About Me

DSC_1426-EditI am an Assistant Professor of US History at the University of Connecticut-Hartford. My research focuses on the policies and institutions of urban criminal justice systems in the United States since the 1950s. 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 current book project is tentatively titled American Jails: The Violent History of Detention. I 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.

As a 20th century US policy historian, my research and teaching interests include crime and incarceration, urban history, race and the law, social movements, and the history of women and gender. My work is motivated by my commitments to social justice and human dignity.

I am the author of a 2009 Masters thesis, “Grassroots Power: The Utah Eagle Forum, 1972-2009” and contributed 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. My teaching record includes courses on 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, 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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