Denise O'Donnell

Denise O'Donnell
Denise O'Donnell
Distinguished Senior Fellow / Litmus

Denise O’Donnell has served with distinction in senior executive positions in criminal justice at the federal, state and local levels. Until January 2017, Ms. O’Donnell served as the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice under President Obama, where she provided federal leadership for unprecedented crime reduction, justice system reform and reentry efforts. At BJA, Ms. ODonnell launched a “Smart Suite” of nine criminal justice grant programs that implement researcher-practitioner partnerships to advance the knowledge of what works in policing, prosecution, public defense, community corrections, pretrial, reentry, opioid-use disorders and building community efficacy. Under her leadership, BJA has become a national leader in advancing innovative data-driven, evidence-based criminal justice programs and strategies.


Ms. O’Donnell previously served as Deputy Secretary for Public Safety for New York State, managing a portfolio of eleven criminal justice and homeland security agencies, and as Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. She served as Chair of the Commission on Sentencing Reform and of the Forensic Science Commission in New York. A lawyer and career federal prosecutor, Ms. O’Donnell was the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York during the Clinton Administration. She holds a master’s degree in social work and brings a strong policy, research, planning and implementation background to her criminal justice work at Litmus.