The Changing Tides of Mass Incarceration: State Variation in Decarceration Reforms

  • Schoenfeld, Heather Alma (PD/PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Our research project, The Changing Tides of Incarceration, builds on our prior collaboration on an award winning project comparing the political causes of mass incarceration in eight states between 1960 and 2000. The current study leverages the recent variation in state-level decarceration efforts to uncover patterns of people, organizations, resources, ideas and institutions that have created or limited successful political coalitions for reform. For example, why did Georgia pass significant reform legislation while Florida has taken very few steps to reduce its incarcerated population – even as the states have similar partisan composition? How have New Jersey officials reduced the state’s prison population by nearly a third while neighboring Pennsylvania’s prison population grew by nearly 25% in the same period? Our research utilizes a paired case study design that compares key data from several pairs of states that were chosen because they share important regional and institutional characteristics: New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia, Illinois and Ohio, Washington and Oregon. Each pair of states are neighbors and share important historical, cultural and political similarities, but one state within each pair has passed significant decarcerative reforms while the other has not. For each state we will gather legislative records, government and organization reports, media sources, and interviews with key people.
Effective start/end date9/1/166/30/18


  • Anonymous Foundation (VIII) (Letter 12/12/2016)


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