Mary Ellen Mastrorilli
Associate Professor of the Practice Chair, Applied Social Sciences
Dr. Mastrorilli’s research interests focus on female offenders, community corrections, and law and society. She holds over twenty-five years of experience in positions ranging from correction officer to prison administrator. She is the recipient of the Correctional Association of Massachusetts’ Professional Excellence Award, as well as the Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award given by the National Center for Women and Policing. Mastrorilli teaches courses in criminal justice and sociology.
- MET SO 100 – Principles of Sociology
- MET CJ 701 – Crime and Punishment
- MET CJ 703 – Research Methods
- MET CJ 711 – Criminal Justice Policy and Planning
- MET CJ 831 – Criminal Justice Administration
- Introduction to Criminal Justice
- The Female Offender
Publications (peer reviewed)
“With Pell Grants Rising: A Review of the Contemporary Empirical Literature on Prison Post-Secondary Education.” Journal of Correctional Education 67, no. 2 (September 2016): 44–60.
Mastrorilli, M., Norton-Hawk, M., and Usher, N. “Once a Criminal Always a Criminal? A 15-Year Analysis of Recidivism among Female Prisoners in Massachusetts.” Géneros—Multidisciplinary Journal of Gender Studies 4, no. 3 (2015): 784–805.
Mastrorilli, M., Norton-Hawk, M., and Rousseau, D. “How Far Have We Come? The Gluecks’ Recommendations from 500 Delinquent Women.” Federal Probation 78, no. 1 (June 2014).
Ransom, G., and Mastrorilli, M. “The Massachusetts Boot Camp: Inmate Anecdotes.” The Prison Journal 73 (1993): 307–318.
Publications (non-peer reviewed)
Mastrorilli, M., Matesanz, J., and Rousseau, D. “Understanding the impact of a liberal arts education in corrections.” Corrections Today, July/August 2016.
“How to Help the Growing Female Prison Population.” Scientific American MIND Guest Blog. April 7, 2015.
Norton-Hawk, M., Usher, N., and Mastrorilli, M. E. “Alternatives to High Cost Incarceration for Prostitution-Related Offenses.” Offenders Programs Report 18, no. 5 (2015): 65–68(4).
“Putting the Care into Care, Custody, and Control.” Corrections Today, September/October 2014.
Norton-Hawk, M., Sered, S., and Mastrorilli, M. E. “History Repeats Itself: The Life Course of Women Released from Prison.” Offender Programs Report 17, no. 3 (2013): 35–36(2).
Women in Transition (VDM Verlag, 2009).
Book review of Women and (In)Justice: The Civil and Common Law Effects on Women’s Lives by Sheryl Grana. Bimonthly Review of Law Books 14, no. 2.
Mastrorilli, M., Norton-Hawk, M., and Sered, S. “Why Recidivism Among Massachusetts Women Is Higher Today than It Was In The Past.” Invited Speaker, Massachusetts State House, Joint Committee on Families, Women, and Children, 2014.
Cronin, S., Rousseau, D., and Mastrorilli, M. “The Role of Neighborhood Context in Shaping Media Attention to Homicide Incidents.” 2013 American Society of Criminology Conference, Atlanta, Ga., 2013
“Promoting Academic Integrity in the Classroom.” Invited Speaker, Boston University Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching, 2013.
Norton-Hawk, M., and Mastrorilli, M. “Where Are They Now? Women’s Life Trajectories Post Incarceration.” 2012 American Society of Criminology Conference, Chicago, Ill., 2012
“Prison and Personal Connection: A Contradiction in Terms?” 2012 Law and Society International Conference. Honolulu, Hawaii, 2012.
“Female Offenders: Part Victim, Part Criminal.” Invited Speaker, Guest Lecturer Series in Forensic Nursing. Boston College School of Nursing, 2011.
“Should Prisons be Relational: An Impact Evaluation of a Minimum Security Prison for Female Offenders.” Workshop presented at the National Conference on Adult and Juvenile Female Offenders, Jackson, Miss., October 10-14, 2009.
“Women and Reentry: Look Who’s Coming Back to the Neighborhood.” 12th National Workshop on Adult and Juvenile Female Offenders, Baltimore, Md., 2007.
