Heather Schoenfeld Wins Awards for Article on Incarceration

Heather Schoenfeld Wins Awards for Article on Incarceration

Heather Schoenfeld

Heather Schoenfeld, assistant professor of education and social policy, recently received two awards for a paper she co-wrote on “The Transformation of America's Penal Order: A Historicized Political Sociology of Punishment.”

The American Sociological Association’s Sociology of Law Section awarded the paper its Distinguished Article Award. Previously the Law and Society Association had awarded the paper an honorable mention for Best Paper.

“We are extremely happy to have our work recognized by both of these organizations,” says Schoenfeld. She co-wrote the article, which was published in spring 2013 in the American Journal of Sociology, with Michael Campbell of the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

In their paper, Schoenfeld and Campbell take a historical perspective as they analyze the change in the U.S. penal system during the second half of the 20th century. They identify three historical periods during that time and conclude that an intricate interplay between national and state politics and policy led to a marked increase in imprisonment between 1970 and 2001.

“Specifically, over time, national political competition, federal crime control policy, and federal court decisions helped create new state-level political innovation and special interest groups,” the authors say. These factors gradually induced legislators to attribute crime to lack of punishment, which in turn led to the trend of imprisoning more people for longer periods. The authors analyze numerous state and national cases that reveal how the interaction between politics and policy came into play.

Schoenfeld is a sociologist of law who focuses on politics, policy, race and law as she studies systems of criminal punishment. Her specific research interests include law and society, race and inequality, crime and punishment, and historical and comparative methods. Schoenfeld earned her PhD in sociology from Northwestern University. At Northwestern, she is also an assistant professor of legal studies.

The American Sociological Association, a U.S. professional organization for sociologists, is dedicated to advancing the field of sociology in the public interest. The Law and Society Association, an interdisciplinary academic organization for the analysis of law in social contexts, supports and disseminates sociolegal research.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 9/18/14