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The Researchers


Vesla Weaver

Principal Researcher

Vesla Mae Weaver (Phd, Harvard, Government and Social Policy) is the Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Johns Hopkins University and a 2016-17 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. She has contributed to scholarly debates around the persistence of racial inequality, colorism in the United States, the causes and consequences of the dramatic rise in prisons, and the consequences of rising economic polarization. 


During her early years as a graduate student, Weaver authored the first article in nearly two decades on the topic of punishment, she shortly thereafter published an award-winning book with Amy Lerman, Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control, the first large-scale empirical study of what the tectonic shifts in incarceration and policing meant for political and civic life in communities where it was concentrated. Weaver is also the co-author of Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America (with J. Hochschild and T. Burch).


Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Russell Sage Foundation, National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Brookings Institution. 


Tracey Meares

Principal Researcher

Tracey L. Meares is the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor and a Founding Director of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School.  Before joining the faculty at Yale, she was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1995 to 2007, serving as Max Pam Professor and Director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice. She was the first African American woman to be granted tenure at both law schools.


Professor Meares is a nationally-recognized expert on policing in urban communities, and her research focuses on understanding how members of the public think about their relationship(s) with legal authorities such as police, prosecutors and judges. She teaches courses on criminal procedure, criminal law, and policy and she has worked extensively with the federal government having served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Law and Justice, a National Research Council standing committee and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs Science Advisory Board.


In December 2014, President Obama named her as a member of his Task Force on 21st Century Policing. She has a B.S. in general engineering from the University of Illinois and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.


Gwen Prowse

Principal Researcher

Gwen is a joint doctoral student in political science and African American studies, with a focus on race and political economy in the United States. Her research explores how state policies shape political life, cities and federalism, and how the legacy of slavery shapes political institutions.   She is a research fellow with the Institute for Social Policy Studies (ISPS) and affiliated with the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School.  Prior to coming to Yale, Gwen worked in education and community development across urban and rural communities in New Jersey, Arkansas, and Delaware. 


Demar Lewis

Research Assistant

Demar F. Lewis IV is a PhD student in the Departments of Sociology and African American Studies at Yale University. He is generally interested in exploring how the presence of framing agents and framing institutions in the carceral state shape prisoner reentry outcomes, police-citizen encounters, and health disparities in marginalized communities.

Demar’s research agenda is concerned with exposing the resilience of trauma, “crime scripts,” and social inequities in American communities that have experienced historical racial or state-sanctioned violence. His master’s thesis leverages a unique mixed-methods approach to empirically study lynching as a national phenomenon with political motivations beyond the scope of racial prejudice. Additionally, Demar’s research seeks to examine how communities navigate traumas and health disparities associated with officer-involved killings and frequent contact with the criminal justice system.


Sara Erickson

Research Assistant

Sara holds an MA in Material and Visual Culture through University College London’s Anthropology Department where she conducted fieldwork in the unofficial refugee settlement, the Calais ‘Jungle.’ She is interested in points at which material culture, human rights and/or social justice issues intersect; including aesthetic and media responses, materialized memory, imagined realities.


Sara joined the Portals Policing Project in May 2017, as the Project Coordinator at Shared_Studios overseeing the Curators and the day-to-day data collection. She then transitioned to a research assistant role when data collection concluded in March 2018.


Quinn Seau


Research Assistant

Quinn Seau is a member of the 2020 graduating class at Johns Hopkins University, majoring in Public Health Studies. He is originally from San Diego, California. Quinn joined the Portals Policing Project team in the summer of 2018 through the Bloomberg Distinguished Professors Summer Undergraduate Research Program. On campus, Quinn is involved with Organización Latina Estudiantil and JHU Model United Nations Conference. 

Sophia-Rose Diodati


Research Assistant

Bio coming soon...

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