Breea Willingham

Researcher, Professor of Criminal Justice


Breea Willingham is an associate professor for UNCW’s College of Arts & Science Criminology and Sociology department. COURTESY PHOTO: OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY RELATIONS/UNCW

Dr. Breea C. Willingham is a tenured Associate Professor of Criminology at the  University of North Carolina Wilmington. She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies  from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  

Influenced by her experiences as a sister and aunt of two men serving life sentences, Dr.  Willingham’s research focuses on mass incarceration’s impact on Black families and  how trauma informs Black women’s experiences in the criminal legal system. Her work  on incarcerated fathers and their children, Black women’s prison narratives, teaching in  women’s prisons, and Black women and police violence has been published in academic  journals and edited collections.  

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 facilitated writing and reentry workshops in women’s and men’s prisons.  She has also appeared on numerous webinars and podcasts, sharing her expertise on  race, gender, and crime, and higher education in prison. 

Dr. Willingham is co-founder of the Jamii (pronounced JAH-ME) Sisterhood, an  organization that offers a safe and innovative space for Black women working in higher  education in prison. She also served as the first Managing Editor of the Journal of  Higher Education in Prison, which publishes solely on the topics and issues about higher education in prison. 

Dr. Willingham is the editor of the anthology Punishment and Society, which she purposefully curated for educators who teach about the societal ramifications of  incarceration. The reader includes a collection of interdisciplinary readings focusing on  race and gender in prison, incarceration’s financial and emotional impact on families  and children, and mass incarceration’s impact on communities. Dr. Willingham is  currently writing two books – one about missing and murdered Black women and girls,  and the other about Black women in higher education in prison.

TOPICS: Criminal Justice, Policy, Women & Girls of Color

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