Jennifer Musto

Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies

Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, Director of the Knapp Social Science Center (KSSC), and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Anti-Carceral Co+Laboratory

An interdisciplinary scholar, Professor Musto's research examines the sociolegal dimensions and intersectional effects of policing and punishment in the United States, particularly anti-trafficking laws and system interventions pitched as protection, yet which expose survivors, sex workers, and migrants to carceral control within and beyond the criminal legal system. In her first book, Control, and Protect: Collaboration, Carceral Protection, and Domestic Sex Trafficking in the United States (University of California Press), she describes how anti-sex trafficking interventions in the United States underwrite carceral protectionist interventions that blur the boundaries between punishment and protection and state and non-state authority.

Her research also investigates alternatives to punishment, critically assessing the impact of policies that decriminalize activities, behaviors, and informal work still widely criminalized. In numerous peer-reviewed articles and essays, she uncovers the injurious yet under-examined effects of anti-trafficking policies and attendant criminal legal, family regulation, and tech platform governance shifts that extend carceral control beyond the criminal legal system, and create distinctive harms. She is working on a second book project, Trauma (Mis) Informed Justice that tracks the rise of trauma-informed courts and prisons in the United States and critically maps the affective politics and carceral care logics fueling reformers’ efforts to remake carceral punishment as gender-responsive, trauma-informed ‘care.’

A thread that links her research, teaching, and engaged work is a commitment to centering the expertise and organizing efforts of impacted community members to reimagine safety, care, and healing beyond carceral violence. Such commitments are reflected in her work co-directing with Laura Grattan (Political Science) the Anti-Carceral Co+Laboratory (ACC), an innovative regional hub that centers the expertise of women,girls, non-binary and gender-expansive people impacted by incarceration in the Northeast and which facilitates accountable co-learning exchanges between faculty, students, and community partners.

In 2022-23, Professor Musto was an External Fellow of the Humanities Center at the University of Rochester. She was also an External Faculty Fellow at Rice University and a postdoctoral fellow at USC. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation and the Fulbright program in the Netherlands, where she was a research affiliate of Utrecht University. She received her PhD from UCLA’s Department of Gender Studies.

An engaging public speaker and stalwart convenor, Musto has lectured widely on her research and organized events, curated speaker series, and hosted panel discussions and webinars on a sweeping range of topics, including reproductive justice, abolition/anti-carceral feminisms, data ethics, climate justice, and prison education programming.


  • B.A., DePaul University
  • M.A., University of California (Los Angeles)
  • Ph.D., University of California (Los Angeles)