APRIL 24, 2024

We are excited to announce the 2024 recipients of Program in Criminal Justice Graduate Student Research Grants. The award process was open to PhD candidates from any of the units on Harvard’s campus conducting research to address questions related to the criminal legal system. Priority was given to students who are conducting research that is timely and whose findings have the potential to shape policy and/or conducting research that tackles an important set of questions related to specific policies in the criminal legal realm.  


For well over a decade, the issue of mass incarceration has been explored from many vantage points and disciplines. While a proliferation of scholarship exists on this subject, issues of civil and human rights violations, violence, in-custody deaths, and staff burnout, among many other challenges, persist as issues plaguing local jails across the US. Jail overcrowding, limited resources, officer-to-persons incarcerated ratios, and medical neglect are often cited as drivers of deaths in custody, among other harms experienced by people incarcerated. While these factors ring true for many local jails, the features of New York City’s jail system raise a more nuanced set of questions. With the largest local jail budget in the US and a 1:1 staff ratio to people incarcerated, one might presume there should be minimal issues of violence or in-custody deaths. Adding to existing research and investigative journalism, Building a Requiem for Rikers Island is a qualitative research study that critically examines who and what shapes the harms experienced by correctional officers, health staff, and people formerly incarcerated on Rikers Island. At its core, this project aims to help policymakers understand 1) both the shared and unique harms experienced by people incarcerated and working on Rikers Island, 2) the relationship between the harms outlined and the correctional environment (as shaped by larger political economies), and 3) a view into how people most harmed by Rikers envision creating safety within a NYC that no longer incarcerates people.

Jasmine GravesJasmine D. Graves (she/her) is a public health researcher and social impact strategist committed to dismantling systems of oppression and rebuilding a world where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color thrive. A natural problem solver, Jasmine drove public policy for nearly ten years as a former Senior Policy Advisor to New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Advisor to two New York City Health Commissioners, and Qualitative Researcher on Rikers Island. During her tenure at the New York City Mayor’s Office, she served as a leader in the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Currently, Jasmine is a Ph.D. candidate in Population Health Sciences at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the health impacts of structural racism by documenting the harms of carceral systems. She started this work over ten years ago as a qualitative researcher on Rikers Island. While working within the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Bureau of Correctional Health Services, she documented cases of brutality and conducted qualitative research on issues ranging from the harms of solitary confinement to the prevalence of traumatic brain injury. Her work inside New York City’s penal colony deepened the city’s understanding of the harms and poor health outcomes associated with incarceration, leading to various citywide reforms. Ms. Graves received her BA in World Arts and Cultures from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and her MPH from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.


Prison education programs (PEPs) have long been viewed as a solution to reducing recidivism, the persistent issue of formerly incarcerated individuals returning to prison within the first three years of release, increasing employment prospects, and improving earnings for formerly incarcerated individuals in the United States. Proponents argue that PEPs can provide incarcerated students with important skills and credentials that can help them positively reintegrate into society. Unfortunately, due to several barriers, access to postsecondary education in prisons has been limited, with most PEPs almost exclusively providing adult basic education (ABE), high school diploma, or GED programs. This is despite the fact that over 60% of incarcerated individuals are academically eligible to enroll in postsecondary programs. This changed in 2015, through the Second Chance Pell program, which allowed incarcerated individuals in state and federal prisons to be eligible for Pell Grants, to pay for their postsecondary education, for the first time since 1994. This policy served over 40,000 students by 2023. Studying the Second Chance Pell program provides us with an opportunity to better understand how access to financial aid and postsecondary PEPs can improve positive reintegration into society. Using a novel and national dataset connecting data from Federal Student Aid, tax records, and the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System, this study employs a regression discontinuity design to study the effects of this policy on recidivism, employment, and earnings outcomes.

Salman KhanSalman Khan is a PhD student in Education Policy & Program Evaluation, a PIER-IES Fellow, and a Stone PhD Scholar in Inequality and Wealth Concentration. His research seeks to investigate the challenges that disadvantaged (typically low-income, first generation, and minority) students face as they progress through their educational pathways. This manifests into researching how inequalities in access and preparation for higher education manifest into inequalities in the labor market, as well as focusing on the future of work as it relates to the effects of automation on the labor supply. He has conducted research with local school districts, state agencies, and the US Department of Education.


This project will qualitatively explore how personal technologies, like tablets and kiosks, are changing the experience and administration of incarceration in the United States. Introduced in many jurisdictions in the United States over the past decade, these devices have the potential to replace most social service provision in correctional settings -- from administrative procedures and religious edification to video games and vocational training -- while simultaneously funding the departments that use them. His dissertation takes a step back from these claims to explore human-machine interaction under conditions of confinement first in order then to assess the consequences of such a sociotechnical system for those within and beyond it.

Haden SmileyHaden Smiley is a second-year PhD student in sociocultural anthropology at Harvard University. Haden is broadly interested in the role of personal technologies in American social life, and Haden's dissertation research will explore the user experience and design of handheld tablets in U.S. prisons and jails.


Why do men experience significantly higher levels of criminal justice involvement than women? One theory argues that gaps in criminal opportunities, driven by women's historic domestic-oriented social role. Given that framework, a large surge in women entering the paid labor force should lead to increases in women's criminal justice involvement. To better understand the relationship between women’s labor market participation and criminal offending, this plans look at an exogenous shock that directly affected women’s participation in the labor market: World War 2. This paper will test the relationship between women’s labor market participation and women’s criminal offending by using geographic variation in women’s labor market mobilization during World War 2, using data from Pennsylvania. 

Sebastian SpitzSebastian Spitz is a PhD Student in Sociology and graduate of Harvard Law School.  Sebastian's research agenda is focused on three core questions: "Who does crime?", "Who gets punished?", and "How can the criminal justice system fairly and effectively prevent crime?" He uses quantitative methods to understand the causes of racial and gender disparities in criminal justice involvement, contemporarily and historically, and writes on criminal justice reform. His research has been published in the Annual Review of Criminology. Sebastian is a Stone PhD Scholar in Inequality and Wealth Concentration and a Presidential Scholar at GSAS. His research has previously been funded by the Center for American Political Studies.