Irene Toro Martinez

Advisor: Susan E. Lederer

Irene Toro Martinez


I study health care provision in Wisconsin prisons in the late twentieth century. My dissertation seeks to explain why health care in prisons continued to fail incarcerated people despite numerous reforms undertaken by the state in response to pressure from federal and state judges, legislators, medical professionals, activists, and an ever increasing number of prisoners. I argue that centering health, and in particular fights over the quality of and access to medical care after it became a constitutional right for prisoners in 1976, allows us to better understand the development and effects of mass incarceration.


M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison (History of Science, Medicine, and Technology)
B.A., Pomona College (Astrophysics, German)


  • History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

M.A. Title

  • “The Courts, Corporations, and Compliance with Standards: Health Care in Private Prisons”

Working Dissertation Title

  • “’A Doctor Wasn’t Called’: Health Care in Wisconsin Prisons, 1970-2000″


  • University Fellowship, UW-Madison (Spring 2019)
  • Mellon-Wisconsin Summer Fellowship (Summer 2018)
  • University Fellowship, UW-Madison (Spring 2018)
  • University Fellowship, UW-Madison (Fall 2015)
  • Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, UW-Madison (2012-2013, 2016-2017)
  • Thomas J. Watson Fellowship (2009-2010)
  • 2005-2009, National Merit Scholarship

Courses Taught as TA

  • History of Science 133 – Biology and Society, 1950-Today, Professor Nicole Nelson (Spring 2016)
  • History of Science 203 – Science in the Twentieth Century, Instructor Dan Thurs (Fall 2014)
  • History of Science 222 – Technology and Social Change in History, Professor Eric Schatzberg (Spring 2015)