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Sandra Pavelka, Ph.D. - Florida Gulf Coast University. Fort Myers, FL, US

Sandra Pavelka, Ph.D.

Expert in political science and justice | Florida Gulf Coast University


Sandra Pavelka is an expert in elections, law and public policy, and juvenile and restorative justice.



Sandra Pavelka, Ph.D. Publication Sandra Pavelka, Ph.D. Publication



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Sandra Pavelka, Ph.D., is a professor of political science and public administration and founding director of the Institute for Youth and Justice Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is an internationally recognized restorative justice expert and regularly serves as a political analyst for television, print and web-based media.

Pavelka studies the justice system with a focus on law and policy. She also conducts international assessments of restorative justice. In addition, her research areas include restorative justice in educational settings and gender-specific programming. She is actively involved in service in the community with the PACE Center for Girls, Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, Impact Initiative of Southwest Florida and other organizations.

Areas of Expertise (10)



Public Policy

Restorative Justice


Political Science

U.S. Politics

Florida Politics

Juvenile Justice

Criminal Justice

Accomplishments (5)

Lois Haight Award of Excellence and Innovation (professional)

2023 Presented by the Congressional Crime Survivors and Justice Caucus, this award is named after a former California judge who served as the 1982 President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime chair. Award recipients have significantly impacted the rights of and policies for crime survivors. Learn more about Dr. Pavelka's award at https://fgcu360.com/2023/06/29/professor-receives-national-honor-for-work-to-better-lives-of-crime-survivors/

Leadership and Service Award (professional)

2021 Presented by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

Distinguished Service Award (professional)

2021 Presented by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

Leadership and Service Award (professional)

2017 Presented by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

National Points of Light Foundation (professional)

2016 "The George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards honors individuals who demonstrate the transformative power of service, and who are driving significant and sustained impact through their everyday actions and words that light the path for other points of light." Learn more about Dr. Pavelka's service to the Foundation at https://www.pointsoflight.org/awards/youth-leader-spearheads-town-halls-for-kids-and-teens-to-discuss-substance-abuse.

Education (4)

Florida Atlantic University: Ph.D., Public Administration 2000

Concentration: Justice Policy

Florida International University: M.P.A., Public Policy 1989

University of Florida: B.A., Political Science 1985

American University: Washington Semester, National Government and Politics 1985

Affiliations (5)

  • National Association of Community and Restorative Justice : Chair, Law and Policy Committee; Member, Advisory Council
  • Twentieth Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida : Chair, Juvenile Justice Advisory Board
  • U.S. Congressional Crime Survivors and Justice Caucus : Member, Advisory Committee
  • American Correctional Association : Member, Restorative Justice Committee
  • Girls Coordinating Council of Southwest Florida : Co-chair

Selected Media Appearances (24)

EXCLUSIVE: Lee County’s little-known crime & punishment program: Is it a true restorative process?

WINK News  tv


Sandra Pavelka explains restorative justice and how it works best for a community.

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Vice President Harris makes frequent stops to the Sunshine State, vows more are on the way

Spectrum News  online


Sandra Pavelka gives expert insight into what is happening this campaign cycle.

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DeSantis talks Florida economy, education at presidential campaign stop in Orlando

News 6  tv


Sandra Pavelka explains what is happening on the campaign trail.

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CS Florida Re­pub­licans back Trump amid arrest claim

Spectrum News  tv


Sandra Pavelka talks about the dynamics of the Republican presidential primary race.

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Hundreds of Lee County ballots will be destroyed after not meeting election deadline

ABC7  tv


Sandra Pavelka explains why some Lee County mail-in ballots will not get counted.

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New domestic violence unit & task force created in Fort Myers

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka talks about a partnership between FGCU, The Fort Myers Police Department and ACT and the creation of a new domestic violence unit and task force

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The reason false political ads are allowed to run on TV stations

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka explains why false political ads are allowed to run on television.

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Not just DeSantis-Crist: inside Florida's other statewide races for November

Fox 4  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses Florida's statewide races ahead of November.

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Demings shown as front-runner to challenge Rubio in the Florida Senate race

Spectrum News  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses the Florida Senate race.

