Sean B. Blackwell

Personal DetailsBlackwell, Sean B.

Sean grew up (mostly) in Idaho, which he promptly fled after high school. Five years at Texas Christian University and a B.S. in Criminal Justice set the stage for multiple journeys to the UK, where Sean eventually attended the London School of Economics & Political Science to earn a M.Sc. in the Sociology of Crime, Control, and Globalization. After writing about the use of torture in the War on Terror, Sean returned to Idaho, where he first worked as a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist assisting children with building resilience and skills to live with mental health diagnoses. In spite of two promotions to team leadership and documentation auditor positions, Sean sought a different challenge and accepted a position as a senior probation & parole officer supervising convicted felons. Two years of this fieldwork opened the door for Sean to begin teaching undergraduates full-time as an instructor in the College of Idaho’s Sociology & Anthropology programme, where he specialises in criminal justice, criminology, race & gender, and cultural sociology teaching. These professional experiences ignited a desire to study community corrections at the PhD level, which Sean pursued by applying to the University of Leicester. When he is not working on his PhD, Sean plays guitars, pursues documentary film making and photography, and enjoys time with his wife and two children.


Sean’s research project is tentatively titled “Culture and Narrative: Identity and Meaning-Making among Community Corrections Officers and Supervised Felons”. In the midst of significant community corrections reforms throughout the US (and UK), moral entrepreneurs of many stripes are promoting justice reinvestment initiates and other efforts to reduce prison populations, mostly through dramatic increases in community supervision of non-violent, drug offenders. Whilst justice re-investment and other programmes have received some scholarly attention, few studies have examined how culture and identity mediate these reforms among front line implementation agents: probation/parole officers and their felony clients. Sean’s proposed research seeks to apply cultural and narrative criminological perspectives to an ethnographic study of a rural, northwestern US felony probation/parole agency in the midst of justice re-investment reforms. Sean intends to capitalize on his status as a former officer to gain access to this oft-impenetrable setting, where he will use fieldwork ride-alongs, office visit observations, interviews, and visual methods to explore how probation/parole officers and supervised felons navigate top-down reforms.

Sean is supervised by Dr Sam King and Dr Wendy Fitzgibbon.

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