John Irwin (1963)


John Irwin, Professor Emeritus at San Francisco State University (SFSU), passed away January 3, 2010. After a conviction for armed robbery and serving a five year sentence in California's prison system, he received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1968.

Irwin taught Sociology and Criminology at SFSU for 27 years. In prison he discovered that deviants and convicts were mostly ordinary human beings. This insight, not entirely appreciated by many academics who study crime and criminals, guided all of his academic and political activities. His considerable research on prisons included six books. 

While Irwin has contributed to many community programs over the years, he is best known for creating Project Rebound at SFSU in 1967. Project Rebound is a program that provides comprehensive support for ex-convicts to enter and complete degrees at SFSU. Over the last 40 years, many Project Rebound students have obtained BA, MA, and PhD degrees in various disciplines. As an organizer and leader of the Prisoners' Union in California, he worked closely with the California legislature on the Uniform Sentencing Act passed in 1976. He received the August Vollmer award from the American Society of Criminology (ASC) for outstanding contributions to criminal justice. John also served on the Board of Directors for the JFA Institute and the Sentencing Project.

John was one of the founding members of the Convict Criminology Theoretical Perspective. John has been a friend, mentor, and inspiration to many people in the Convict Criminology Group. He has been instrumental in helping many ex-convicts and non-convicts in their careers.

Dissertation Title
Career of the Felon