About Me

DSC_1426-EditI am an Assistant Professor of US History at the University of Connecticut-Hartford. I am affiliated faculty in American Studies and Urban and Community Studies. At UConn, I teach courses on the political, urban, and legal histories of the United States.

I have a BA from Pacific Lutheran University (2006), an MA from the University of Utah (2009), and a PhD from Temple University (2016).

My research explores the policies and institutions of urban criminal justice systems in the United States since the 1950s. My work is motivated by my commitments to social justice and human dignity.

My current book project is tentatively titled Community of the Condemned: Chicago and the Transformation of the American JailI argue that contests over reform, human rights, and inequality fostered the growth of urban jails designed to house ever expanding categories of marginalized people, including women, the mentally ill, African Americans, and those accused of violent crimes.

My second book project stems from my interest in histories of money bail. It explores how criminal courts, reformers, and bail bondsmen developed legal technologies to set the price of freedom for people accused of crimes in the modern US.

I am the author of a 2016 dissertation, Jail America: The Reformist Origins of the Carceral StateOther publications include a 2009 Masters thesis, “Grassroots Power: The Utah Eagle Forum, 1972-2009” and contributions to ABC-CLIO’s reference volume The Encyclopedia of the Sixties: A Decade of Culture and Counterculture. An essay on the oral histories I conducted as part of my MA research, “The Utah Eagle Forum: Legitimizing Political Activism as Women’s Work” was published in Oral History, Community, and Work in the American Westan anthology from the University of Arizona Press. I am currently working on several journal articles related to my research on jails and money bail.

I have participated in training for the nationally recognized Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Before coming to UConn, I taught courses in American history, race and ethnicity, women’s history, historical writing and research, and the history of crime and punishment at Temple University, Community College of Philadelphia, and Garden State Youth Correctional Facility.

My research has been supported by the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center, and the Center for the Humanities at Temple (CHAT).


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2 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Hi Melanie. I am niece of one of the decedent’s you mentioned in this article, Ismael Solano Nieves. He was incarcerated at 17 years old for burglary and was found barely alive in his sell after he was set on fire. He later passed away and it devastated our family. I was wondering if you knew of a way that I can get more information on the circumstances surrounding his death which was covered up and buried so long ago. Our family never had closure on his death.

  2. Pingback: American Society for Legal History panel recap: “Crime, Punishment, and Federalism” | Sara Mayeux

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