Reuben Jonathan Miller, Assistant Professor
The experience of being incarcerated shapes people's lives forever, SSA Assistant Professor Reuben Miller found during 15 years of research and practice.
"Over the last two decades, scholars, practitioners, and policymakers have begun thinking about the causes and consequences of mass incarceration, but we’ve also witnessed the advent of mass supervision,” he says. “Criminal justice contact not only impacts the lives of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, but it changes how other people view them and shapes their relationships with friends, family, and their romantic partners. In this way, mass supervision has fundamentally transformed all of social life for the poor, and especially those poor people of color disproportionately targeted for criminal justice intervention.
Miller looks at the intersections of race, poverty, crime control, and social welfare policy in a book he is writing, Halfway Home, which looks at his work in Chicago, Detroit, and New York.
“In Chicago, I conducted an ethnography of the reentry experience, focusing on the lives of people released into halfway houses. I followed them as they transitioned back into society. In Detroit, I talked with people who were held in jails and police station lock up facilities, and followed them during their transition home,” he says.
In New York, he interviewed a group of formerly incarcerated activists, following them on their campaigns to change the laws and policies that regulate their lives.
In addition to his research in the U.S., Miller has done work in Europe to learn more about more about how crime control shapes social life in places with more or less robust welfare states than the U.S. Miller is extending his global research to look at the ways in which current criminal justice issues relate to the experience of slavery.
Miller developed his interest in working with prisoners as a church-goer in Chicago’s South Side, where he was moved by a biblical injunction to “care for the least of these.” He had family members as well as people he knew in the community who had been incarcerated, and he asked his pastor about setting up an outreach to people who had been imprisoned.
She encouraged his interest, and he became a volunteer chaplain at the Cook County Jail, a position he held for five years. “I led religious services and counseled men to help them cope with issues that ranged from the death of a loved one to the anxiety of their separation from family and friends,” he explains.
About the time he started volunteering, Miller entered Chicago State University, where he received a BA in general studies with an emphasis on psychology. “I realized that I needed more clinical training in order to work with the prisoners, so I decided to go to SSA,” he says.
He took graduate and doctoral courses at SSA and in Sociology, Anthropology, and the Divinity School. Wanting to learn more about the intersection of race, social welfare, and criminal justice policy, he pursued a PhD in Sociology at Loyola University Chicago, but sat in courses and attended talks on social theory, law, and the social sciences at the University of Chicago.
Before joining the faculty at SSA, Miller was an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan where he served as a Faculty Associate in the Population Studies Center and a Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Afro American and African Studies. In 2016, he was invited to membership in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, one of the world’s leading center’s for curiosity driven research.
“It’s a wonderful homecoming for me to be back at SSA. We have formed quite a collective of criminal justice scholars here at SSA, and I’ve benefited from collaboration with colleagues ‘across the Midway’ who work in my area,” he says.
Adrian Talbott has been named SSA's Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement, a new position established to further amplify the impact of SSA's research and generate new opportunities for collaborations and partnerships across sectors and disciplines, especially in the urban and global arenas.
Talbott, who has been serving as Director of Research Initiatives and Development in the University’s Office of Civic Engagement, says he is looking forward to new opportunities.
“SSA faculty and students embody the University’s core mission of civic engagement, and I am very excited to support their efforts to address the most complex social problems facing Chicago and urban communities around the world,” he says.
Talbott, who is now SSA’s primary liaison with the Office of Civic Engagement, began serving in the position during Autumn Quarter. He is in charge of advancing civic engagement activities, partnerships, and research at SSA, as well as supporting key strategic initiatives and building and expanding foundation relations.
Having such a role will extend and amplify the impact of faculty research, broaden and improve student opportunities, and elevate the School’s internal and external reputation as one of the world’s premier schools of social work.
At the Office of Civic Engagement, he was the primary liaison between the office and University faculty, academic units, and research entities conducting urban-focused research. He helped create new supports for faculty to increase the impact of their research. His also increased faculty connections with civic programs, community-based organizations, and national opinion makers.
Before joining the University, he oversaw the launch of the Clinton Global Initiative’s CGI Lead program for emerging global leaders and was the co-founder and executive director of Generation Engage, a national youth civic engagement initiative.
He received a BA from Amherst College and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Divinity at UChicago.
