Research Associate, Youth Development, Criminal Justice, and Employment

Skemer’s research focuses on evaluations of criminal justice policies, systems, and reforms. She also studies new system approaches in child support enforcement. Currently, Skemer leads the process and impact evaluation of New York City’s Supervised Release program, a bail alternative designed to reduce the use of pretrial detention and money bail while ensuring defendants’ appearance in court and maintaining public safety. Skemer also serves as a research and design lead for the Pretrial Justice Collaborative, a study of eight jurisdictions across the country aimed at building usable evidence on the most effective strategies for reducing pretrial detention, minimizing supervision conditions, and reducing racial and economic inequities while preserving court appearance rates. Additionally, Skemer directs the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt demonstration, a random assignment study testing the efficacy of incorporating procedural justice principles into child support practices to re-engage noncustodial parents who have fallen behind in their payments, rather than relying on a court-led civil contempt process. Skemer’s responsibilities include project management and direction; research design; impact analysis; the collection of qualitative data through observations, interviews, and focus groups; the writing of policy briefs and reports; and the presentation of research findings. Selected past projects include the Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration, the Evaluation of the PACE Center for Girls, and the Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation. Skemer holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in sociology from the University of California-Irvine.

Curriculum Vitae

  • MDRC Publications


      Findings from an Evaluation of New York City’s Supervised Release Program

      September, 2020
      Melanie Skemer, Cindy Redcross, Howard Bloom

      In 2016, New York City rolled out Supervised Release, which allowed judges to release defendants under supervision instead of setting bail. The findings in this report suggest that the program reduced the number of defendants detained in jail, while at the same time maintaining court appearance rates and public safety.


      Summary Report on the Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation

      December, 2018
      Erin Jacobs Valentine, Melanie Skemer, Mark E. Courtney

      This report summarizes an evaluation of a program that helps young people with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody become independent adults. The program improved earnings, housing stability and economic well-being, and some health and safety outcomes. It did not improve education, social support, or criminal involvement outcomes.


      Final Impacts and Costs of New York City’s Young Adult Internship Program

      August, 2018
      Danielle Cummings, Mary Farrell, Melanie Skemer

      This report presents 30-month impacts from a random assignment evaluation of a program that subsidized employers to offer temporary paid jobs to young people who were disconnected from school and work in New York City. After 30 months, program enrollees and nonenrollees fared similarly, with the former slightly more likely to report employment.


      An Alternative to Bail

      April, 2017
      Cindy Redcross, Melanie Skemer, Dannia Guzman, Insha Rahman, Jessi LaChance

      Defendants awaiting trial and unable to post bail are often detained in local jails unnecessarily, disrupting their lives and adding to costs for taxpayers. To address this situation, New York City has launched a program that gives judges the option to release some defendants to community-based supervision. 


      Implementation and Early Impacts of the Young Adult Internship Program

      April, 2017
      Melanie Skemer, Arielle Sherman, Sonya Williams, Danielle Cummings

      This report presents implementation and early impact results from a random assignment evaluation of the Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP), a subsidized employment program for young people in New York City who are disconnected from school and work. YAIP boosted earnings for participants, which suggests that they obtained better jobs.


      Two-Year Impact Findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation

      November, 2016
      Melanie Skemer, Erin Jacobs Valentine

      This study tested a program that offers individualized services to young people who are making the transition from foster care or juvenile justice custody to independent living. The program had modest, positive effects on earnings, housing stability, and economic well-being and improved some health and safety outcomes.


      The Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration

      November, 2016
      Cindy Redcross, Bret Barden, Dan Bloom, Joseph Broadus, Jennifer Thompson, Sonya Williams, Sam Elkin, Randall Juras, Janae Bonsu, Ada Tso, Barbara Fink, Whitney Engstrom, Johanna Walter, Gary Reynolds, Mary Farrell, Karen Gardiner, Arielle Sherman, Melanie Skemer, Yana Kusayeva, Sara Muller-Ravett

      This demonstration is testing seven enhanced transitional jobs programs that offer temporary, subsidized jobs and comprehensive support to people recently released from prison and unemployed parents behind in child support payments.


      One-Year Impact Findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation

      May, 2015
      Erin Jacobs Valentine, Melanie Skemer, Mark E. Courtney

      This study evaluated a program, called YVLifeSet, that offers individualized services to young people who are making the transition from foster care or juvenile justice custody to independent adulthood. After one year, the program increased earnings, reduced homelessness and material hardship, and improved outcomes related to health and safety.


      Implementation Findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation

      March, 2014
      Michelle S. Manno, Erin Jacobs Valentine, Julianna Alson, Melanie Skemer

      This highly structured program offers clinically focused case management, support, and counseling to youth who are leaving state custody or are otherwise unprepared for independent adult living. It emphasizes treatment planning, ongoing client assessment, and evidence-informed practices. Early findings indicate that it has been implemented well and participation is high.


      Lessons from an In-Depth Data Analysis

      December, 2013
      Melanie Skemer, Brian Bayes

      Both Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may serve low-income individuals with disabilities. This brief uses MDRC’s analysis of merged national-level TANF and SSI data — two rich data sources that have never before been linked — to better understand the extent of the two programs’ overlap.

  • Other Publications

      Courtney, Mark E., Erin J. Valentine, and Melanie Skemer. 2019. “Experimental Evaluation of Transitional Living Services for System-Involved Youth: Implications for Policy and Practice.” Children and Youth Services Review 96: 396-408. 

      Baer, Justin, and Melanie Skemer. 2009. Review of State Motorcycle Safety Program Technical Assessments. DOT HS 811–082. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation.

      Baldi, Stéphane, Ying Jin, Melanie Skemer, Patricia J. Green, and Deborah Herget. 2007. Highlights From PISA 2006: Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Science and Mathematics Literacy in an International Context. NCES 2008–016. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

  • Projects