Sara Wakefield

Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

Areas of Expertise

  • Mass imprisonment
  • Racial inequality
  • Conditions of confinement
  • Prisoner reentry
  • Criminal justice system
  • Child well-being
  • Child protective services

Key Findings

  • Providing alternative interventions (mental health care and treatment for addiction) to incarceration is critical to improve outcomes for children of incarcerated parents. MORE
  • Paternal incarceration is associated with statistically significant increases in aggression in children regardless of other controls such as socioeconomic status, parental characteristics, and prior paternal incarceration. MORE


Sara Wakefield, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, is an expert in the consequences of mass imprisonment on family, with a focus on racial inequality and child wellbeing; the conditions of confinement and social/family ties during imprisonment and reentry; racial inequality and the criminal justice system.

Wakefield has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health and is a member of the American Sociological Association, the American Society of Criminology (Life Course Criminology and Sentencing and Corrections Divisions) and the Population Association of America, Law & Society Association.

She has been published in numerous academic journals and is the co-author of Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality (Oxford University Press Studies in Crime and Public Policy Series). Her book is a co-winner of the 2016 Book Award from the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility section of the American Sociological Association.

Wakefield received her Ph.D. and B.A. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and M.S. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin.