Boston University (United States)


We will catalog and analyze different American metropolitan governments’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, with a focus on courts and judiciary-adjacent institutions. First and foremost, we seek to map out the reconfiguration of the carceral state as local governments grapple with how to manage their judicial systems in the midst of a pandemic. Along the way, we will identify best practices, so that local governments can protect its citizens against threats to public health—many of which are new threats, created by the interaction between the pandemic and carceral state policies and practices. We will also investigate sources of variation in criminal justice responses. Do cities’ racial demographics, institutional configurations, fiscal capacity, and state political climates help to explain how they respond to the Covid-19 crisis? In sum, in the context of a pandemic, how do changes in carceral state policies and practices ameliorate or amplify existing inequalities?

Principal Investigators

Spencer Piston

Assistant Professor, Political Science, Boston University

Spencer Piston is an assistant professor of political science at Boston University. His research analyzes race, class, the welfare state, and the criminal justice system. He is the author of Class Attitudes in America, which was published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press. Piston was named a Distinguished Junior Scholar by the Political Psychology Section of the American Political Science Association.

Katherine Levine Einstein

Associate Professor, Boston University

Katherine Levine Einstein is an associate professor of political science at Boston University and a faculty fellow at Boston University's Initiative on Cities. She studies urban politics and policy, housing policy, and racial and ethnic politics. Her most recent book, Neighborhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America's Housing Crisis, explores whose voices are represented in housing development. She has also published multiple peer-reviewed journal articles, and has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. She is a principal investigator of the Menino Survey of Mayors, a multiyear dataset of survey-interviews of US mayors exploring a wide variety of political and policy issues. Her current projects explore the political representation of renters in local, state, and national politics.

Lauren Mattioli

Assistant Professor, Boston University

Lauren Mattioli is an assistant professor of political science at Boston University. Her research and teaching focuses broadly on the institutions of American government, with particular emphasis on inter-branch relations. She teaches courses on the presidency, judicial politics, and gender. Her work has appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science and the British Journal of Politics and International Relations. Mattioli is working on a book project titled “Governing the Federal Judicial State” about how presidents have enacted policy agendas by interacting with courts from the Nixon to Trump presidencies.