Breea Willingham, PhD

Associate Professor of Criminology
University of North Carolina Wilmington

Dr. Breea C. Willingham is a tenured Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo and has nearly two decades of experience teaching and serving in university settings.

Prior to beginning her academic career, Dr. Willingham worked as a newspaper for 10 years reporter covering crime, murder trials, and school board meetings in the Carolinas and Upstate New York. She also taught journalism at St. Bonaventure University and sociology and criminal justice at SUNY Oneonta.

Influenced by her experiences as a sister and aunt of two men serving life sentences, Dr. Willingham’s research focuses on mass incarceration’s impact on Black families and how trauma informs Black women’s experiences in the criminal legal system. Her work on incarcerated fathers and their children, Black women’s prison narratives, teaching in women’s prisons, and Black women and police violence has been published in academic journals and edited collections.

Dr. Willingham has presented her research at academic conferences nationally and internationally, given lectures at universities in the United States and the United Kingdom, and facilitated writing and reentry workshops in women’s and men’s prisons. She has also appeared on numerous webinars and podcasts, sharing her expertise on race, gender, and crime, and higher education in prison.

She also served as the first Managing Editor of the Journal of Higher Education in Prison, which publishes solely on the topics and issues about higher education in prison.

Dr. Willingham is the editor of the anthology Punishment and Society, which she purposefully curated for educators who teach about the societal ramifications of incarceration. The text includes a collection of interdisciplinary readings focusing on race and gender in prison, incarceration’s financial and emotional impact on families and children, and mass incarceration’s impact on communities.

Dr. Willingham is currently writing a book about Black women in higher education in prison, under contract with Lexington Books, and another about missing Black women and girls.