Professor Goodman uses prisons and punishment—and crime, criminal justice, and law, more generally—as lenses through which to consider questions of inequality, social structures, and the micro-dynamics of everyday life. At the heart of his scholarship is an attempt to ask how and why punishment changed during the past half-century or so, and how it is lived and experienced today. Professor Goodman has paid particular attention to race and ethnicity, individual change and behaviour over the life-course (including the concepts of ‘rehabilitation’ and persistence), and penal labour.
Goodman used California’s fire camps to understand punishment and penal change. This led to three articles: one on the socially constructed nature of rehabilitation in the contemporary period (published in Social Problems), a second examining questions of exploitation and agency vis-à-vis penal labour (published in a special issue of Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society), and a third, currently under review, on race, racialization, and punishment. He is also working on an article and a book (the latter is under contract with Oxford University Press) with University of Minnesota Professors Joshua Page and Michelle Phelps that re-examines state-level case studies of the criminal justice system in order to develop a mid-range, agonistic framework for better understanding penal change and the nature of the penal field. New and on-going projects include an examination of the penal drama surrounding the closure of Canada’s prison farms (with graduate student Meghan Dawe); an analysis of employment and ex-prisoners’ re-entry in the Greater Toronto Area (funded in part with a development grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council); and a planned project (with Professor Candace Kruttschnitt) interviewing persistent offenders to better understand the role of narratives in shaping patterns of criminal activity and how people make sense of their lives.