Owens specializes in urban politics, state and local politics, and the politics of mass incarceration. He has done research on governance and public policy processes, religion and politics, and African-American politics. Owens is an associate of Emory's Center for Community Partnerships, Vulnerability and the Human Condition Project, and Center for the Study of Law and Religion. He serves on the boards of the Urban Affairs Association, National Housing Institute, Law & Social Inquiry: Journal of the American Bar Foundation, and Politics & Religion. His current book project is Prisoners of Democracy, a study of the politics, policies, and attitudes that diminish the positive integration of felons after their imprisonment.