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Cynthia Golembeski

JD Candidate at Rutgers Law School and PhD Candidate, The New School

About Cynthia

Golembeski uses mixed methods to analyze how policy, management, ethics, and law operate at the nexus of criminal legal and health systems. Her research focuses on how the political economy and socio-political determinants of health, safety, and welfare shape citizen-state relations, political choices, and policy implementation. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has supported her training and research as a Health Policy Research Scholar and she has been a Fulbright, USAID Research Innovation, and America Jewish World Service fellow in South Africa. 

In the News

Opinion: "Understanding Climate and Disability Justice: Mitigating Structural Barriers to the Right to Health," Cynthia Golembeski (with Ans Irfan, Michael Méndez, Amite Dominick, Rasheera Dopson, and Julie Skarha), Harvard Law School Petrie-Flom Center Bill of Health, August 8, 2023.
Opinion: "Jails and Pretrial Detention: A Human Rights and Health Justice Problem," Cynthia Golembeski (with Gabe Eber, Jackie Lantsman, and Homer Venters), Think Global Health, January 31, 2023.
Opinion: "What Are Bail Funds? Two Social Policy Experts Explain," Cynthia Golembeski (with Matthew Bakko), The Conversation, July 1, 2022.
Opinion: "Climate Change and Incarceration People in Prison Are Vulnerable to Extreme Temperatures, Diseases, and Displacement," Cynthia Golembeski (with Andrea Armstrong, Ans Irfan, Michael Mendez, and Nicholas Shapiro), Think Global Health, April 29, 2022.
Opinion: "National Security Risks and the American Weak Link," Cynthia Golembeski (with Ans Irfan, Jonathan Williams, and Ashley Bieniek-Tobasco), Council on Foreign Relations Think Global Health, October 14, 2020.


"Discretionary Ethics and Governing Public Affairs in Jails and Prisons" (with Gabriel Eber, Carolyn Sufrin, Jacqueline Lantsman, and Homer Venters), in Empowering Public Administrators: Ethics and Public Service Values, edited by Amanda M. Olejarski & Sue M. Neal (Routledge, 2024), 253-288.

Centers administration in U.S. jails and prisons as a case study. Reviews diverse literature and undertakes a conceptual analysis of balancing politics and administration as a constitutional principle, which establishes guidance and legitimacy for exercising administrative discretion. Argues that adopting a democratic constitutionalist framework enhances the capacity to protect constitutional and statutory rights, prevent liability, and promote health and safety for both incarcerated individuals and staff. Stresses the importance of leveraging soft power as part of duty-based ethics to uphold the Constitution.

"U.S. Bail, Pretrial Justice, and Charitable Bail Organizations: Strengthening Social Equity and Advancing Politics and Public Ethics of Care" (with Matthew Bakko, Shayla Wilson, and Twyla Carter). Public Integrity (2022).

Provides background on bail and pretrial justice policies and politics; outlines evidence of related consequences; describes select reform efforts and philanthropic tools, including the charitable bail organization The Bail Project; and contextualizes bail and pretrial justice within a public values framework, which centers social equity and incorporates critical race theory alongside politics and public ethics of care.

"Carceral and Climate Crises and Health Inequities: A Call for Greater Transparency, Accountability, and Human Rights Protections" (with Kimberly R. Dong and Ans Irfan). World Medical and Health Policy (2021).

Discusses how policymakers and health professionals can advance understanding and mitigate present and anticipated public health threats by increasing transparency, accountability, and human rights protections with an emphasis on decarceration and decarbonization.

"Food Insecurity and Collateral Consequences Among Justice-Involved Individuals Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic" (with Ans Irfan and Kimberly Dong). World Medical and Health Policy (2020).

Elaborates on how bans and eligibility modifications for people with felony drug convictions limit SNAP benefit access. Discusses how food insecurity, recidivism, and poor mental and physical health outcomes are positively associated with such bans. 

"Pandemic of Racism: Public Health Implications of Political Misinformation" (with Ans Irfan and Ashley Bieniek-Tobasco). Harvard Public Health Review (2020).

Discusses how misinformation amplified by political elites can lead to an increase in racism and discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities and other populations who experience vulnerabilities.

"COVID-19 and Women in the US Criminal Legal System" (with Carolyn Sufrin, Brie Williams, Precious Bedell, Sherry Glied, Ingrid Binswanger, Donna Hylton, Tyler Winkelman, and Jaimie Meyer). Harvard Law School Petrie-Flom Center Bill of Health (2020).

Explores how health and economic inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately harm women, and particularly women of color, involved in the criminal legal system.

"Improving Health Equity for Women Involved in the Criminal Legal System" (with Carolyn B. Sufrin, Brie Williams, Precious S. Bedell, Sherry A. Glied, Ingrid A. Binswanger, Donna Hylton, Tyler N. A. Winkelman, and Jaimie P. Meyer). Women’s Health Issues 30, no. 5 (2020): 313-319.

Discusses how over 1,000,000 women are under supervision of the U.S. criminal legal system. Outlines how with increased numbers in prison there are direct or indirect health effects impacting families and communities due to these increases.