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2024 Buford Peace Award Recipient

Date: May 7th, 2024

By Ambre Adams

At the end of each academic year, The University of Alabama School of Social Work hosts its annual Awards Ceremony, during which the school’s premier award, the Lahoma Adams Buford Peace Award, is presented. 

The Lahoma Adams Buford Endowed Peace Award is a university-wide recognition designed to honor a faculty member who, in their teaching, research, professional practice, and personal life, has demonstrated exceptional levels of involvement in mediating human disputes, helping overcome prejudice, promoting justice, and establishing peace. This year’s awardee was Dr. Jennifer Jenni” Cox.

Nominated by Dr. Tom Davis, Dr. Jennifer Cox embodies the spirit of this award through the indelible mark she has left on both the legal system and the lives of countless individuals.

As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Cox has dedicated her career to applying scientific research to combat disparities within the U.S. criminal legal system, with a particular focus on racial and ethnic inequalities and the challenges faced by individuals with severe mental illness. 

Since joining the faculty of the University of Alabama’s Department of Psychology in 2014, Dr. Cox has been a catalyst for change, spearheading initiatives to address systemic issues in criminal legal policy, particularly in the Deep South.

Through her efforts, Dr. Cox has not only secured philanthropic funding but also cofounded the Southern Behavioral Health and Law Initiative (SBHL), a beacon of hope aimed at reducing the number of individuals entangled in the criminal legal system, alleviating associated trauma, and advocating for holistic support for formerly incarcerated individuals. Through SBHL, Dr. Cox has fostered partnerships with various entities, including law enforcement agencies, mental health organizations, and governmental bodies, to facilitate community-researcher collaborations and disseminate vital resources.

Beyond her research endeavors, Dr. Cox is deeply committed to educating future generations and fostering social awareness among students. Through her teaching and mentorship, she challenges students to critically examine the legal system’s injustices and empowers them to become advocates for change. 

Dr. Cox’s dedication extends beyond academia, as she actively engages in service initiatives to address criminal legal disparities at both local and national levels, serving as a mental health expert, providing training for criminal justice officials, and contributing to legislative reform efforts.

The tireless dedication to advancing social justice and equality underscores Dr. Cox’s profound impact on both local and national levels. Her exemplary contributions to scholarship, teaching, and service embody the spirit of compassion and activism, making her a true asset to her community and a well-deserved recipient of the 2024 Buford Peace Award.