Guiding Question

My research agenda can be summed into a singular question: how can we reduce mass criminalization and the associated social and racial harms? I examine efforts to mitigate these harms as well as root causes and consequences.

#Racial Inequities #Space and Place #Health #Education


Reentry & Community Corrections

St. John, V. Probation and Race in the 1980s: A Quantitative Examination of Felonious Rearrests and Minority Threat Theory. Race and Social Problems, 11(3), 243-252. #Racial Inequities #Space and Place

Evans, D., Szkola, J., & St. John, V. Going Back to College? Criminal Stigma in Higher Education Admissions in Northeastern U.S. Critical Criminology, 27(2), 291-304. #Racial Inequities #Space and Place #Education

Evans, D., St. John, V., Szkola, J., & Lyons, S. Regions of Discrimination: Felony Records, Race, and Expressed College Admissions Policies. Journal of Crime and Justice. #Racial Inequities #Space and Place #Education

St. John, V., & Blount-Hill, K. Place, Space, Race, and Life After Incarceration: Dismantling Mass Incarceration Through Spatial and Placial Justice. Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, 2019(1), 46-54. #Racial Inequities #Space and Place

St. John, V., Murphy, K., & Liberman, A. Recommendations for Addressing Bias in Risk and Needs Assessments in the Juvenile Justice System. Child Trends. Bethesda, MD. #Racial Inequities 

 


Policing

Headley, A., Blount-Hill, K., & St. John, V. The Psychology of Justice Buildings: An Experiment on Police Architecture, Public Sentiment, and Race. Journal of Criminal Justice. #Racial Inequities #Space and Place

St. John, V, & Lewis, V. “Vilify Them Night After Night”: Anti-Black Drug Policies, Mass Incarceration, and Pathways Forward. Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, 2020(8), 18-29. #Racial Inequities 

St. John, V., Headley, A., & Harper, K. Traumatic Touch: Policing and Adverse Experiences for Children and Youth. Child Trends. Bethesda, MD. #Racial Inequities #Health

Parris, D., St. John, V., & Bartlett, J. Resources to Support Children’s Emotional Well-Being Amid Anti-Black Racism, Racial Violence, and Trauma. Child Trends. Bethesda, MD. #Racial Inequities #Health

 

 


Jail and Prison

St. John, V., Blount-Hill, K., Mufarreh, A., & Lutgen, L. Safe by Design: An Exploration of Jail-based Injury Across New York City. Journal of Correctional Health Care. #Racial Inequities #Space and Place  #Health

St. John, V. J., Blount-Hill, K. L., Evans, D., Ayers, D., & Allard, S. Architecture and Correctional Services: A Facilities Approach to Treatment. The Prison Journal, 99(6), 748-770. #Space and Place #Education  #Health

St. John, V. Architectural Design for Mental Health Treatment: Preliminary Findings of Service Provision Using a Space, Layout, and Setting Framework. Advancing Corrections Journal, 9, 119-131. #Space and Place  #Health

Moran, D., Jewkes, Y., Blount-Hill, K., & St. John, V. What Works for Wellbeing in Custodial Design? Under Contract, Palgrave Macmillan. #Racial Inequities #Space and Place  #Health

 

 


Inclusion

 

Blount-Hill, K., & St. John, V. Manufactured “Mismatch”: Cultural Incongruence and Black Experience in the Academy. Race and Justice, 7(2), 110-126. #Racial Inequities #Education

Blount-Hill, K., St. John, V. J., Moton, L., & Ajil, A. In Their Experience: A Review of Racial and Sexual Minority Experience in Academe and Proposals for Building an Inclusive Criminology. Race and Justice. #Racial Inequities #Education

 

 


Further Contextualization of Research

It is okay to talk about race and racism…

Discussions on racial disparities in U.S. social systems, including the criminal justice system, are tied to the nation’s history of racism. My research focuses on the causes, consequences, and efforts to resolve issues of mass criminalization in the U.S. which naturally interweave the areas of sociology; criminology; criminal justice; racism and racial disparities; space and place; and health. Together, my peer reviewed studies can be synthesized to tell a cohesive story about racism and racial disparities in the U.S., and pathways forward.

