I am broadly interested in the diversity in state and city-level politics regarding punishment, incarceration, and criminal justice. My published papers can be found online, or you can contact me for digital copies.
Here is a list of some of my working paper projects, some more nascent than others. Drafts available upon request.
"Blue First and Foremost: The Limited Impact of Female Descriptive Representation on Sex Crimes Arrests." With Laura Huber. The degree to which female political actors influence policy outcomes is hotly debated in political science. However, relatively little research considers how women's representation in one key institution in American daily life - the police - influences arrest outcomes. We argue that increasing women's representation among sworn police officers should not be associated with changes in arrest rates, as police forces are highly masculine and hierarchical environments and we expect female officers to conform to institutional norms. We leverage data from 1987 to 2013 and find no evidence that women's representation impacts arrest rates for sex-based crimes, suggesting that female police officers may be "blue" first, and women second. Our paper has implications not only for the study of female representation and representative bureaucracy, but also provides insights into how these vital political actors are influenced by their own characteristics and institutional culture.
"The Effects of Ideology and Disadvantage on Federal District Court Prisoner Petitions." Nearly 80% of all federal judicial activity occurs in the district courts and a significant portion of that activity is the result of prisoners filing petitions against state and federal correctional representatives. We know relatively little about these lawsuits, however. This paper focuses on inmate litigation as a vital form of political action of those incarcerated and argues that ideology and disadvantage play a role in the ultimate outcome of these cases. I amass a large dataset of every prisoner petition filed from 1989 to 2016 and find that while ideology does not predict the likelihood an inmate lawsuit will succeed, that prisoner's pro se status, whether they file the petition without the aid of an attorney, makes it significantly more likely the suit will be dismissed and less likely that inmate will receive relief. This paper has implications not only for the study of judicial decisionmaking in the federal district courts, but also as an example of important political action of a disenfranchised and neglected group in our legal system.
"Noncongruent Policymaking by Cities and States for Citizens with Criminal Records: Representation, Organizing, and 'Ban the Box'." With Michael Leo Owens. Generally, policymakers adopt policies encumbering groups with negative social constructions and limited political power. Sometimes, they choose policies to benefit, not burden them, adopting “noncongruent” policies that deliberately mismatch assumptions about deservingness and the distribution of benefits (and costs). We study noncongruent policymaking for one group, citizens with criminal records. We test whether such policymaking may require, among other things, presence by “preferable representatives” and civil society organizations that intentionally mobilize disadvantaged groups. We focus on polices removing criminal records questions from public and private job applications, using longitudinal data for 251 cities and the 50 states. Leveraging event history analysis, we report evidence that Black policymakers as preferable representatives and civil society leagues that employ community organizing are associated with subnational removal of “the box.” While descriptive, the findings deepen understanding of how intracity and intrastate politics may influence noncongruent policymaking for negatively constructed and politically weak groups.
"Beyond the Boy's Club: Gender Integration and Police Behavior." With Laura Huber. In the last decade, scholars and the public alike questioned policing and its methods, from use of force against civilians to police militarization. As of yet, however, we know relatively little about how police actions are shaped by gender, specifically the gender of officers and leaders. We leverage insights from the effect of gender on legislative and bureaucratic outcomes and suggest that not only ought the gender balance of the police force alter its culture and institutions, but that this effect is conditional on female police leadership. We use Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics data on female presence in both leadership and sworn officers in 2013 to analyze how gender shifts a police force's priorities and effectiveness. Primarily we examine whether increased gender integration affects arrest rates for gendered crimes, such as sexual assault. Overall, we find little evidence that changes in the percent of women in the police force or its leadership, with the exception of female intermediate supervisors, influences arrest rates for sex crimes. This paper highlights the need for more complete administrative data on policing, as well as careful theorizing about how descriptive representation, gender, and responsiveness influence police action.
"Descriptive Representation and Prosecutorial Discretion: Race, Sex, and Carceral Disparities." Conversations around criminal legal reform often discuss the broad discretion prosecutors hold on the outcome of individual criminal cases. Despite this vast impact, however, we know little about how the demographic characteristics of prosecutors influence case outcomes. In particular, how does the race and/or sex of a prosecutor influence both the number of cases they try and the race- and sex-based discrepancies in carceral outcomes? I investigate this question using an original dataset of all county prosecutors in the United States in 2001 and 2007 and find largely no differences between non-white and female prosecutors and white and male prosecutors. Black prosecutors are associated with fewer felony cases convicted and closed; Latinx prosecutors are associated with fewer Latinx individuals in jails but more admissions to jails overall; and female prosecutors are associated with fewer Black Americans in jail and fewer Black prison admissions, and fewer jail admissions overall. These findings suggest that while prosecutorial discretion may be an important plank of criminal legal reform, increasing the diversity of those offices is not a panacea for lasting reform to the carceral state. In particular, female and non-white prosecutors may be more similar to male and white prosecutors than they are different. Most current draft available here.
"Lobbying Inside (and) Out: Interest Group Behavior on Social Media." With Kirsten Widner and Maggie Macdonald. Studies of lobbying often draw distinctions between inside lobbying – direct attempts to influence policy through meetings, campaign contributions, and other activities that build and leverage relationships with policymakers -- and outside lobbying – activities such as protests, demonstrations, and media strategies that put indirect pressure on policymakers. These studies have found that while all groups increasingly use all available tactics, business and trade associations favor inside lobbying, and citizens’ advocacy groups are more likely to engage in outside lobbying. This project reexamines this literature in the context of the recent growth in the use of social media and asks whether existing patterns of lobbying are replicated in the digital environment. We theorize that business and professional groups will be less likely to engage in social media use and, when they do use it, will be more likely to use social media platforms to build and reinforce relationships with policymakers. In contrast, we expect that citizens' advocacy groups will be most likely to engage in an online form of outside lobbying, using social media to inform the public and build grassroots support for their policy agendas. We test these expectations using an original dataset of Twitter and Facebook posts from interest groups. We find that outside lobbying messages are more frequent than inside lobbying messages on social media across all types of groups. Citizens' groups are significantly more likely to engage in social media use overall, and they are more likely to use it for both inside and outside lobbying messages than all other types of groups.