The American Bar Foundation awarded Amanda Hughett a prestigious Law and Social Science Dissertation Fellowship. She studies social movements and the criminal justice system in the post-WWII U.S. She holds a bachelor's degree in history and women's studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a master's degree in history from Duke University. She is the recipient of the Julian Price Fellowship in Humanities and History from Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library.
Her dissertation, entitled "Silencing the Cell Block: The Making of Modern Prison Policy in North Carolina and the Nation," examines how prison administrators, elected officials, lawyers, and judges reshaped corrections practices in response to the prisoners' rights movement of the 1970s. Drawing on inmates' voluminous correspondence and other writings, she begins by tracing the emergence of an interracial prison movement that sought to secure for inmates a wide range of rights, including fair wages, job training, a voice in prison governance, due process protections, and freedom from racism and violence. She then reveals how and why civil liberties lawyers' effort to win these rights for prisoners through constitutional rights litigation unintentionally conflicted with and ultimately undermined inmates' ability to organize behind bars. In so doing, her project seeks to probe the limits of federal litigation as a tool for social change while shredding fresh light on how state institutions respond to pressure from below.