Associate Professor & Data Director of the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice
Erin Comartin joined the WSU School of Social Work faculty in 2016, after leaving a four-year faculty position at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. She received her Ph.D. and M.S.W degrees from Wayne State University. Her research focuses on social welfare policies and interventions for vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system. Her work predominantly focuses on individuals convicted of sex crime perpetration, and the laws that manage their re-entry into the community. Additionally, she has also evaluated interventions designed to divert individuals with severe mental illness from the criminal justice system. Her work has been published in Deviant Behavior, Psychiatric Services, The Journal of Policy Practice, and The Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics.
Prior to her research career, Dr. Comartin worked in residential facilities for runaway and homeless youth and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. She has worked as a crisis-line worker, an intervention specialist, a case manager, and a director within these programs. She has conducted program evaluations for various social interventions, mostly related to afterschool and early childhood education programs, as well as in substance abuse and mental health.
Degrees and Certifications
- Ph.D., Social Work, Wayne State University
- MSW, Wayne State University
- Post-Graduate Diploma of Arts in Community & Family Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand
- BA, Sociology, Oakland University
- Social Welfare Policy
- Advanced Policy Analysis & Social Action
- Macro Theory & Practice
- Program Design & Evaluation
- Advanced Systems Analysis
Areas of Expertise
• Individuals convicted of sex crimes
• Sex offender management policies
• Problem-solving courts
• Jail and prison diversion interventions
• Qualitative data analysis
• Quantitative data analysis
• Mixed-Methods analysis
• Program evaluation
5447 Woodward Avenue, Rm 029
- SW 8065 Advanced Systems Theories and Practices
- SW 8085 Theories and Practice of Social Policy and Social Action
Grand Challenges Project
Effective Criminal Justice Policy
Assistant Professor Erin Comartin is studying criminal justice interventions and policy related to two highly stigmatized populations: sex offenders and persons with severe mental illness. With funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Gov. Rick Snyder’s Mental Health Diversion Council, Comartin is working on a multi-county evaluation of interventions to divert individuals with severe mental illness from the criminal justice system. As part of the four-year evaluation, Comartin and a Michigan State University colleague will analyze data on the characteristics of individuals diverted from the system as well as the services, such as counseling and medication management, they receive from the diversion programs. Through the evaluation, they hope to identify best practices for helping individuals with severe mental illness avoid repeat involvement with the system.
Comartin is also contributing to the field’s understanding of sex crime perpetration and policy. Comartin is collaborating with Professor Poco Kernsmith and colleagues from Michigan State University and Oakland University on a survey comparing men and women incarcerated for a sex crime by demographics, offense and victim characteristics, childhood adversity, and adult experiences with violent victimization and perpetration. Noting that sex offender treatment programs have historically been developed for men, Comartin said the analysis should help to identify more effective treatments for women — particularly those whose offending is related to abusive relationships or past trauma — that can help to reduce recidivism after parole.
Comartin has also studied sex offender residence restrictions, registries and other post-incarceration management policies that are punitive, ineffectual in preventing recidivism, and socially isolating for offenders and their families. Specifically, Comartin has examined legislative testimony and discussion in states that have foregone the use of residency restrictions and interviewed leaders of organizations working to reduce punishments for offenders about their strategies and tactics for achieving favorable policies. Learn more