Matthew DeMichele

Matthew DeMichele

Ph.D. Student

by Brianna Bodine

“Few people think about how expensive it is to incarcerate someone,” Department of Sociology Ph.D. student Matthew DeMichele asserted.

“However, with many states facing budget shortfalls, policy makers and the public are beginning to think seriously about the financial strain high incarceration rates place on our economy and other social programs.”

To incarcerate one person in Kentucky costs approximately $25,000 per year, compared to $45,000 in California and $13,000 in Louisiana, and the 2005 national average is $23,876. With more than 2.3 million adults currently in jails and prisons, the financial burden on state governments alone exceeds $50 billion, according to the Pew Center on the States. This expenditure draws funds away from other social institutions, such as education and welfare, according to DeMichele. Indeed, from 1988 to 2008, the inflation-adjusted general fund spending on corrections rose 127 percent while higher education expenditures rose just 21 percent.

“Prisons have never been effective at creating healthy citizens: They don’t rehabilitate people,” DeMichele said. “Prisons foster gang activity, sexual violation, and even drug dealing and exposure to diseases. It’s bad policy. We need a correctional program that works.”

The United States incarcerates more than two million people per year, or more than 751 people for every 100,000 in the population, compared to 107 in Canada, 118 in China and 124 in the United Kingdom, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London. The same study showed that while only 5 percent of the world’s population resides in the U.S., the country harbors 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

His dissertation describes the differences in incarceration rates during the post-WWII era (1955-2005) across 18 industrialized countries. DeMichele, a Jessamine County native, said he hopes that his research can help point the way toward better understanding of U.S. correctional policies, help government officials make more intelligent correctional decisions, and contribute to improved justice processes by seeing how similar countries have been able to avoid the current situation the U.S. currently finds itself in.

“His past research is quite impressive,” said Thomas Janoski, associate professor of sociology and chair of DeMichele’s dissertation committee. “As soon as he earns his doctorate, he’ll be hot property on the job market.”

DeMichele already works as senior research associate at a local non-profit, the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA)/Council of State Governments (CSG); providing research, training, and technical assistance to community corrections agencies throughout the United States. As a researcher with APPA/CSG, he’s had opportunities to work with correctional professionals around the country, submit grant proposals, publish technical reports, and learn about corrections from hands-on experience in the field.

“My research is very pragmatic, trying to identify issues in community corrections policy,” he said. “My main focus is examining what is cost effective or ineffective in the corrections system. I also develop training curriculums to train probation and parole officers in the field, and I work with federal government policy analysts.”

His research has paid off, having already raised $31,000 in independent grant projects and approximately $3 million in funding for projects with APPA/CSG, and being project director for grant projects totaling $1.5 million. “The federal grant applications have been really nice,” DeMichele said, “and I have developed a reputation to do outside work and consulting.”

DeMichele is on track to receive his Ph.D. this year, and he has already published 14 peer-reviewed articles, four book reviews, eight essays and 10 technical reports; as well as a book-length monograph that will be printed by the Department of Justice in the spring of 2009.

DeMichele confessed that he eventually wants to work in academia full time, but plans to maintain connections with APPA/CSG. “For every article I publish or grant I secure, I get at least four or five rejections. I always liked the idea of competing and I never realized that academia could be that competitive.”

“The collaborative environment in the UK Sociology Department forced me out of my box, to work with other folks and to open my mind to different perspectives,” he said. “I like the broad perspective – a political science, sociology and criminal justice fusion.”

“However, with many states facing budget shortfalls, policy makers and the public are beginning to think seriously about the financial strain high incarceration rates place on our economy and other social programs.”

To incarcerate one person in Kentucky costs approximately $25,000 per year, compared to $45,000 in California and $13,000 in Louisiana, and the 2005 national average is $23,876. With more than 2.3 million adults currently in jails and prisons, the financial burden on state governments alone exceeds $50 billion, according to the Pew Center on the States. This expenditure draws funds away from other social institutions, such as education and welfare, according to DeMichele. Indeed, from 1988 to 2008, the inflation-adjusted general fund spending on corrections rose 127 percent while higher education expenditures rose just 21 percent.

“Prisons have never been effective at creating healthy citizens: They don’t rehabilitate people,” DeMichele said. “Prisons foster gang activity, sexual violation, and even drug dealing and exposure to diseases. It’s bad policy. We need a correctional program that works.”

The United States incarcerates more than two million people per year, or more than 751 people for every 100,000 in the population, compared to 107 in Canada, 118 in China and 124 in the United Kingdom, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London. The same study showed that while only 5 percent of the world’s population resides in the U.S., the country harbors 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

His dissertation describes the differences in incarceration rates during the post-WWII era (1955-2005) across 18 industrialized countries. DeMichele, a Jessamine County native, said he hopes that his research can help point the way toward better understanding of U.S. correctional policies, help government officials make more intelligent correctional decisions, and contribute to improved justice processes by seeing how similar countries have been able to avoid the current situation the U.S. currently finds itself in.

“His past research is quite impressive,” said Thomas Janoski, associate professor of sociology and chair of DeMichele’s dissertation committee. “As soon as he earns his doctorate, he’ll be hot property on the job market.”

DeMichele already works as senior research associate at a local non-profit, the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA)/Council of State Governments (CSG); providing research, training, and technical assistance to community corrections agencies throughout the United States. As a researcher with APPA/CSG, he’s had opportunities to work with correctional professionals around the country, submit grant proposals, publish technical reports, and learn about corrections from hands-on experience in the field.

“My research is very pragmatic, trying to identify issues in community corrections policy,” he said. “My main focus is examining what is cost effective or ineffective in the corrections system. I also develop training curriculums to train probation and parole officers in the field, and I work with federal government policy analysts.”

His research has paid off, having already raised $31,000 in independent grant projects and approximately $3 million in funding for projects with APPA/CSG, and being project director for grant projects totaling $1.5 million. “The federal grant applications have been really nice,” DeMichele said, “and I have developed a reputation to do outside work and consulting.”

DeMichele is on track to receive his Ph.D. this year, and he has already published 14 peer-reviewed articles, four book reviews, eight essays and 10 technical reports; as well as a book-length monograph that will be printed by the Department of Justice in the spring of 2009.

DeMichele confessed that he eventually wants to work in academia full time, but plans to maintain connections with APPA/CSG. “For every article I publish or grant I secure, I get at least four or five rejections. I always liked the idea of competing and I never realized that academia could be that competitive.”

“The collaborative environment in the UK Sociology Department forced me out of my box, to work with other folks and to open my mind to different perspectives,” he said. “I like the broad perspective – a political science, sociology and criminal justice fusion.”

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