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Vanessa Barker

Barker's current research examines how the democratic process and social trust shape penal sanctioning in the United States. It shows that higher levels of civic engagement tend to support milder punishments whereas lower levels tend to support more coercive criminal justice policies. Her research highlights the importance of place, locality, and context in a globalizing social world.

Barker's comparative project on politics, crime and immigration examines the role of penal sanctioning in Europe in response to political and social conflict over national sovereignty, citizenship, increased immigration, and heightened social diversity in the post Cold War period. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Project 180, a prisoner reentry program in Sarasota, Florida.

Vanessa Barker

Assistant Professor
On leave for research
323 Hecht House


Ph.D. 2004, New York University; Sociology
B.A. Magna Cum Laude & Distinction in English & American Literature 1993, University of California, Santa Barbara

Courses Taught

  • Law & Society
  • Punishment & Society
  • Criminology
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Crime & Punishment
  • Comparative Criminology

Research Interests

  • Sociology of punishment
  • Comparative penal sanctions
  • Historical sociology of crime control policy
  • Political sociology

Select Publications

  • Barker, Vanessa. 2006. “Deliberating Crime and Punishment: A Way Out of Get Tough Justice?” Criminology and Public Policy Vol 5. No 1.
  • Barker, Vanessa. 2006. “Politics of Punishing: Building a State Governance Theory of American Imprisonment Variation.” Punishment & Society 8(1).
  • Barker, Vanessa. 2007. The Politics of Pain: A Political Institutionalist Analysis of Crime Victim's Moral Protests. Law & Society Review 41(3).
  • Barker, Vanessa. Forthcoming. The Politics of Imprisonment: How the Democratic Process Shapes the Way American Punishes Offenders. Under contract with Oxford University Press.

Grants and Awards

  • Fellowship, Law & Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, 2006-2007
  • American Scandinavian Foundation Research Grant, 2006