting research and practicing law, Khadam will review and analyze the P-SAP. She will also help build liaisons with the judiciary and will consult on legal matters related to the project.

The International Research Seed Grant is so named because it plants seeds to help push research forward and spark positive change, all while providing an avenue for faculty to engage on the global stage. In addition to further collaborations and projects, Carleton International follows-up with recipients to track all possible outcomes, including publications, conferences, workshops, and more. Based on these expectations, the total amount awarded to all Carleton faculty members each year has grown by more than $100,000 since 2017.

“Without the IRSG funding, this project would not be possible. All the money is being used to support the operational costs associated with the research and for Dr. Bhutta and his students to travel to interview women across Punjab which is 30x the size of Toronto. The funds will also allow us both to present jointly at an international corrections conference planned in the spring of 2023.”

-Dr. Shelley Brown

Prior to Covid-19, projects were funded for a full year, with a possible 1-year no cost extension. With the onset of the pandemic, this increased to an initial two years to give recipients a broader window of time to plan their research around travel restrictions, potential lockdowns, and other obstacles. Between 2020 and 2021, faculty members have partnered with 30+ institutions in over 14 countries through the International Research Seed Grant.

Call for proposals typically open in January and close mid- to late February.

Contact Sylvie Jasen for more information.