I am an Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I have a PhD in Sociology (2011) with concentrations in Women and Gender Studies and Disability Studies from Syracuse University.
Over the last decade, my work has brought an intersectional disability studies approach to the phenomenon of mass incarceration and decarceration in the US. Incarceration does not target or affect people equally. The majority of prisoners are poor, disabled and are people of color.
Despite these harsh realities, disability and mental health have been largely missing from critical analysis of incarceration and activism around criminal justice reform and prison abolition.
When disability is present it is conceived as a deficit, something in need of correction (medically or by the correction industry, what I refer to as Carceral ableism), but rarely as a nuanced identity from which to understand how to live differently including re-evaluating criminal justice responses to harm.
I give talks and workshops on such topics as politics of abolition and disability/madness; disability, mental health and imprisonment; deinstitutionalization and community living; disability culture, anti-psychiatry and mad pride; racial formations of disability/madness and empire; carceral ableism and feminist abolition; inclusive pedagogy and universal instructional design; disability in higher education (and the limits of diversity and inclusion) and more. I have given over 30 talks and keynotes since 2014.
My work has centered on showing that disability and mental difference are not only medical conditions but the basis of social movements and cultures with deep histories of oppression and resistance. For example, in Decarcerating Disability: Deinstitutionalization and Prison Abolition, I show how anti-psychiatry and those fighting for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities helped bring forth the largest decarceration move in US history- deinstitutionalization.
In 2014 I had the pleasure of co-editing with Allison Carey and Chris Chapman the anthology Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the US and Canada. The book gathered thirteen previously unpublished contributions from diverse fields and focused on expanding the category of “incarceration” to include a variety of locations in which incapacitation takes place such as prisons but also refugee camps, special education, psychiatric hospitals and institutions for those with intellectual disabilities.
My scholarly work won various awards such as the President's Outstanding New Scholar Award by Western Social Science Association in 2016 and an AAUW (American Association of University Women) fellowship for 2017-2018.