College of William and Mary (United States)


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. 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.

Principal Investigators

Mackenzie Israel-Trummel

Assistant Professor, Government, College of William and Mary

Mackenzie Israel-Trummel is an assistant professor of government at the College of William & Mary. Previously, she was an assistant professor of political science and an affiliate faculty member of Women's and Gender Studies and Latinx Studies at the University of Oklahoma. While at OU she co-founded the Community Engagement + Experiments Lab. She received her PhD from the Political Science Department at Stanford University in 2015. Her research interests are primarily in the field of American political behavior and include the politics of identity and the carceral state.

Nazita Lajevardi

Assistant Professor, Michigan State University

Nazita Lajevardi is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science. She received her PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 2017, her JD from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2012, and her BA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2009. Her work focuses mainly on issues related to race and ethnic politics, political behavior, voting rights, and immigration.