Episode 23 | Part One: David Kirk, Professor of Sociology and Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Episode Information

This week, Katie welcomes ChangeMaker, David Kirk, a Professor of Sociology and Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College at the University of Oxford. David uses experiments and social network analysis to examine why people commit crime as well as innovative solutions to helping them to stop. In part one, David discusses his findings in the Maryland Opportunities through Vouchers Experiment and his book, Home Free, which traces the effect of residential displacement among formerly incarcerated individuals in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

About David Kirk:
Dave Kirk is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Oxford University. He previously was on the faculties of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Maryland and completed his PhD at the University of Chicago. Dave is a criminologist and urban sociologist with a research agenda focused on examining the causes and consequences of gun violence as well as identifying solutions to criminal recidivism.

Kirk’s new book, Home Free (Oxford University Press 2020), traces the effect of residential displacement among formerly incarcerated individuals in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The central hypothesis of this research is that high rates of recidivism in the United States and other countries are partly a function of the fact that many released prisoners return home to the same environment with the same criminal opportunities and criminal peers that proved so detrimental to their behavior prior to incarceration. Kirk’s findings from this natural experiment reveal substantial reductions in rates of reincarceration among former prisoners who moved away from their former parishes.

A strong proponent of translational research, in recent years Kirk has applied the lessons learned from his Katrina research to design and implement an experimental housing mobility program for formerly incarcerated individuals. He designed the Maryland Opportunities through Vouchers Experiment (MOVE) to incentivize and facilitate residential relocation among released prisoners by providing a free, privately funded housing subsidy as well as housing relocation assistance to voluntary participants. A pilot of the MOVE program was implemented in four Maryland prisons in 2015 and 2016.