Graduate Student Presentations

Wed, 03/30/2016
Princeton University, 035 Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
By Invitation Only

Light dinner provided for those who RSVP in advance to

Princeton-Rutgers Criminal Justice Working Group

Ph.D. Graduate Students Presentations of Work in Progress

  • Grace Howard, Department of Political Science, Rutgers University
    Regulating the Uterine Environment: The Criminalization of Pregnancy in the United States
  • Mary C. Imparato, Department of Political Science
    Rutgers University, Unsettling Liberties: Redrawing the Boundaries of Sex Crime in a Culture of Control
  • Heath Pearson, Department of Anthropology, Princeton University
    The Carceral Occupation: Living & Laboring in a NJ Prison Town

Grace Howard
Regulating the Uterine Environment: The Criminalization of Pregnancy in the United States
In this presentation I introduce the issue of pregnancy-specific crime focusing primarily on crimes committed by pregnant women against their own pregnancies. I share a preliminary analysis of case data from the three states where such crimes have been formally codified, discuss some of the methodological issues that have come up in the research process, and introduce some of my future research questions about prosecutorial discretion and the actual impact of codification.

Grace Howard is a Ph.D. Candidate in political science at Rutgers University. She is a Graduate Assistant at the Center for Race and Ethnicity, and is the recipient of an Excellence Fellowship with the Political Science Department and the Dr. Stanley H. and Claire A. Friedelbaum Graduate Student Dissertation Award for 2015 and 2016. Grace's research areas include reproductive politics, race, class, and gender theory, and the politics of criminal justice. Her dissertation examines the role of law and moral panic in the criminalization of pregnancy. Her new co-authored article, "Informed or Misinformed Consent? Abortion Policy in the United States" has been published ahead of print in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

Mary Imparato
Unsettling Liberties: Redrawing the Boundaries of Sex Crime in a Culture of Control
Law and society scholars have frequently sought to understand the highly punitive turn in crime control since the late 1960s. David Garland has termed this current state of affairs the “culture of control.” Some signs of this culture include: a decline of the rehabilitative ideal and the rise of punitive sanctions; the idea that the public must be protected above all; the politicization of crime policymaking; the reinvention of the prison; and expanding infrastructure of crime prevention and community safety. Alongside these measures which serve to increase state control, however, there has been a counter-trend towards the decriminalization of certain behaviors traditionally considered immoral (particularly contraception, abortion, obscenity, and sodomy). If society was purely interested in control, we might expect such laws policing sexual morality to remain on the books. However, as Garland notes in the above epigram, the most vehement punishments are reserved for precisely those areas where cultural norms have undergone the greatest change. This paper is an exploration of that insight. Utilizing a Durkheimian framework on the function of crime in society, I attempt to understand both the tightening and the loosening sides of the culture of control. Durkheim contends that establishing the boundary of the “criminal” is key to social cohesion and serves as an expression of the collective conscience. In times of cultural upheaval, society needs to reestablish these boundaries, and thus may come down most harshly on those who transgress the new boundary. To illustrate this phenomenon of decriminalization alongside increased punitiveness in matters of sexuality, I examine the reasoning behind Supreme Court decisions legalizing contraception and sodomy (where privacy and liberty interests are championed), and compare it with reasoning upholding indefinite civil commitment of “sexually violent predators” (where a liberty interest was not found compelling).

Mary Imparato is a 4th year doctoral student in the Political Science Department at Rutgers University. She studies political theory, public law and American politics, with a focus on law and morality, religious liberty, philosophy of law, and Christian social thought. She holds an interdisciplinary Masters degree from the City University of New York, where her thesis was on religious toleration and medieval political theory. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard University. She has taught courses in Law and Politics, the American Presidency, Legal Philosophy and Western Civilization. She is also a proud mother of two boys.

Heath Pearson
The Carceral Occupation: Living & Laboring in a NJ Prison Town
My project interrogates the concept of “mass incarceration” from the perspective of a rural prison town in NJ. Since the early 1980s, the U.S. prison population has expanded by more than 500 per cent, with a staggering 7.3 million people currently under some form of carceral control. Scholars attribute this sustained expansion to deep-seated practices of racism/classism within the criminal justice system, fueled by federal drug policies and militarized policing. Absent in this literature is reference to the significance that more than sixty per cent of all new prison facilities are built in rural towns. Bridgeton, NJ—a rural town with a county jail, a state prison, and a federal prison—challenges the idea of mass incarceration both as a total social fact and as an exclusively state-federal project. For nearly a century, Bridgeton has incarcerated non-Whites for the use of labor, from farming work-camps for Japanese-Americans in WWII, up to incarcerated Black and Latino men cleaning streets and making repairs in 2015. In Bridgeton, I argue, local interests organized around specific land use in order to generate certain types of labor possibilities for certain raced people, thus exposing the local role, working in tandem with the state, to control the lowest end of the labor market to the benefit of local capital. Rather than understanding mass incarceration as a new effort, then, I claim U.S. society is always organizing in such a way that (racialized) mass incarceration is its likely outcome.

Heath Pearson is a PhD candidate in the Anthropology Dept. and the Dept. of African American Studies, and an affiliate of the American Studies Program. He is currently undertaking long-term, ethnographic fieldwork in a rural county on the East Coast with four prisons, researching what happens over time to human perception and memory, the dynamics of local institutions, and the apparatuses of local governance after prisons become operational and represent the primary employment options. His most recent article, “The Prickly Skin of White Supremacy,” explores the co-constitution of race and place in Huntington, Indiana, and the many ways racialized violence lingers in the land throughout multiple generations. Currently, in addition to fieldwork, he is co-organizing the American Studies graduate student conference, “Life & Law in Rural America: Cows, Cars and Criminals.” He also spends a great deal of time listening to music.

The Criminal Justice Working Group is designed to bring together faculty and graduate students from both institutions to share work-in-progress, new ideas, and recent papers. Group participants may also invite scholars from other universities as presenters and commentators.tice Working Group to join the listserv that will keep you informed of the meetings.