Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Scott Peters, Honors Thesis Advisor


Political participation--United States; Criminal justice, Administration of--United States;


In light of the events of the summer of 2020 with the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breanna Taylor, the United States has seen nationwide protests. The purpose of this research is to further examine the relationship between the criminal justice system and the individuals who come into indirect contact with it. The carceral state, or criminal justice system, has expanded rapidly in the last fifty years. An institution of its size and influence has far-reaching consequences, including on those who do not directly come into contact with it. This can affect how everyday citizens interact with the state generally.

The rise of the institution of the carceral state has played a large role in the ever-expanding nature of political participation, for which political science has tried to account. As such, the research in this area has grown and evolved over time. There has been some research done on the impact of incarceration on one’s participation but not as much research exists studying the influence of proximal contact with the criminal justice system upon one’s political participation. This paper aims to take that research further by focusing on the effects of proximal contact with the carceral state on one’s political participation, broadly defined. In sum, the existent research of the effects of proximal contact with the carceral state is unsatisfactory--this paper seeks to fill this gap in the literature and to better understand the implications of a far-reaching carceral state presence in the lives of everyday citizens.

Based upon existent political science and criminal justice research, I hypothesize that increased proximal contacts with the carceral state will increase political participation; and, 2), that this effect is greater among nonwhites than it is among whites. I test these hypotheses by analyzing the results of a national survey, finding that there is a positive relationship between proximal contact with the carceral state and political participation, but that there is no significant relationship between race, proximal contact, and political participation.

Year of Submission



Department of Political Science

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (35 pages)



File Format