Megan Lee Comfort

Senior Research Sociologist, RTI International
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
Chapter Member: Bay Area SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Megan

Comfort's research focuses on the repercussive effects of involvement with the criminal legal system on family relationships and health, with a concentration on how to promote wellbeing through system change. She is the author of two books that explore how families are affected by a loved one's incarceration. She serves on the advisory boards of Essie Justice Group, a non-profit organization run by women with incarcerated loved ones, and UnCommon Law, which provides legal representation, advocacy, and support for people serving life sentences so that they can safely return to their communities.


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

In the News

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


"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.
"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.
"’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.
"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.
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.