Comfort

Megan Lee Comfort

Affiliations
Senior Research Sociologist, Urban Health Program, RTI International, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
Areas of Expertise:
  • Children & Families
  • Criminal Justice

Connect with Megan

About Megan

Comfort's research focuses on what she calls the “repercussive effects” of incarceration on the health and well-being of prisoners and their families. Through ethnographic fieldwork, in-depth interviews, and quantitative questionnaires, she has investigated how being incarcerated oneself or having an incarcerated loved one affects one’s physical health, social relations, emotional well-being, and perceptions of justice. Comfort began her career working at a community-based organization that serves prisoners and their families, and has maintained strong ties to this and other CBOs throughout the years by reporting back key findings, collaborating on health interventions, and remaining up-to-date on the services provided by community partners.

Briefs

The Needs of Families of People Held in Local Jails

People with Family Members in Prison are Less Likely to be Engaged American Citizens

  • Hedwig Lee
  • Lauren Porter

Podcast

Publications

Doing Time Together: Love and Family in the Shadow of the Prison (University of Chicago Press, 2008).
Details the ways that prisons shape and infiltrate the lives of women with husbands, fiancés, and boyfriends behind bars.
"Taking Children Into Account: Addressing Intergenerational Effects of Parental Incarceration" (with Anne M. Nurse, Tasseli McKay, and Katie Kramer). Criminology & Public Policy 10, no. 3 (2011): 839-850.
Responds to the article by Sara Wakefield and Christopher Wildeman, “Mass imprisonment and racial disparities in childhood behavioral problems,” Criminology & Public Policy, 10(3), 2011. Explicates policy implications of Wakefield and Wildeman’s results, arguing that there is a critical need for action in three distinct areas: preventing families from being drawn into the carceral ambit through contact with police, courts, and correctional systems; infusing neighborhoods with high incarceration rates with the necessary resources to counterbalance the negative consequences of the absorption of their residents by the criminal justice system; and protecting children who experience parental imprisonment from its most traumatic and harmful effects.
"’It was Basically College to Us’: Poverty, Prison, and Emerging Adulthood" Journal of Poverty 16 (2012): 308-322.
Draws on in-depth interviews with young men who had recently exited state prison and their intimate partners to probe the meanings of incarceration for emerging adults, arguing that these narratives must be interpreted in the broader context of diminished social welfare and intensified socioeconomic disadvantage that force poor people to turn to a punitive institution as a “resource” for the social goods distributed through valorized channels to their more privileged peers. This analysis invites further research by highlighting the necessity of developing a thorough understanding of the dominant role of the prison as a shaping institution at a critical juncture in the lives of those born into poverty.
"A New Vulnerable Population? The Health of Female Partners of Men Recently Released from Prison" (with Christopher Wildeman and Hedwig Lee). Women’s Health Issues 26, no. 3 (2013): 335-340.
Demonstrates that the health of the female partners of recently released men is at least as poor as that of their male partners, suggesting a degree of vulnerability that has yet to be considered in the medical or public health literatures and a population that desperately needs medical attention with the full rollout of the Affordable Care Act in 2014.
"Discrimination and Psychological Distress Among Recently Released Male Prisoners" (with K. Turney and Hedwig Lee). American Journal of Men’s Health 7, no. 6 (2013): 482-493.
Shows how criminal record discrimination and racial/ethnic discrimination are independently and cumulatively associated with psychological distress among men who have been recently released from prison.

In the News

"HIV/AIDS among America’s People of Color: Think Local, Not Just Global," Megan Lee Comfort, Focus, 2005.
"Prison as a Refuge," Megan Lee Comfort, The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2, 2013.