This summer, CCJS Assistant Professor Rob Stewart discussed the consequences and inequalities associated with being labeled as a “felon” on the Emerson Collective Podcast “Almost There.”

On the episode titled “How does it feel to be known as a ‘felon’ forever?”, Stewart talked with host Dwayne Betts about how his life experiences have shaped his research agenda. A sociological criminologist, Stewart also discussed some of the findings from his work on the social, political, and collateral consequences associated with a criminal label.

“…the reality is [going to prison] is an overwhelming experience that envelops your life,” he said. “It affects every area of your life.”

Stewart spoke of how approaches to studying the effects of incarceration need to consider the complexity of the human experience.

“My whole approach to the work that I do is trying to push people to rethink how big these experiences affect people and their families and their communities from a holistic perspective,” he said. “Because I think we have to really rethink the labels that we apply to people. I think we have to rethink how we reduce people from these very complex, infinitely complex human beings with views and experiences and likes and dislikes and all these other things to that one little event that happened in their life, and that one little event becomes so determinative to the rest of their life.”

Stewart emphasized that approaches to minimizing harmful effects of incarceration and a criminal label shouldn’t be black and white.

Given the accumulating difficulties and inequalities experienced by those formerly incarcerated, he articulated a resolve towards working to better understand and better address these compounded, complex inequalities.

Stewart, an advocate of public criminology, asserts that communicating the findings of research effectively to policymakers, practitioners, and the public is a fundamental part of scholarship.

“…I have to continue doing the work that I’m doing. There’s never a there for me. It’s always working towards a destination, but the destination is always going to keep moving away from me because I don’t think that there’s ever a point at which we’re going to be able to eliminate all of the injustices that exist,” he said. “But I think we have to keep trying…my hope is that throughout my career and throughout my life, I’m able to make at least some type of dent.”

Listen to the full podcast episode here.

Rob Stewart