Case Support

Academic Professionals and Field Researchers

The following noted people are experts in the field of incarceration and family relations. Their areas of specialization vary, but each contribute important information to the study of how incarceration impacts children and families.

Alexes Harris

Dr. Harris is a sociologist who uses a mixed-method approach to study institutional decision-making.  My research interests focus on social stratification processes and racial and ethnic disparities.  I investigate how contact with varying institutions (educational, juvenile and criminal justice and economic) impact individuals’ life chances.  Frequently, my work combines data types in order to illustrate both the macro context of the problem at hand, and at the same time investigate the micro processes leading to outcomes.  Using participant observation, interview, and statistical methods my work has investigated how institutional actors assess, label, and process individuals and groups, and how those processed respond.  My aim is to produce research that is theoretically informed and empirically rich, and research that is of value in local, state, and national policy arenas.

Tags: Race, incarceration, opportunity


Dr. Marian Harris

Marian S. Harris, Ph.D., ACSW, LICSW is a Professor at the University of Washington Tacoma, Social Work and Criminal Justice Program and Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Washington, School of Social Work, Seattle. Dr. Harris is a Faculty Associate at the Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor and Research Advisor for the Smith College School of Social Work, Northampton, MA. She is a former Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work. Dr. Harris was awarded an NIMH Postdoctoral Fellowship and completed a two year postdoctoral training program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Social Work. She received her Ph.D. from the Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, MA. 

Her research and publications have focused primarily on issues of mothers who have children in the child welfare system including substance abuse problem severity, attachment typology, parental stress, child maltreatment, extended family support, race and family structure, and disproportionality of children of color in the child welfare system, especially African American children.


Melinda Tasca

Melinda Tasca is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Sam Houston State University. Her research centers on correctional policy, the consequences of incarceration, as well as race/ethnicity, gender and crime. Her recent work has appeared in Criminal Justice and Behavior, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. As reflected in her scholarly work, Dr. Tasca has expertise in mixed-methods as well as extensive experience studying vulnerable family systems. Currently, she is co-principal investigator of the Arizona Prison Visitation Project (APVP), a mixed-method study aimed at advancing knowledge on prison visitation and its effects on recidivism, misconduct and self-harm. Dr. Tasca’s work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and Sam Houston State University’s Enhancement Research Grant Program.

Tags: Correctional policy, offender behavior and therapy


Christopher Wildeman

His research and teaching interests revolve around 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. He is the 2013 recipient of the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology.

Tags: Mass incarceration, child welfare


Kristin Turney

Much of Turney’s current research examines the consequences of criminal justice contact for family life. In this vein, she investigates the deleterious, beneficial, and inconsequential effects of criminal justice contact on the wellbeing of children and families over time; considers heterogeneity in the relationship between parental incarceration and family inequality; and evaluates the family, school and neighborhood mechanisms through which parental incarceration fosters resilience among children. She is currently working on a book-length manuscript, What Doing Time Does to Families: Incarceration and Family Life in the United States.

Tags: Criminal Justice, Family


Joseph Ryan

Joe Ryan’s research and teaching build upon his direct practice experiences with child welfare and juvenile justice populations. Dr. Ryan is the Co-Director of the Child and Adolescent Data Lab an applied research center focused on using data to drive policy and practice decisions in the field. He is currently involved with several studies including a randomized clinical trial of recovery coaches for substance abusing parents in Illinois (AODA Demonstration) , a foster care placement prevention study for young children in Michigan (MI Family Demonstration), a Pay for Success (social impact bonds) study focused on high risk adolescents involved with the Illinois child welfare and juvenile justice system and a study of the educational experiences of youth in foster care (Kellogg Foundation Education and Equity).

Tags: Foster care, Juvenile Justice


Julie Poehlmann-Tynan

Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan has 2 lines of research: (1) children with incarcerated parents, and (2) preterm infants. She recently completed a 6-year longitudinal study of preterm infants that was funded by NICHD that examined early parent-infant interactions and emerging self-regulation skills on children’s social, behavioral, and academic outcomes. Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan is also in the middle of 2 studies examining young children of jailed parents.

Tags: Children of incarcerated parents, infant development


Ashley Nellis

Dr. Ashley Nellis has an academic and professional background in analyzing criminal justice policies and practice, and has extensive experience in analyzing racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. She regularly delivers testimony, writes articles and reports, and conducts research in the areas of juvenile and criminal justice. Her work is particularly concerned with elevating awareness about the growing number of individuals serving lengthy sentences in prison such as life sentences and sentences of life without parole (LWOP). Dr. Nellis is the author of A Return to Justice: Rethinking our Approach to Juveniles in the System, which chronicles America’s historical treatment of youth in the justice system and discusses the work that remains in order to reorient juvenile justice practices toward the original vision. She received her Ph.D. in Justice, Law and Society from American University’s School of Public Affairs.

Tags: Policy and practice, racial disparities, juvenile and criminal justice