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Anjuli Verma is a doctoral student in UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law and Society. Her primary research interests pertain to the sociology of punishment, with an emphasis on examining how law, organizational behavior and legacies of mass incarceration within the U.S. have shaped emerging prison downsizing measures, such as California’s recent “Public Safety Realignment.” She serves on the advisory board for Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to providing analysis and solutions to advocates and policymakers pursuing more humane and cost-effective approaches to criminal justice and immigration reform. Before graduate school, she worked as a policy advocate and communications strategist on drug policy and criminal justice reform issues at the American Civil Liberties Union. She earned a B.A. in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia and during college interned at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama and the National Indian Human Rights Commission in New Delhi.
My Peterson Fellowship project contains two interlocking components, which will culminate in two separate manuscript submissions to leading scholarly journals in the sociolegal studies and criminology fields. The first is a qualitative content analysis of organizational documents produced by California county-level criminal justice officials in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s prison downsizing order in Brown v. Plata (2011) and the enactment of state legislation known as “Public Safety Realignment.” I analyze these documents as artifacts of a legal meaning-making process in which counties with divergent historical levels of reliance on incarceration produced divergent interpretations of the same legal mandate. This article will contribute to the law and society scholarship on legal translation processes, primarily through synthesizing the punishment and society and law and organizations literatures, as well as by introducing the historical concept of “legacies” to examinations of how local actors translate legal mandates into everyday practice. The second is a statistical analysis tracing counties’ multiple developmental pathways to current imprisonment levels in the decade leading up to Plata and Realignment (2000-2009). This article will produce quantitative insights crucial to contextualizing future changes in imprisonment rates in a post-Plata and post-Realignment era because they allow us to properly situate year-to-year fluctuations within significant historical imprisonment trajectories.