Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

The Influence of Stigma on Mass Incarceration and Homelessness

Publication Date



Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, College of


Sociology, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Erin Pryor

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Research indicates that various predictors of homelessness overlap, such as evictions, demographic characteristics, life histories, childhood adversities, psychiatric disorders, substance use disorders, and mass incarceration (Fusaro, Levy, and Shaefer 2018; Geller and Curtis 2011; Herbert, Morenoff, and Harding 2015; Whitbeck, Crawford, and Hartshorn 2012; Herbert et al. 2015; Roos 2013; Tsai 2019; Vangeest and Johnson 2002; Wildeman 2014; Whitbeck 2015). However, throughout our research, mass incarceration presented itself as a predominant overlap, being both a predictor of homelessness as well as a consequence (Geller and Curtis 2011; Herbert et al. 2012; Wildeman 2014). With the United States holding the highest incarceration rate globally (World Prison Brief, Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research), the cause and effects of mass incarceration in relation to homelessness are bound to reverberate in other ways throughout the social world. For example, the experience of incarceration revokes many rights that afford people access to secure housing, therefore, mass incarceration influences the unhoused population tremendously (Herbert et al. 2015; Geller and Curtis 2011; McNiel, Binder, and Robinson 2005; Wildeman 2014). This research aims to explore the stigmas attached to both homelessness and mass incarceration, and how these stigmas negatively affect access to safe and affordable housing for those formerly incarcerated and those experiencing homelessness. Through Dr. Pryor’s Social Research Methods course, we examined this relationship by evaluating previous scholarly research, surveying various college students, analyzing secondary data, conducting content analysis, and interviewing an individual who previously experienced homelessness and incarceration. This process, analyses, associated findings, and proposed future research will be discussed in this presentation.

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