Israel (Issi) Doron, PhD, Israel Institute Visiting Professor (University of Haifa, Israel)
Human rights belong to older people as well as other disadvantaged people in society, contends Israel (Issi) Doron, who came to SSA as an Israel Institute Visiting Professor from the University of Haifa, where he was head of the Department of Gerontology and chair of the Center for the Research and Study on Aging.
“One of the reasons I came to SSA was to learn more about how women, African Americans, LGBT people, and others have secured their rights. SSA has been a leader in this area,” he says.
Doron‘s research looks at how the law intersects with aging. He edited Theories on Law and Aging (2008), and was a member of the UN Expert Group on elder rights.
He established a new NGO, Law in the Service of the Elderly, which is the first nongovernmental organization of its kind in Israel. At SSA he is teaching two classes, “Law, Social Work, and the Legal Regulations of the Social Work Profession, and “Older Adults—Activism and Human Rights.”
His interest in elder rights began when he was an intern at the Washington College of Law at American University, where he studied after receiving a law degree from Hebrew University Jerusalem.
“I was sent to do my internship at AARP. I had never heard of the law and its connection to aging. I fell in love with the topic and decided to import the idea to Israel,” he says.
He returned to Israel after receiving his law degree in 1994 and established a practice devoted to elder law, which turned out to be ahead of its time. He then decided to study social work to further his interest in law and the elderly and completed a PhD at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 2000. His dissertation was titled, “From Guardianship to Long-Term Legal Care: Law and Caring for the Elderly.”
He then joined the faculty of the University of Haifa’s School of Social Work and Department of Gerontology where he is an Associate Professor.
The issue of elder rights has come under a revolutionary change during the past decades as previous stereotypes of aging have given way to new perspectives advanced by active seniors who seek to remain engaged after retirement, he says.
Guardianship is an important legal issue in aging. It was based on the “best interest” doctrine, which usually meant someone other than the older person defined the care for the older person.
“What was happening was that decisions were being made in a courtroom, based on medical information, without the person involved even being present,” he says. A judge could award guardianship based on evidence of dementia or other illness.
Elderly could be forced to follow diets and take medicine they might not want and be institutionalized against their wishes. Guardianship would also end elderly persons’ ability to spend money as they wished.
Because of activism, the situation has since changed. Courts now provide a voice for older people, either in person or through an attorney. Power of attorney laws give people a chance to indicate their wishes. Alternatives to guardianship, such as assisted-decision making or providing assistance at home, have also changed the way older people live when they become frail.
Serving as a visiting professor brings him in touch with his family history as well. His father, Professor Abraham Doron, one of Israel’s leading scholars of social work, received his AM from SSA in 1959. “He’s 90 now and still actively engaged in promoting the Israeli welfare state, and coming to SSA is something of a closure for me,” Doron said.
Sara Caroline Furr
Sara Caroline Furr, an experienced administrator in higher education, has been appointed Dean of Students at SSA.
"I was attracted to SSA because of its mission promoting diversity, inclusion, and social change," she says. “At SSA, I want to work on the whole life course of students’ academic careers so that social change is a continuing thread from the time they are recruited through orientation, and through graduation,” she adds.
She was a first-generation college student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and became interested in social justice while in college. “I became a student leader to promote change. I was particularly passionate around issues involving race and racism, and I was involved in direct action regarding building names and university legacy,” she explains.
A mentor suggested she pursue a career in higher education, and she has since held several leadership positions at universities around the country.
Before joining SSA, she was Director of DePaul University’s Center for Identity, Inclusion and Social Change. In that position, she was responsible for diversity and social justice education initiatives, cultural programming, support to cultural student organizations, and identity-conscious leadership development. She has also had strategic planning experience.
She has served as Assistant Director of DePaul’s Office of Multicultural Student Success; Director, Office of Intercultural Development at Mount St. Mary’s University; Associate Director for Judicial Affairs at Fordham University; and Assistant Director, Office of Student Life at Loyola University Maryland (Baltimore, MD).
She received an MEd in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of South Carolina at Columbia, and an MA in Liberal Studies from Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, MD.
Furr completed a PhD in Higher Education in December 2017 at Loyola University, Chicago. Her dissertation title was titled “Wellness Interventions for Social Justice Fatigue Among Student Affairs Professionals.” She used a quasi-experimental and participatory action research design to understand the construct of social justice fatigue and learn from fellow practitioners how they move beyond surviving fatigue and begin thriving.