“The Social Control of Women: Rethinking the Incarceration of the Female Offender.” Student research conference at the University of Massachusetts/Boston—Social Inequalities in a New Century, 2006.
“Gender-Responsive Intermediate Sanctions: Do They Work?” 11th National Workshop on Adult &Juvenile Female Offenders. Bloomington, Minn., 2005.
Policy Briefs/White Papers/Essays
“POV: Obama’s Ban on Juvenile Solitary Confinement: More Than Rules Needed to Solve Problem.” BU Today (March 14, 2016).
“Replacing ‘Hard Cells’ with ‘Soft Cells’: A Hard Sell for Criminal Justice Policy Makers.” Submitted to Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Council (2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1881084 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1881084.
“Women in Transition: Application of Relational Theory to the Evaluation of a Minimum Security Prison for Female Offenders.” Research monograph, 2008.
What are your areas of expertise?
My areas of expertise are corrections and criminal justice management. Having worked in the prison system for over 24 years, I feel I can offer knowledge about penology from both a theoretical and applied perspective. My research interests include the female offender, community corrections and reentry, and more recently post-secondary education for incarcerated individuals.
Please tell us about your work. Can you share any current research or recent publications?
Recently, two of my colleagues from MIT received a grant from the Vera Institute of Justice, a distinguished nonprofit criminal justice research and policy organization. The funds are for a planning grant to harness resources from across the state for college education to be delivered inside prisons. With the money, they have created the Massachusetts Prison Education Consortium. Boston University, which has a long, generous history in this area (it has been offering college degrees to prisoners since 1972) is a member of the consortium. I represent BU in this association and sit on its research committee. Members of the research committee are actively planning projects to closely examine the effects of prisoner post-secondary education on recidivism, employment, and wages.
Regarding recent publications, I was invited to work with an MCJ alumnus, Chris Kayser, on the social and human dimensions of cybercrime victimization. Cybercrime is not my usual forte but I thought it would be a good idea to educate myself on the topic by working with one of our graduates who is a highly-regarded cybercrime expert in Canada, thanks, in part, to his cybercrime concentration earned here at MET. After about 18 months of work (and with the assistance of MET Associate Professor Emeritus, Dr. Robert Cadigan) we have a peer-reviewed article coming out soon in a cybersecurity journal.
How does the subject you work in apply in practice? What is its application?
The two courses I teach most often are Criminal Justice Administration (MET CJ 831) and Criminal Justice Policy and Planning (MET CJ 711).The field of criminal justice has been slow to adopt policies and programs in a thoughtful, coherent way. I tell my students that criminal justice practitioners implement policies based on “lawsuits, accidents, and crises.” While this is unavoidable, the field can do better by undertaking “planned change” so I teach the skills and steps on how to do this. Criminal justice practitioners must be effective leaders and managers, so we focus a lot on how to lead in organizations that prefer to work in obscurity but are facing increasing levels of scrutiny.
What courses do you teach at BU MET?
In addition to the two courses previously mentioned, I also teach Crime and Punishment (MET CJ 701) and Research Methods (MET CJ 703). Both courses are incredibly important to the field. As criminal justice practitioners, our students are held to a higher moral standard than non-public servants. So, we take a deep dive into the ethical issues facing public sector employees. Also, as the field becomes more focused on implementing evidence-based policies and programs, understanding the scientific method is now more important than ever.
Please highlight a particular project within these courses that most interests your students. What “real-life” exercises do you bring to class?
One of my favorite assignments is to have students read an investigation generated by the U.S. Department of Justice and prepare policy briefs on one of the recommendations noted in the report. Students are often shocked at the disturbing violations that occur in some police departments and prisons. So the assignment is a good reality check on why strong management, leadership, and ethics are important in the field; and it also provides them with an opportunity to problem-solve in a meaningful way.
What advice do you have for new students?
Two pieces of advice: Don’t hesitate to reach out to faculty for academic support and guidance; and work hard to engage fully in the educational experience that Boston University has to offer. If you do, you will leave with a solid education, professional connections, and even some rewarding friendships and lasting memories.