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Dr. Breea Willingham

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice

Portrait of Breea WillinghamDr. Breea Willingham is an assistant professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh. Her teaching and research areas include women in the criminal justice system, Black women’s prison writing, higher education in prison, the impact of incarceration on families, and race and crime in the media. Prior to beginning her academic career in 2005, Dr. Willingham worked as a newspaper reporter covering crime, murder trials, and school board meetings for 10 years in the Carolinas and Upstate New York. She also taught journalism at St. Bonaventure University, sociology and criminal justice at the State University of New York at Oneonta and earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2014.

As an interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Willingham’s research examines the intersections of race, gender, and the criminal justice system. She is particularly interested in examining women’s pathways to incarceration, their experiences in and after prison, and giving these women a platform to tell their stories.

Dr. Willingham has presented her research at academic conferences nationally and internationally, given lectures at universities in the United States and the United Kingdom, and led workshops in women’s and men’s prisons. Her work on incarcerated fathers and their children, Black women’s prison writing, teaching in women’s prisons, and Black women and police violence has been published in academic journals and edited collections.

In addition to her teaching and research duties, Dr. Willingham is the project coordinator on a Mellon-grant funded partnership between the State University of New York and City University of New York exploring ways to increase higher education opportunities for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in New York State.

Dr. Willingham is also writing a book about higher education in women’s prisons. The book — tentatively titled “What Good Would a College Degree Do for These Women?” is due to be released next year. The preliminary edition of Dr. Willingham’s anthology titled Punishment and Society — based on her course of the same name — was released in August 2018 and will be available nationwide in August 2019.


  • Ph.D., American Studies, State University of New York at Buffalo, 2014
  • M.A., Business Management, Webster University, 2000
  • B.A. Communications, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, 1994

Teaching Areas

  • Punishment & Society
  • Race, Crime & Justice
  • Women in the Criminal Justice System
  • Selected Issues in Criminal Justice: The Wrongfully Convicted
  • Media, Crime, and Criminal Justice
  • Topics in Criminal Justice: Higher Education in Prison

Research Areas

  • Mass Incarceration
  • Higher Education in Prison
  • Black Women and Police Violence
  • Women’s Prison Writing
  • Impact of Incarceration on Women
  • Criminalization of Race, Class and Gender
  • Wrongful Convictions
  • Media, Crime, and Criminal Justice

Recent Publications

  • Willingham, B. (2018) “Black Women and State-Sanctioned Violence: A History of Victimization and Exclusion” in Vanderwees, C. and Connolly, A. Lynching and Its Legacies: Racial Dynamics of Discipline and Punishment in American Culture [Special Issue]. Canadian Review of American Studies, 48(1), 77–94.
  • Willingham, B. (2017) Chapter 6. “Who Is She? The Invisibilization and Dehumanization of Black Women Murder Victims” in Moriarty, L.J. and Jerin, R.A. (Eds)., Current Issues in Victimology Research, Third Edition (pps. 93106). Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.
  • Willingham, B. (2017) Chapter 8. “It’s a Way to Get Out of Prison: Writing and Teaching in Women’s Prisons” in Haden, E.R. and Jach, T.R. (Eds)., Incarcerated Women: A History of Struggles, Oppression and Resistance in American Prisons (pps. 147165) Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
  • Willingham, B. (2014) Chapter 11. “Prison is My Family Business: Reflections of a Black Woman with Incarcerated Relatives Doing Research on Imprisoned Black Fathers” in Winter, A. and Lumsden, K. (Eds)., Reflexivity in Criminological Research: Experiences with the Powerless and Powerful (pps. 138149). London: Palgrave.


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