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Dr. Sara Wakefield

Associate Professor


Ph.D. (2007) Sociology, University of Minnesota; M.S. (2001) Sociology, University of Wisconsin; B.A. (1998) Sociology (Law, Crime, and Deviance), University of Minnesota

Office Location

CLJ, 579C

Office Hours

Mondays 9:00-10:00 AM

Areas of Specialization

Incarceration and Reentry
Stratification and Inequality
Life Course, Family and Childhood Wellbeing


Sara Wakefield received her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota in 2007. Her research interests focus on the consequences of mass imprisonment for the family, with an emphasis on childhood wellbeing and racial inequality, culminating in a series of articles and book, Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality (Oxford University Press, with Chris Wildeman). More recently, she is working on several team-based projects that provide information on the consequences of contact with the criminal legal system that are not easily captured in available datasets. The PINS and WO-PINS studies leverage a variety of methods and data sources (surveys, intensive interviews, administrative data, and social network analysis) to examine social relationships while incarcerated and through reentry. The Family History of Incarceration Survey (FamHIS) provides nationally representative estimates of the concentration of incarceration experiences in American families. Finally, recent demographic analyses estimate the number of people in the United States with a felony conviction and the prevalence of termination of parental rights among U.S. children.





Recent Grants:

2024-2026: Co-Investigator/Consultant. “A Social Scientific Approach to Intimate Partner Violence and Partner Femicide.” Rockwool Foundation & Duke University.

2017-20: Co-Investigator, “Understanding Incarceration and Re-Entry Experiences of Female Inmates and their Children: The Women’s Prison Inmate Networks Study (WO-PINS),” National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

2015-17: Co-Investigator, “Prison Inmate Networks Study (PINS),” National Science Foundation (NSF).


Recent & Key Publications:

Wakefield, S. (2022). “Criminal Justice Reform and Inequality.” American Journal of Criminal Justice 47 (6): 1186-1203.

Wakefield, S. (2022). “Incarceration, Families, and Communities: Recent Developments and Enduring Challenges.” Crime & Justice: A Review of Research 51: 399-434.

Wakefield, S., & Andersen, L. H. (2020). Pretrial detention and the costs of system overreach for employment and family life. Sociological Science, 7,  342-366.

Enns, P. K., Yi, Y., Comfort, M., Goldman, A. W., Lee, H., Muller, C., Wakefield, S., Wang, E.A., & Wildeman, C. (2019).  What percentage of Americans have ever had a family member incarcerated?  Evidence from the history of incarceration survey (FamHIS). Socius, 5, 1-45.

Turney, K., & Wakefield, S. (2019). Criminal justice contact and inequality. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 5, 1-23.

Kirk, D. S., & Wakefield, S. (2018). Collateral consequences of punishment: A critical review and path forwardAnnual Review of Criminology, 1, 171-194.

Wakefield, S., & Wildeman, C. (2013). Children of the prison boom: Mass incarceration and the future of American inequality. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wakefield, S., & Uggen, C. (2010). Incarceration and stratificationAnnual Review of Sociology, 36, 387-406.