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Emotions boil over into SWFL following Roe v. Wade ruling

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and how it could impact Florida.

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Your voice silenced: How lawmakers often undercut what you said you want

ABC7  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses ballot initiatives.

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Florida’s ‘election police force’ puzzles SWFL officials

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses the state of Florida's idea of an election police force.

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Project Safe Neighborhoods: new initiative looks to prevent crime in SWFL

Fox 4  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses the initiative, Project Safe Neighborhoods.

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SWFL speaks: What did you think of President Trump?



Sandra Pavelka discusses President Donald Trump's time in office.

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Byron Donalds fighting to overturn election results, FL senators remain tight-lipped

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses the Electoral College and republicans wanting to overturn the election results.

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Here’s why Democrats didn’t win any big races in Florida

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses how national politics can impact local races.

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Breaking down your ballot: Amendment 4

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses Amendment 4.

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First presidential debate leaves voters feeling anxious

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

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Iowa Caucus app mishap raises questions about Florida’s election system security

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses the Iowa Caucus app mishap and if it could happen in Florida.

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Florida taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill for any new gun laws this fall

NBC2  tv


Sandra Pavelka discusses the impact of the Parkland shooting on students.

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George H.W. Bush inspired Southwest Floridians to live life of service

ABC 7  


Sandra Pavelka talks about her Point of Light award, where she was named in President Bush's honor.

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A $1 million DOJ grant could help lower the recidivism rate in Fort Myers

News - Press  


Sandra Pavelka discusses her work on a study with the Fort Myers Police Department that is meant to help felons re-enter society.

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Why you should start election day homework if you haven't already

ABC 7  


Sandra Pavelka discusses the variety of issues on ballots in 2018.

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Youth leader spearheads town halls for kids and teens to discuss substance abuse

Points of Light  


Sandra Pavelka is honored by Points of Light.

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Selected Event Appearances (5)

Recidivism, Emotional Empathy, Adverse Childhood Events, and Emotion Management Skills of Released Prisoners who Participated in a Brief Restorative Justice Intervention

Reintegration and Recovery among People in Forensic Mental Health and Criminal Legal Systems  Sydney, Australia


Restorative Justice Lawmaking and Legal System Reform

National Conference on Community and Restorative Justice  Chicago, IL


Restorative Justice Public Policy and Law: An International Assessment and Future Perspectives

RJ World E-Conference  Virtual


Guiding Principles for Restorative Justice and Victims and Survivors

National Center for Victims of Crime National Conference  Atlanta, Georgia


Keynote: Advocating for All: The Intersection of Domestic Violence and Incarceration

National Center for Victims of Crime National Conference  Atlanta, Georgia


Selected Research Grants (3)

Criminal Justice, Mental Health and Substance Abuse (CJMHSA) Planning Grant

Florida Department of Children and Families and Lee County, Florida $100,000

The focus of this planning grant will be to address the needs of individuals at the Bob Janes Empowerment Center (BJEC) in Lee County, FL by expanding the strategic plan for Goal 3: Expand service provider awareness and capacity and Goal 5: Explore Co-Responder Models by creating a collaborative strategy for coordination, communication and data sharing with stakeholders, incorporating opioid strategies to adapt existing service capacity to better address unique recovery-oriented needs of the target population, and incorporate evidence-based treatment practices to improve outcomes and quality assurance initiatives.

Justice for Families Project

Lee County, Florida and the United Way $57,048

Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Inc. (ACT), Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), and the Fort Myers Police Department (FMPD) were selected to receive grant funding that allows us to partner with the Lee County Clerk of Courts (LCOC), and the 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office to develop and implement the Justice for Families Project. The project aims to create a more effective, comprehensive, and coordinated community response to the harms caused by domestic violence and related crimes in our community.

Fort Myers Reentry Initiative

U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance $182,412

The Fort Myers Police Department in collaboration with Florida Gulf Coast University, was awarded a 3-year $1 million grant, funded by the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice, entitled Ft. Myers Reentry Initiative. Dr. Pavelka serves as the Principal Evaluator on the grant. The goal of project is to implement the Innovations in Reentry Initiative model by developing and implementing a comprehensive and collaborative reentry process designed to reduce recidivism among reentering offenders who are at medium to high risk for recidivating and to improve public safety.

