Sarah L. Desmarais, PhD

Sarah L. Desmarais, Ph.D. has been the President at Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA) since 2022. Before that, she served as the Senior Vice President from 2021 to 2021. She is responsible for the strategic priorities of PRA and oversight of PRA operations. Dr. Desmarais received her Master’s and PhD in Forensic Psychology and Law from Simon Fraser University in 2005 and 2008, respectively. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia in 2010. Prior to joining PRA, Dr. Desmarais was a tenured Professor of Psychology and University Faculty Scholar at North Carolina State University. There she held leadership positions including serving as Director of the Center for Family and Community Engagement and Coordinator of the Applied Social and Community Psychology Graduate Program. She also was a member of the NC State University Research Leadership Academy and Academy of Outstanding Faculty Engaged in Extension. Before that, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida with joint appointments in the Department of Community and Family Health and the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy from 2010 to 2012. 

Dr. Desmarais works on issues at the intersection of public health, community safety, and social justice. Her current research is focused on evidence-based practices for reducing detention rates, especially among people with behavioral health needs. She provides technical assistance, evaluation services, and consultation to behavioral health, criminal justice, and intelligence agencies throughout the United States and abroad on problems and solutions for implementation, policy, and practice. Dr. Desmarais has authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications in journals including the American Journal of Public HealthCriminal Justice and Behavior, and Law and Human Behavior. She has served as principal investigator and co-investigator on grants and contracts from foundations and government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Justice, and the National Science Foundation. Her work has been featured in national media outlets such as the Washington Post and HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.