Criminologist receives distinguished article award for work on incarceration trends

UMSL criminologist Michael Campbell received the American Sociological Association’s Law Section Distinguished Article Award. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Michael Campbell, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, recently received the American Sociological Association‘s Law Section Distinguished Article Award.

“It’s really humbling because this is a national level award that shows that your work really is reaching and having an impact on the field at-large,” Campbell said. “And we all hope that eventually we are able to write something that reaches that type of an audience. This has done that. It’s very humbling and very exciting.”

The article, “The Transformation of America’s Penal Order: A Historicized Political Sociology of Punishment” was published in the American Journal of Sociology in 2013 and co-authored by Heather Schoenfeld, assistant professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The article also received honorable mention for best article from the Law & Society Association.

“The article addresses the rise in mass incarceration in the United States over the last half century,” Campbell said. “Which factors do the best in explaining incarnation really depends on what historical period you’re looking at. So these things change over time. In the beginning, violent crime was important in explaining which states increased in incarceration, but over time it matters less and less. Politics become more important and ultimately in the end the most important factor that is an enduring significant predictor of incarceration turns out to be the interplay between politics and race.”

The paper takes a historical perspective by analyzing the change in the U.S. penal system during the second half of the 20th century. It identifies three historical periods during that time and concludes that an intricate interplay between national and state politics and policy led to a marked increase in imprisonment between 1970 and 2001.

The American Sociological Association is a U.S. professional organization for sociologists, dedicated to advancing the field of sociology in the public interest.


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