William Schultz

Study program:
PhD Sociology
Current affiliation:
University of Alberta

William Schultz (sociology, University of Alberta) conducts research in Canadian jails, interviewing prisoners and staff about how fentanyl and major security concerns impact everyday life experiences in the prison setting. 


Deadly Attraction: Fentanyl, Drug Deaths, and the New Crisis in Canadian Prisons

Prison research has been badly neglected. Widespread calls for new qualitative prison research of any form (Simon, 2000; Wacquant, 2002) have gone largely unanswered in either Canada or the United States. As a result, the institutional structures of corrections in this country have not been informed by relevant academic research, and are therefore ossified, outdated, and inflexible. Furthermore, overwhelmed policy makers and correctional administrators do not have the tools to address skyrocketing drug mortality rates; nor do they have the necessary information to craft new ones. William proposed research begins to address this research and policy gap by asking the following three questions: 1) How has fentanyl impacted policy responses to security concerns in Canadian prisons, and how does this evolution impact prisoners? 2) What are the impacts of lethal or near-lethal drug overdoses on officer and prisoner perceptions of safety or vulnerability within the prison? 3) How has the threat posed by fentanyl changed the prison subculture and how prisoners relate to each other? 

William Schultz is a sociology student whose research interests centre on how people live, adapt, and survive in Canadian prisons. His current research centres on how the Canadian opioid crisis has thrust prison systems and law enforcement agencies across the country into crisis.

Will began a PhD in Sociology at the University of Alberta in fall 2017. In addition to his own work, he is employed as a senior researcher on the University of Alberta Prisons Project, a large-scale qualitative prisons study which involves interviing prisoners and correctional officers in western Canada.  Before entering his PhD, Will completed his Masters in Sociology, also at the University of Alberta; his thesis, entitled, “Unlocking Radicalization: Correctional Officers, Risk Perception, and Ideological Extremism in Albertan Prisons”, examined how fear and perceptions of risk deeply shape relations between prisoners and correctional officers. He is also a proud alumnus of Mount Royal University (Calgary, Alberta: Bachelor of Arts, 2013), Lethbridge College (Lethbridge, Alberta: Diploma, 2011), and Prairie Bible Institute (Three Hills, Alberta: Certificate, 2009).

Between 2010-2015, Will worked as a Correctional Peace Officer for the Alberta government, and sometimes jokes that he “grew up in prison.” However, his experience working in jail makes his research far more personal, as he dealt with the first waves of fentanyl overdoses within Albertan prisons, and has seen friends, clients, and former co-workers deeply affected by accidental opioid overdoses.

Will grew up on a working cattle ranch in central Alberta, and still spends time working on the farm during busy seasons. He loves reading, playing and watching sports, travelling, and outdoor adventures with friends. He spends much of his spare time working for and volunteering with community organizations across Central Alberta.

  • June 21, 2018
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