Michael C Campbell

Michael C Campbell

Associate Professor

  • Faculty

What I do

I research changes in law and policy that affect punishment, primarily in the United States. Much of my work focuses on state-level socioeconomic and political forces that affect state prison populations.


Penal policy; state politics; corrections; history, race and punishment

Professional Biography

Michael Campbell is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Denver. His research employs mixed research methods to examine the social, historical and political forces that shape law and policy, especially those associated with mass incarceration. Much of this work has focused on the forces shaping state-level developments that shape penal trajectories, including partisanship, crime and economic conditions. His work has been published in the American Journal of Sociology, Law and Society Review, Criminology, Punishment and Society and other sociological and criminological journals.


  • Ph.D., Criminology, Law & Society, University of California, Irvine, 2009
  • MA, European History, Indiana University, 2000
  • BA, History, Indiana University, 1995

Professional Affiliations

  • American Society of Criminology
  • Law and Society Association


My current research work includes a project funded by the National Science Foundation (with co-PI Heather Schoenfeld) that examines state-level criminal justice reforms that affect correctional populations and mass incarceration. The goal is to compare and contrast reforms across state contexts since 2000 to better understand how state and national forces have shaped policy reform efforts in the United States. This work aims to provide new insights into what types of actors and organizations deploy different resources in their efforts to shape penal policy. The ultimate goal is to identify successful paths away from mass incarceration and toward criminal justice policies that address rather than reinforce inequality.

Key Projects

  • The Changing Tides of Mass Incarceration: State Variation in Decarceration Reforms
  • 21st Century Justice
  • The Changing Tides of Incarceration: Explaining State Variation in Decarceration Reform

Featured Publications

Campbell, M. C., & Schoenfeld, H. A. (2013). The Transformation of America's Penal Order: A Historicized Political Sociology of Punishment." . American Journal of Sociology, 118(5), 1375-1423.
Campbell, M. C., Vogel, M., & Williams, J. (2015). Historical Contingencies and the Evolving Importance of Race, Violent Crime and Region in Explaining Mass Incarceration in the United States. Criminology, 53(2), 180-203.
Campbell, M. C. (2014). The Emergence of Penal Extremism in California: A Dynamic View of Institutional Structures and Political Processes. Law & Society Review, 48(2), 377-409.
Campbell, M. C. (2011). Politics, Prisons, and Law Enforcement: An Examination of the Emergence of 'Law and Order' Politics in Texas." . Law & Society Review, 45(3), 631-666.
Schoenfeld, H., & Campbell, M. C. (2023). Early 21st Century Penal Reform: Four states' responses to the problems of mass incarceration. Law & Policy, 45(4), 482-506.
Campbell, M. C., & Vogel, M. (2019). The Demographic Divide: Population Dynamics and the Rise of Mass Incarceration in the United States. Punishment & Society, 21(1), 47-69.
Campbell, M. C. (2018). Varieties of Mass Incarceration: What we learn from state histories. Annual Review of Criminology, 1(1), 219-231.


Campbell, M. C. (2023). Rethinking Recidivism. Colorado State Legislature, Recidivism Interim Committee. Colorado State Capitol, Old Supreme Court Room: Colorado Legislature.
Campbell, M. C. (2023). Dismantling Mass Incarceration: The Role of State Political Institutions. Law & Society Association Annual Meeting. San Juan, PR: Law & Society Association.
Campbell, M. C. (2023). Driving Change from Inside the State: How Corrections Administrators Helped Reduce (Some) State Prison Populations in the Early 21st Century. Presley Center Speaker Series. University of California, Riverside: Robert Presley Center of Crime and Justice Studies.
Campbell, M. C. (2018). Mapping State Penal Fields. American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting. Atlanta, GA: American Society of Criminology.


  • Outstanding Article Award , American Society of Criminology
  • Article Award Honorable Mention, Law and Society Association
  • Sociology of Law Section Distinguished Article Prize , American Sociological Association