Crystal Hayes, MSW Ph.D. Candidate (ABD)

“I read, write, teach, and resist!”



Crystal M. Hayes, MSW Ph.D. Candidate (ABD) at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Her broad intellectual and political social justice commitments and research interests run deep. Born and raised in New York City at the end of the civil rights movement, on the cusp of the Black Power Movement raised by parents in the Black Panther Party, and coming of age during third wave Feminism. Living by the Audre Lorde quote “…silence will not protect you,” she has always tried to use her voice and work in service to others to tell the truth about racialized sexism and other forms of racial oppression. She is a dynamic public speaker and feminist blogger. She is involved in several social justice campaigns from reproductive justice to advocacy for prisoners and their families, and routinely writes about racial and social justice. Her work as a scholar and activist has been featured in various media outlets including MSNBC’s The Grio, Ms. Magazine, and various newspapers throughout the United States.

As a social work scholar, Crystal’s major research interests focuses on the birthing experiences of incarcerated pregnant Black women, and other Women of Color as a human-rights, feminist, and reproductive justice issue. She uses various anti-oppression theoretical frameworks like anti-racism, reproductive justice, anti-colonialism, and Black feminist theoretical frameworks to center the experiences of incarcerated Women of Color and their stories of arrest, imprisonment, childbirth, and motherhood. She is particularly interested in using her research to reduce health disparities of incarcerated pregnant women by promoting the need for gender-responsive, healing-centered, comprehensive health care interventions at the intersections of mental illness, substance abuse, and reproductive health. She seeks to specifically address the physiological and psychological implications of reproductive oppression and shackling incarcerated pregnant women and girls and its impact on their childbearing experiences. More broadly, she is deeply committed to prison reform policies that addresses the disproportionate impact that imprisonment has on women and girls of color and their families.

Crystal has received numerous fellowships and grants for her work. She is the 2017 and 2018 recipient of the national Mental Health and Substance Abuse Council on Social Work Education Minority Doctoral Fellowship Program. She was the recipient of the White House Equity Research Grant on Women and Girls of Color in 2016 and 2017. With the support of the White House grant, Crystal conducted a preliminary dissertation pilot study looking at the anti-shackling campaign in Massachusetts and its impact on the birthing experiences of incarcerated women.

Crystal has a MSW from the Smith College School for Social Work and she completed her undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College where she was a double major in Africana Studies and Politics. She has worked in nonprofit leadership and management, community mental health, and social work education. For example, she was the Director of Racial Justice and Maternal Child Wellness at the YWCA of the Greater Triangle in Raleigh, North Carolina. Crystal has also held several academic appointments both at the MSW and BSW levels in various capacities from adjunct to full-time lecturer, field-liaison, thesis advisor, and online Clinical Assistant Professor. She has taught at various institutions including the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, North Carolina State University in the Department of Social Work, Smith College School for Social Work, and Sacred Heart University in the Social Work Department.

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