J. Wallace Borchert, PhD

I am currently a Visiting Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, at the City University of New York, and an Emerging Diversity Scholar at the National Center for Institutional Diversity, at the University of Michigan.  My  research remains devoted to an examination of human rights, citizenship, as well as macro-level inequality with a sharp focus on prisons and prisoners as objects of both legal and social negotiation and conflict. Currently, projects include: the prison to education pipeline or how formerly incarcerated prisoners find a pathway to higher education; health-care decision-making processes among prisoners; the ways prison workers’ religious beliefs and convictions interact with their world of work; the changing moral worth or value of prisoners within a landscape of evolving attitudes about mass incarceration, alternatives to incarceration and new forms of justice, as well as qualitative and mixed-methodologies

I received my PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in August 2016.  I was certainly the first former prisoner to ever earn a Doctorate in Sociology from Michigan, with committee support from Berkeley Law and Berkeley Sociology as well. My committee’s steadfast commitment to my very public facing scholarship, and its commitment to making prisons transparent and knowable is a strong show of support at the highest levels of academia, for active critically engaged prisons research and for Public Sociology.

While at Michigan I was a Rackham Merit Fellow, a Rackham Centennial Fellow, and a Mellon American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellow. My dissertation, “Prisoners, Prison Executives, and Correctional Officers: Three Explorations into the U.S. Prison Experience During the Era of Mass Incarceration” included work from three solo research projects I conducted in graduate school at Michigan and during three years at the Center for the Study of Law & Society at UC Berkeley School of Law. Each of these projects gathered reams of ethnographic and interview data that will keep me busy for years writing up my research in both book and article forms, as well as providing guidance for qualitative prisons scholars in methodological pieces. For an in-depth primer on how to conduct prisons research,  listen to an interview I gave to the Give Methods a Chance Podcast, from The Society Pages at the University Minnesota here:  https://thesocietypages.org/methods/2016/03/09/jay-borchert-on-conducting-interviews-in-prisons/

The first empirical chapter of my dissertation “A New Iron Closet: Failing to Extend the Spirit of Lawrence v. Texas to Prisons and Prisoners,” was recently published in The War on Sex, T. Hoppe and D. Halperin Eds. Duke University Press. This first piece of written work was awarded the Best Graduate Student Paper Award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Sexualities and the Best Graduate Student Paper Award, Honorable Mention, from the Society for the Study of Social Problems’ Division on Crime and Juvenile Delinquency

The second empirical chapter of the dissertation, Controlling Consensual Sex Among Prisoners was recently published in Law & Social Inquiry and can be found at this link Borchert-2016-Law_Social_Inquiry.

The third empirical chapter of the dissertation, Extremely Dirty Work, Like Prison Work, Requires Pre-treating, is now under review at a major sociological journal. I continue to work on numerous research projects related to data collected on each project I conducted in graduate school.

Prior to receiving the PhD, I received my BA in Sociology, Summa cum Laude, from DePaul University in 2010 and my MA in Sociology from the University of Michigan in 2012. I am honored to have been elected by my peers as the Chair of the Society for the Study of Social Problem’s Division on Law and Society for 2014-2016, where I now serve as the Chair-elect for the Lee Scholars Support Fund, which provides support for international students to attend SSSP annual meetings.

I am a  founding member of the Formerly Incarcerated College Graduate’s Network.  Our group of former prisoners has grown to nearly 500 members in its first year.  We are  dedicated to supporting educational opportunity for prisoners and former prisoners a like, by marshaling a human rights and social justice framework to tranform criminal justice policy and practice.

For some of my personal prison story, you can watch my appearance on LiveLaw4 “Life of the Law” titled “Hangin’ by the Telephone”, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqsDHKuQ46o

When I can, I love to travel with my partner Eric, to exciting, far-flung places. I enjoy snorkeling and diving, beaches, downhill skilling, hiking, cooking – each about treasuring the sheer amazingness of this planet and the people who live on it.

Email: borjay@umich.edu or  jborchert@jjay.cuny.edu