To Champion Civic Engagement for Felons

Discoveries at the U of M are building a more just and peaceful world

Christopher Uggen, a scholar who has left an indelible mark on the nation’s thinking and policies toward crime and justice, has been named a Regents Professor. It is the University of Minnesota’s highest faculty rank, held by only 30 professors.

Uggen (“you-gun”), who is Martindale Chair and Distinguished McKnight Professor of Sociology and Law, has opened new areas of research and shaped state and national policies, most notably in the areas of voting rights and the use of criminal records.

His work has shown that voting and other forms of civic engagement by felons and ex-felons lowered their future levels of criminal activity, and that some states’ denial of voting rights to ex-felons could have swung elections, including elections for the U.S. Senate and the 2000 presidential election. Since beginning to write about the effects of felon disenfranchisement in1998, he has been credited with providing the data that moved 26 states to re-enfranchise more than a million voters.

Christopher Uggen, blond hair, glasses, dark coat. Christopher Uggen, Regents Professor of Sociology and Law

Sociology

Uggen also discovered that job applicants with low-level criminal records face much less discrimination on that account if they can meet face-to-face with hiring managers. This finding was important in passing Minnesota’s 2014 “ban the box” law, which bans questions about criminal records on job applications but allows them at the interview or finalist stages.

“This is an overwhelming honor. It will help advance my projects on public criminology, which try to bring good research on crime and punishment to broader visibility and impact. I truly think the University of Minnesota is the best possible place to do the work I want to do … it’s been a wonderful home for me.”
Christopher Uggen

A sterling example of a public intellectual, Uggen “embraces the University’s mission to serve the public interest,” says a colleague. Uggen has testified at the Capitol in Washington on work and crime; at the White House on the effects of parental incarceration; and, through expert reports, to the U.S. Supreme Court on felon disenfranchisement.

Besides his stature as one of the country’s leading sociologists and criminologists, Uggen is a teacher whose evaluations routinely fly off the charts. He was recently elected vice president of the American Sociological Association, and he is a fellow of the American Society of Criminology.