Selected Articles (7)

A Restorative Justice Intervention in United States Prisons: Implications of Intervention Timing, Age, and Gender on Recidivism

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

Richner, K.A., S. Pavelka, and D. McChargue

2022 Restorative justice interventions (RJIs) offer an alternative method to reduce harm and short- and long-term recidivism. However, empirical validation of mechanisms and moderating factors warrant additional inquiry within jail and prison settings. Thus, The authors sought to examine RJI delivery timing on recidivism outcomes with age and gender as moderators.

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Restorative Justice Interventions

Corrections Today

McChargue, D., S. Pavelka and J. Kennedy

2020 Restorative justice principles suggest that probation, imprisonment, and other types of typical reparations for criminal behavior strengthen by holding the offender accountable while developing a better understanding of the implications of their crime on the victim and survivor, their family, and the community. Experts propose that enhanced accountability subsequently decreases the likelihood of recidivism by placing the focus on the offender reintegrating as a productive member of society. While restorative justice is not a new term or practice, these concepts and applications are continually being refined and adapted.

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Guiding Principles and Restorative Practices for Crime Victims and Survivors

Corrections Today

Pavelka, S. and A. Seymour

2019 The ultimate goal of restorative justice is to repair the harm caused by a wrongful incident while addressing the needs of the victim, offender, and the community. Opportunities are provided for those most directly affected by crime to be involved in responding to its impact. This approach ultimately seeks to address the myriad of needs of victims and ensure individual and community safety, while the alleged or convicted defendant is held accountable and develops competencies in order to become a better and more productive person.

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The Evolution of Balanced and Restorative Justice

Juvenile and Family Court Journal

S. Pavelka and D. Thomas

2019 Maloney, Armstrong, and Romig presented a portrait of “Joey,” who was the exemplar of what was wrong with the juvenile justice system, in 1988 when they published The Balanced Approach in this Journal. In response, they reimagined a juvenile justice system predicated on balancing three fundamental goals—protection of community, accountability to victims, and development of competencies to prepare juvenile court-involved youth for productive roles in their communities. The authors examine the evolution of balanced and restorative justice and re-imagine how Joey's life may have been different at critical junctures of his juvenile court involvement.

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Restorative Justice in the States: An Analysis of Statutory Legislation and Policy

Pavelka, S.

Justice Policy Journal

2016 Two distinct models have guided justice systems in recent decades–individual treatment/rehabilitation and retributive justice. The organizational mission and goals of the justice system have become internally inconsistent as these systems attempt to satisfy competing goals, such as punishment, rehabilitation and community safety. As such, lawmakers and justice system administrators seek to clarify the aims of justice management and policy, while exploring possibilities for the future of the justice system.

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Performance Measurement in Juvenile Justice: Developing and Implementing Model Reporting Systems


Pavelka, S. and D. Thomas

2016 To accomplish the desired outcomes, jurisdictions are responding to the need for transparency and accountability by developing measures for performance. This article identifies six steps for developing and implementing performance measures for juvenile justice systems. These measures, successfully applied in several jurisdictions nationally, are essential in furthering dialogue and expanding these methods for implementation in current and future justice systems, thus creating more efficient and effective internal systems.

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Practices and Policies for Implementing Restorative Justice Within Schools

The Prevention Researcher

Pavelka, S.

2013 School administrators and teachers are faced with resolving disputes and misconduct in an expeditious and peaceful manner, while at the same time, addressing the needs of youth. Restorative justice is transforming the way that these decision makers are thinking about and responding to wrongful occurrences. This approach seeks to balance the needs of the victim and the school community with consequences and accountability for the wrongdoer. Restorative justice models provide schools with the opportunity to improve school culture by addressing disciplinary standards and creating a forum for peaceful resolution of conflict and misbehavior. These models seek to determine the impact of the incident and establish a mutual, prescriptive agreement for resolving and repairing the harm caused by the wrongdoing (Pavelka, 2011). This article will first discuss the core principles of restorative justice and its applications in educational settings. Then it will examine necessary support systems for successful implementation and the potential challenges that schools face.

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