David Showalter's qualitative research illustrates how law enforcement uses everyday interactions and overlapping social networks to investigate people who use drugs in a small community, an approach that interrupts harm reduction efforts and, ultimately, impedes people's attempts to use drugs in safer ways. Though focused on a single small town, the research generates bigger questions about what produces safety and how, in small communities in particular, surveillance and criminalization can seep out beyond policing to healthcare settings, neighbors, and whole communities -- potentially putting people already living on the margins in more dangerous situations.

David ShowalterDavid Showalter is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Harvard Sociology Department and beginning in July 2023 will be Assistant Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. David uses ethnographic and qualitative methods to investigate how place, social networks, and organizations influence health, criminalization, and marginality, particularly with respect to drug use and drug policy. David’s first book project is a multisite ethnographic study of opioid use and opioid-related services in backcountry California. Their research has been published in Social Science & Medicine, Theory & Society, International Journal of Drug Policy, Mobilization, and elsewhere. David holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.

This event was moderated by Katy Naples-Mitchell, Program Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

Links to resources mentioned during the event

The Vera Institute of Justice report that David mentioned (Out of Sight: The Growth of Jails in Rural America) is available here: 

For more on "Realignment" in California: https://law.stanford.edu/stanford-criminal-justice-center-scjc/california-realignment/