Welcome Christopher Wildeman, New Sociology Faculty

Christopher Wildeman

Coming to Duke from Cornell University, Wildeman is a leading scholar of the consequences of mass imprisonment for inequality, with emphasis on families, health, and children. He is also interested in child welfare, especially as relates to child maltreatment and the foster care system.

“Historically, scholars of the criminal justice system were focused almost exclusively on how prison and jail incarceration rates affected one thing: crime rates. As the American incarceration rate is now an extreme outlier relative to every other developed democracy in the world, the broader effects of incarceration — on the families left behind, on the health and wellbeing of incarcerated people, and, indeed, on the level of inequality in our society — need to be considered too as we consider the costs and benefits of mass incarceration. 

“My work seeks to round out that picture of the effects of incarceration by showing that there are a range of harms that spring from mass incarceration.

“As a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., I have long wanted to get back down to the South, with the Triangle being the ultimate goal. So, there was a strong pull to Duke because of the region.

“My wife is also training to become a nurse, and the chance for her to do her ABSN at Duke was just too good an opportunity for her to turn down. She absolutely can’t wait to join the Duke family too. 

“And, of course, there was an intense intellectual pull. The Sociology Department at Duke is probably the most intellectually interesting and varied group in the nation, and the admiration I have for a host of my colleagues made coming here a total joy. I also had the sense — from President Price’s email about racial inequities in American society to my initial conversation with Rachel Kranton, the dean of the social sciences, to chats during my somewhat-consistent runs with law school professor Brandon Garrett — that there is a real desire to understand how the criminal legal system in the United States both reflects and intensifies American inequality.”

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