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Research Interests

Mass incarceration

Trauma among incarcerated/formerly incarcerated individuals

Trauma-focused reentry services

Legacy of historical racial violence within criminal justice system


Maria is a PhD candidate in Social Work and an NIMH T32 Predoctoral Fellow.  She is also a Doctoral Affiliate at the Institute for Justice Research and Development at Florida State University’s College of Social Work.

For ten years prior to entering the doctoral program, Maria was a social worker for the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit human rights organization focused on reforming the criminal justice system.  In that role, Maria served on the legal teams of clients who were 13 and 14 when sentenced to die in adult prisons.  She also helped develop and implement trauma-informed reentry programming for men and women leaving prison after serving decades-long sentences, often beginning in childhood.

Maria returned to school in order to further develop social work knowledge about the experiences of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals to improve programming for this under-served population.  In particular, her research focuses on the gap in knowledge about the cumulative traumatic stress common in the lives of those who experience incarceration and the ways in which trauma and the history of racial injustice inherent in the criminal justice system create challenges in the reentry process, both for individuals leaving prison and the communities receiving them.

Maria’s dissertation, titled “Trauma Exposures Across the Life Course for Individuals Who Experience Incarceration: A Latent Class Analysis,”  will analyze data from a large, ongoing, multi-state RCT testing a reentry intervention.  Guided by an original theoretical framework, the Mass Incarceration Trauma (MIT) framework, her analysis will focus on the trauma histories of participants over time, including before, during, and after incarceration.  Findings from her dissertation will be used to inform future intervention research and design.

Curriculum Vitae