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Michael Gibson-Light

Michael is an Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminology at the University of Denver specializing in the study of punishment, work, and inequality. His research illuminates the often-obscured experiences and struggles of working prisoners through ethnographic observations, interviews, and historical and archival analyses.

Michael's book, Orange-Collar Labor (2022, OUP) examines lived experiences of prison life and labor. Following 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork and over 80 interviews conducted within a US state prison, it explores the structure and practices of work behind bars. In so doing, it documents the reproduction of social inequalities in this setting.


Other research explores the rise of cheap food like ramen as informal money within US prisons. Early findings were reported on in the Guardian, Washington Post, BBC, NPR, the Atlantic, Time, US News & World Report, and over 100 other reputable news outlets.

Michael's book, Orange-Collar Labor, draws on ethnographic fieldwork within a US state prison and over 80 interviews with working prisoners and institutional staff members to explore the realities of prison labor today. Available from Oxford University Press.