Potter College News
Criminologist Dr. Brittany Martin joins WKU, Focusing Research on Monetary Sanctions and Symbiotic Harms
- Creeson Martin
- Friday, November 5th, 2021
Dr. Brittany Martin is our newest Assistant Professor in the Sociology and Criminology Department. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia earlier this year.
Her research displays a passion for exploring and identifying how nontraditional forms of punitive punishment impact people in the legal system. Usually she carries out this research through state comparisons, but has also gathered individual-level data on people’s experiences with the legal system.
In her master’s thesis, “Examining State Welfare Policy Implementation: Race, Political Ideology, state Economics, and the Drug Felony Lifetime Ban” she used data from the Census and Urban Institute to analyze how different state characteristics may influence policy that is related to the criminal legal and welfare systems.
Her dissertation, “Measuring Punitiveness: Exploring State Variation in Penal Control” works to expand how someone’s punishment affects them after incarceration. Dr. Martin looks at data from multiple states to explain that collateral sanctions allow for a better understanding of someone’s full punishment beyond sentencing in the American legal system. Collateral sanctions include whether felons gain their voting rights after serving their sentence or if they are turned away from a job opportunity due to a felony record among other things.
“Monetary Sanctions and Symbiotic Harms” (Boches et al, 2021) is Dr. Martin’s forthcoming research project. She is a co-author in the piece. The project works to show how family members endure punishment along with the person who is system-involved even if those family members never engaged in the crime. The study collected quantitative data on 140 people in Georgia and Missouri who owe criminal legal debt and qualitative data from 96 court actors. From this data Boches et al. sought to discover what the relationship is between families and criminal legal debt. They found that coercion was a factor with some court actors explicitly saying they look to family members to make payments. The following quote is an example from the paper.
“A lot of times, I’ll tell the defendant to… talk to family members and they won’t do it...So, I’ll get the phone number, I’ll talk to them. I’ll say we need your help here.”
The emotional stress from these monetary sanctions is an example of the symbiotic harms that can impact family members. In some cases, family members do not want to see their loved ones incarcerated and will shovel out the amount needed to prevent that family member from being behind bars once again. The Boches et al. paper looks at how this process unfolds.
In the future, Dr. Martin hopes to develop a statewide study in Kentucky to examine individual experiences of people who have had multiple forms of punishment placed on them as discussed in her prior research. From this research, she hopes to gain a better understanding of how these multiple punishments may lead to higher recidivism, making it more difficult for these individuals to reintegrate into our society.
Outside of WKU, Dr. Martin remains active in the criminology community through her involvement with the American Society of Criminology. She is active in the Division of Corrections and Sentencing (DCS) and the Division of Women in Crime (DWC). Currently, she serves as a mentor in the DCS for graduate students at other universities whose research focuses on corrections.