University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Faith English


School or College: 

School of Public Health and Health Sciences


Jennifer Whitehill


Faith English is a PhD student in Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. Prior to enrolling in the graduate program at UMass, Faith worked in a variety of public health positions including as a Bilingual Home Visitor with teen parents in western Massachusetts, as a Referrals Coordinator at a Federally Qualified Health Center serving individuals experiencing homelessness in Portland, Oregon, and as a Client Navigator for people living with HIV and co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness. Faith decided to pursue an advanced degree in order to conduct health policy research that addresses the significant structural barriers that marginalized communities face.


My research seeks to address the public health crisis of mass incarceration and the overrepresentation of communities of color in the United States criminal justice system. Mass incarceration is caused in part by the criminalization of people who use drugs, including the “war on drugs”, launched in the 1970s. Efforts have been made to reduce incarceration rates, including the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis for adult use. The broad goal of my research is to examine the ways in which cannabis legalization may ameliorate or perpetuate the harms done by the war on drugs, particularly among youth of color. More specifically, my research will measure changes in cannabis-related arrest and citation rates among persons under the age of 21 in the era of cannabis legalization, and identify variations across subpopulations. Further, I will explore youths’ perceptions and experiences with school-based discipline and criminal justice involvement for cannabis or other drug offenses. 

My research will provide insights into the ways in which cannabis policy improves or worsens the issue of criminal justice involvement for youth. Prior studies in this important area are limited so this research is necessary as cannabis legalization becomes more widespread. The findings will be relevant to policy makers in MA and elsewhere seeking to minimize unintended consequences of cannabis legalization for persons under the age of 21. 


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