Dr. McCorkel is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Villanova University and the Founder and Executive Director of the Philadelphia Justice Project for Women and Girls. She is program faculty in Villanova University’s Center for Irish Studies, Gender & Women’s Studies, and Africana Studies. During Fall 2017, she was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in the Sutherland School of Law at University College Dublin (Ireland).

Dr. McCorkel is one of the nation’s leading experts on gender and mass incarceration. Her research investigates race and gender disparities in punishment, the criminalization of survivors of gender violence, prison profiteering, the impact of parental incarceration on kids, and conditions of confinement in women’s prisons and jails. Her critically acclaimed first book, Breaking Women: Gender, Race, and the New Politics of Imprisonment (New York University Press), explores the impact of the War on Drugs and punitive crime policies on women’s prisons. It is the only behind-the-walls study of an American women’s prison during the height of mass incarceration and one of very few “classic-style” prison ethnographies produced in the last several decades. It was selected by the Society for the Study of Social Problems as a finalist for the prestigious C. Wright Mills Award.

Dr. McCorkel is at work on a second book that examines why both mainstream and progressive efforts to reform the criminal legal system have largely failed incarcerated and system-impacted women. In Dr. McCorkel’s powerful TEDx talk from this project, she summarizes the wrongful conviction case of a young Philadelphia mother to demonstrate how gender inequality, in the context of poverty and racial inequality, renders women particularly vulnerable to the abuses and excesses of mass incarceration and punitive crime policies.

Her research appears in leading scientific journals and has been featured in a variety of news outlets including Boston Globe, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Vox, Marketwatch, The Conversation, and Public Radio International. Her research has garnered numerous awards including the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology’s Division of Feminist Criminology and Villanova University’s Mid-Career Scholar Award. She is on the editorial boards of Punishment & Society, Incarceration: An International Journal of Imprisonment, Detention, and Coercive Confinement, and Journal of Higher Education in Prison. In 2023, Dr. McCorkel served as co-chair of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology.

Throughout her academic career, Dr. McCorkel has provided pro bono assistance to incarcerated women and men on petitions for commutation and parole. She also serves as an expert witness in criminal and civil cases and appellate matters. In 2020, Dr. McCorkel founded the Philadelphia Justice Project for Women and Girls, a non-profit 501(c)(3) research and advocacy organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration and gender violence. The organization led the advocacy campaign on behalf of India Spellman – the first wrongfully convicted woman to be exonerated in Philadelphia in more than a generation. The organization’s work was featured at the 2024 Innocence Network conference and in various news outlets including The Nation. In 2022, Dr. McCorkel was the recipient of the American Society of Criminology Division of Corrections and Sentencing’s Service award for her advocacy work with incarcerated people and their families.

At Villanova University, Dr. McCorkel teaches courses in the Sociology of LawPunishment & Society, and Introduction to Sociology. In 2021, Dr. McCorkel launched the university’s first-ever Research Seminar in Wrongful Convictions. The course provides hands-on-training for undergraduate students in how to provide effective research and advocacy in support of justice impacted individuals, families, and communities. For over a decade, Dr. McCorkel served as an advisory board member and instructor in Villanova’s undergraduate degree program at SCI-Phoenix (formerly Graterford), the largest maximum security prison in Pennsylvania. Dr. McCorkel has been a semi-finalist for the University’s Lindback Teaching Award and, in 2013, was selected by the senior class to give Villanova University’s “Last Lecture.” She received both the President’s Award and the LACEO (Latin American Cultural Exchange Organization) Award from students in her SCI Graterford courses. In 2022 Dr. McCorkel received the University’s Lafferty Award for her distinguished and lasting contributions to student education.

She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two dogs, and two parrots.