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Criminal Justice and Social Welfare Project

Description of Research Project:

Today, after the rate of incarceration in the U.S. more than quadrupled from 1973 to 2009, approximately 1 out of every 33 adults are under the supervision of correctional facilities. This growth is historically unprecedented and 5 to 10 times higher than rates in other democratic countries. As a result, the criminal justice system has now been tasked with responding to the social and health service needs of this massive population and, in the process, has become a primary source to meet these needs for many at the bottom of the class structure.

This project investigates how the criminal justice system takes on the role of social welfare provider. I have spent hundreds of hours interviewing and following staff members and offenders in two criminal justice programs focused on mental health and social service provision. This project raises a number of questions. For example:

·         How might a focus on service delivery in a criminal justice setting lead to a reimagining of traditional punishments (e.g., jail) as services that can benefit offenders (e.g., as a form of housing or treatment)?

·         How might service delivery (e.g., mental health or drug treatments) unfold uniquely when individuals can be punished based on how they participate?

·         How might individuals otherwise labeled as criminals engage in recasting their identity as individuals in need of services to avoid punishment? How can doing so negatively impact them in unintended ways?

Ideally, participation in this research will raise questions you will be interested in exploring as you grapple with the experiences of those participating in this complex social context.

*** Please contact me if you would like a more detailed description of the project or the data***

Description of work that will be assigned to research assistants:

Students involved in the project will gain firsthand experience on a qualitative research project, a greater substantive understanding of the issues involved with this project, and one-on-one mentoring from a graduate student invested in student learning and development. Students will be expected to meet weekly for the first two to three weeks (to orient you to your work) and then once or twice per month thereafter with the primary investigator. RA work will be regularly reviewed. See below for RA responsibilities.

RA’s responsibilities (in order of current importance) could include:

-Coding and summarizing of interview data and field notes

-Preliminary analysis of interview data

-Transcribing interviews

-Reviewing relevant literature


Supervising Faculty Member

Dr. Alford A. Young, Jr.

Graduate Student and Contact Information

Cheyney Dobson

Average hours of work per week

6-12 hours per week (pending student availability)

Range of credit hours students can earn

2-4 (3 hours of work per credit hour selected, with a minimum of 6 hours per week expected)

Number of Positions Available