American Sociological Association

Sociology in Action: Tyson Smith

Tyson Smith, health research consultant who teaches in the Urban Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania, worked with the Veterans Legal Foundation located in Chester and Philadelphia, PA, where he advocated for incarcerated veterans. ASA asked Smith about that work:

What is the mission of the Veterans Legal Foundation? The organization advocates and organizes on behalf of incarcerated veterans, many of whom are aging and have significant health concerns.

Can you describe the project? I attend their monthly meetings on the inside (in prison) and, when I can, attend their monthly meetings that happen on the outside. I help them with writing, analyzing data, and communications. I try to educate the public on the issues that incarcerated veterans face.

What sociological knowledge and/or skills did you use? Research, literature review, interviews, survey analysis, public speaking, and teaching.

How did you connect with the Veterans Legal Foundation? I connected through my work on veterans and criminal justice here in Philadelphia. They work at the intersection of two main spheres that I have held long-term commitments to--criminal justice and veterans.

Duration of the project? Two years.

Is there anything else you would like to share about this work? The organization does great work. It is led by veterans who are either currently or formerly incarcerated themselves. They are under-resourced and heavily burdened by the need they are trying to meet. About 4,000 veterans (of various eras) in Pennsylvania are incarcerated.