Research informed advocacy, expert witness consulting, training for social scientists, legal practitioners, and community stakeholders

Public Sociology & Criminology

Social scientists have a crucial role to play in the justice reform movement. Most notably, social scientists can and should be producing knowledge that serves a variety of publics–from policymakers to communities that bear the brunt of discriminatory and punitive crime policies. As the sociologist Michael Burawoy observes, “Today as never before, sociology as a vocation means walking on two legs–science and engagement.”

Dr. McCorkel’s advocacy work is evidence-based and informed by and through dialogue and collaboration with people and communities who are directly impacted by mass incarceration, violence, and the criminal legal system. She is the founder and director of Philadelphia Justice Project for Women & Girls, a non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration and gender violence. She provides expert witness testimony, collaborates on amicus briefs, has served on the advisory board and as an instructor in Villanova’s undergraduate degree program at SCI-Phoenix (the largest maximum security prison in Pennsylvania), and consults on trial strategies, appellate matters, and petitions for parole and commutation. In 2022 the American Society of Criminology Division of Corrections & Sentencing honored her contributions to public criminology with the Distinguished Service Award.

Philadelphia Justice Project for Women & Girls

In 2020, Dr. McCorkel launched Philly Justice Project, a 501(c)(3) research and advocacy organization dedicated to combating the growing crisis of gender violence and mass incarceration in the lives of women and girls. The organization provides: 1) expert assistance to women and girls fighting wrongful convictions and unjust sentences, 2) policy-relevant research on gender, violence, and mass incarceration, and 3) educational programming, training, and technical assistance to stakeholders including impacted families, community advocates, students, attorneys and members of the judiciary.

The organization led the advocacy effort to free India Spellman. Spellman was wrongfully convicted as a teenager and spent over a decade in prison for crimes she did not commit. In 2023 India became the first woman to be exonerated in Philadelphia in more than a generation.

2024 Innocence Network Conference with David Sparks, India Spellman, LaTonya Myers, Jill McCorkel, Morkea Spellman, and Yasmin