Collaborative Research: State Variation in Mass Incarceration Reforms.

  • Schoenfeld, Heather Alma (PD/PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


The nation is currently at a crossroads. After decades of enacting policies designed to put more people in prison for longer amounts of time, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have called for a rethinking of excessive criminalization and imprisonment. The recent flurry of federal, state and local criminal justice reform raises important questions for social scientists. In particular, social science research can uncover successful paths to legislative reform and the roadblocks that remain in the way. The proposed research project seeks to answer why some states have aggressively pursued reform, while others have largely maintained the penal status quo. Georgia and Florida, for example, have similar political contexts, but Georgia has passed significant reform legislation, while Florida has taken very few steps to reduce its incarcerated population. While scholars and activists have rightly questioned the ability of current reforms to actually reduce the size and scope of punishment in the United States, some type of state policy reforms will be needed to create real decarceration. Thus, it is vital to understand the factors that lead to more significant reform. The proposed research thus asks, how do state level penal and political actors and organizations, the resources they deploy, and their norms and commitments interact to create or impede significant reform?
Effective start/end date9/1/178/31/18


  • National Science Foundation (SES-1655382)


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