Dr. Nazita Lajevardi receives grant to study attitudes toward the release of inmates during Covid-19

September 18, 2020

Jail and prison inmates are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and advocates are calling for the release of non-violent offenders. Whether this will succeed depends on public attitudes toward the incarcerated and health emergencies, according to a new MSU PLS research grant.

Dr. Nazita Lajevardi, Assistant Professor of Political Science, is surveying these attitudes with a Dr. Mackenzie Israel-Trummel from the College of William and Mary as part of a Rapid-Response Grant on Covid-19 and the Social Sciences.

Dr. Lajevardi received two of the grants fom the Social Science Research Council in the most recent round. She is also working with Drs. Sarah Reckhow and Ana Bracic to study how young voters are affected by social pressure amid the pandemic.

"Covid-19’s impact on the incarcerated population is a pressing humanitarian issue. Inmates are disproportionately more likely to be afflicted by the disease, and large percentages of inmates have tested positive," reads the abstract from the Lajevardi grant proposal.

"In response, advocates have encouraged people to reach out to elected officials and call for the release of non-violent and/or at-risk offenders. Whether this call to action can succeed broadly remains an open question. This project uses a randomized survey experiment to answer two questions: First, can the mass public be moved to empathize with those behind bars to advocate for release? Second, is attention to the health conditions in the context of Covid-19 jails and prison changing attitudes toward incarceration and punishment in the United States? These questions are pressing since we know relatively little about how punitive attitudes might change in response to health crises in prisons, and public opinion is an important driver of carceral state expansion."

More information on the Rapid-Response grants can be found at: https://covid19research.ssrc.org/rapid-response-grants-on-covid-19-and-the-social-sciences/grantees/