My research supports that the history of racism and race relations in the United States has shaped our social systems and interactions. In one study (St. John, under review), I explore how the history of racism and the multiple dimensions of consciousness impact how Black people in America experience unfair events in a manner similar to them experiencing a racist event, even when the unfair event (e.g., denial of housing, unfair police contact, or denial of education) is not explicitly race-based, as well as the negative impact these experiences have on interracial conflict, interracial friendship, interracial harmony, and interracial thoughts (St. John, under review). Moreover, my research yields that these adverse events are detrimental to the physical and psychological health of persons (e.g., feeling of worthlessness or developing a serious illness), and that social and economic capital serve as a starting point in building social resilience against these deleterious health outcomes (St. John, under review).

Among these difficult experiences that fall along racial lines, are further issues with educational, policing, and correctional systems. In my research, I find that U.S. institutions of higher education, especially schools that were once affiliated with the confederacy, have the greatest scrutiny toward Black applicants with nonviolent criminal records as opposed to someone who is White with an identical record (Evans, St. John, & Szkola, 2022). Notably, an indicator of institutions of higher education that are least likely to discriminate based on an applicant’s criminal record and/or race are institutions with a high racial and ethnically diverse student body or institutions that are publicly funded (Evans, Szkola, St. John, 2019; Evans, St. John, & Szkola, 2022). Within my research on educational systems, I also outline why the inclusion of racial minority groups is an essential step in understanding and resolving societal issues that derive from a history of racism in America – namely issues of crime and justice (Blount-Hill & St. John, 2017; Blount-Hill, St. John, Moton, & Ajil, 2022).

My research also speaks to the effects of racism in the U.S. and experiences of arrests, such as higher odds of arrests being attributed to Black persons who are on probation compared to their White counterparts, and higher levels of arrests being most prevalent within racially and ethnically diverse jurisdictions in the U.S. This holds true when controlling for an individual’s criminal history, surveillance, and other factors that may otherwise explain disparities in arrests (St. John, 2019). Among these factors is the racial tension that exists between police and Black and Brown communities due to racist policies targeted at Black people in the U.S. (St. John & Lewis, 2020). I expand on this by investigating whether such tensions can be resolved through changes to the spatial elements of police departments and find that creating police institutions that are more welcoming have a limited impact on Black persons. In fact, Black persons have a more positive emotional response when they are faced with hostile – visually under resourced – police stations (Headley, Blount-Hill, & St. John, 2021) particularly if they have no history of arrest (St. John, Headley, & Blount-Hill, under review).

In this research series on space and place, my studies also examine short term spatial solutions to the harmful conditions of youth and adult corrections which are disproportionately filled with Black people. Here, I find that the space, layout, and setting of youth and adult correctional facilities influence the quality of education, mental health, and rehabilitative services, as well as the safety and security of occupants (St. John et al., 2019). In addition, the location, architecture, aesthetics, and maintenance of facilities are among some of the facility design aspects that influences whether administrators care about the betterment of occupants, and subsequently influences whether correctional administrators are viewed as legitimate sources of authority (St. John, 2020). Further, my research finds support that shows when facilities are designed with spatial elements that are responsive to the needs of occupants, they facilitate beneficial outcomes. For instance, facilities tailored to support persons with serious health issues or designed to address the developmental needs of youth populations, have significantly lower instances of injuries (St. John, Blount-Hill, Mufarreh, & Lutgen, 2022). Similarly, the spatial concentration of mental health services within an adult or youth facility yield more effective health responses such as higher completion rates of scheduled mental health appointments (St. John, 2020).

At the root of all the racially disparate outcomes across social institutions, and the present-day need to curb the associated harms, is a historical context that cannot and should not be overlooked to effectively mend the social fabric of the U.S.

See Curriculum Vitae for all published works and links, as well as forthcoming and works in progress.