Sharon Dolovich

Professor of Law
Faculty Director, UCLA Prison Law & Policy Program

  • B.A. Queen's University
  • Ph.D. Cambridge University
  • J.D. Harvard Law School
  • UCLA Faculty Since 2000

Sharon Dolovich is Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, and Director of the UCLA Prison Law & Policy Program. She teaches courses on criminal law, the constitutional law of prisons, and other post-conviction topics, and her scholarship focuses on the law, policy, and theory of prisons and punishment. Dolovich has been a visiting professor at NYU, Harvard, and Georgetown, and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Dolovich also directs the UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, which she launched early in the pandemic to track the impact of COVID-19 in prisons, jails and detention centers nationwide. Among other things, the Data Project publishes facility level data on infection rates and COVID deaths in all state and federal prisons and many jails, tracks jail and prison releases in response to the pandemic, and has partnered with Columbia Law School, Bronx Defenders and others to develop a comprehensive, searchable database of all court opinions addressing the claims of incarcerated people during COVID. It also hosts student research and draws on the work of more than 80 volunteers to support its many projects. (Click here for the Data Project org chart.)

Since the start of the pandemic, Dolovich has emerged as a leading national voice on the issue of COVID in custody. (Click here and here for op-eds on the topic). In June 2020, she and co-authors (Saloner, Parish, Ward and DiLaura) published in JAMA the first findings reporting marked disparities in infection rates and COVID deaths in American prisons. Dolovich also served on National Academies of Sciences ad hoc committee struck in August 2020 to examine the efficacy of decarceration as a strategy for mitigating the spread of COVID in correctional facilities. (Click here to read the final NAS committee report.) Her first law review article on the issue, Mass Incarceration, Meet COVID-19, appeared in November 2020 in the University of Chicago Law Review Online.

Dolovich’s book, The New Criminal Justice Thinking (NYU Press, co-edited with Natapoff) came out in paperback in December 2018; her chapter, “Canons of Evasion in Constitutional Criminal Law,” appears in that volume. Dolovich's article on prison conditions and the Eighth Amendment (“Cruelty, Prison Conditions and the Eighth Amendment,” 84 NYU L. Rev. 881 (2009)) has been downloaded over 31,000 times in more than 135 countries worldwide.

Work growing out of Dolovich’s landmark empirical study of the LA County Jail’s segregation unit for gay men and trans women appeared in the American Criminal Law Review and the Journal Of Criminal Law And Criminology. Other major articles include “State Punishment and Private Prisons,” 55 Duke L. J. 437 (2005), and “Legitimate Punishment in Liberal Democracy,” 7 Buff. Crim. L. Rev. 307 (2004). The latter was selected for the 2004 Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum as the best article in both criminal law and jurisprudence & philosophy, the first article ever to be selected in two categories. In 2005, Dolovich was honored by the Cornell University Program on Ethics and Public Life with its Young Scholar Award.

Dolovich served as Deputy General Counsel for the Los Angeles Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, which was charged with investigating use of force in the L.A. County Jail and making recommendations for institutional reform. She also has served as an expert witness and as a consultant on numerous prisoners’ rights cases and has testified before the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. She currently hosts Prison Law JD, a listserv for current law students and recent law graduates interested in advocating on behalf of people in custody.


  • Books
    • The New Criminal Justice Thinking (edited by Sharon Dolovich & Alexandra Natapoff). NYU Press (2017).
  • Articles And Chapters
    • The Coherence of Prison Law, 135 Harvard Law Review Forum 302 (2022). Full Text
    • Evading the Eighth Amendment: Prison Conditions and the Courts, in The Eighth Amendment and Its Future in a New Age of Punishment, (edited by Meghan J. Ryan & William W. Berry III, Cambridge University Press, 2020). Full Text
    • Mass Incarceration, Meet COVID-19, University of Chicago Law Review Online (2020). SSRN | Full Text
    • Prison Conditions, in Vol. 4 Reforming Criminal Justice: Punishment, Incarceration, and Release, 261 (edited by Erik Luna, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, 2017). SSRN | Full Text
    • Canons of Evasion in Criminal Constitutional Law, in The New Criminal Justice Thinking, (edited by Sharon Dolovich & Alexandra Natapoff, NYU Press, 2017).
    • Introduction: Mapping the New Criminal Justice Thinking (with Alexandra Natapoff), in The New Criminal Justice Thinking, (edited by Sharon Dolovich & Alexandra Natapoff, NYU Press, 2017).
    • Two Models of the Prison: Accidental Humanity and Hypermasculinity in the L.A. County Jail, 102 Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 965 (2012). SSRN | Full Text
    • Teaching Prison Law, 62 Journal of Legal Education 218 (2012). SSRN | Full Text
    • Creating the Permanent Prisoner, in Life Without Parole: America's New Death Penalty?, (edited by Charles Ogletree and Austin Sarat, NYU Press, 2012). SSRN | Full Text
    • Forms of Deference in Prison Law, 24 Federal Sentencing Reporter 245 (2012). SSRN | Full Text
    • Exclusion and Control in the Carceral State, 16 Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law 259 (2011). SSRN | Full Text
    • Strategic Segregation in the Modern Prison, 48 American Criminal Law Review 1 (2011). SSRN | EScholarship
    • Incarceration American-Style, 3 Harvard Law And Policy Review 237 (2009). SSRN | Full Text
    • Cruelty, Prison Conditions and the Eighth Amendment, 84 New York University Law Review 881 (2009). SSRN | Full Text
    • How Privatization Thinks: The Case of Prisons, in Government by Contract: Outsourcing and American Democracy, 128 (edited by Jody Freeman and Martha Minow, Harvard University Press, 2009). Full Text
    • State Punishment and Private Prisons, 55 Duke Law Journal 439 (2005). Full Text
    • Legitimate Punishment in Liberal Democracy, 7 Buffalo Criminal Law Review 307 (2004). SSRN | Full Text
    • Idealism, Disproportionality, and Democracy: A Reply to Chambers and Garvey, 7 Buffalo Criminal Law Review 479 (2004). Full Text
    • Ethical Lawyering and the Possibility of Integrity, 70 Fordham Law Review 1629 (2002). SSRN | Full Text
    • Note: Making Docile Lawyers: An Essay on the Pacification of Law Students, 111 Harvard Law Review 2027 (1998). Full Text
    • Book Review, Leaving the Law Behind, 20 Harvard Women’s Law Journal 313-31 (1997). Reviewing The Rooster’s Egg: On the Persistence of Prejudice, by Patricia Williams. Full Text
    • Case Comment: Qualified Immunity – Privatized Governmental Functions: Richardson v. McKnight, 117 S. Ct.2100, 111 Harvard Law Review 390 (1997). Full Text
    • Recent Legislation: Welfare Reform – Punishment of Drug Offenders – Congress Denies Cash Assistance and Food Stamps to Drug Felons: Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Public Law No. 104-193 § 115 (to be codified at 42 U.S.C. §862A), 110 Harvard Law Review 983 (1997). Full Text
  • Other
    • Constitution 2020: Prison Conditions and the Eighth Amendment (September 29, 2010). Blog post on Balkinization, leading blog on constitutional law.
    • Book Review, Balancing the Scales of Justice, Los Angeles Times Book Review (October 12, 2003). Reviewing Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer’s Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty, by Scott Turow.
    • Even the Worst Thug is Human, Your Honor, Los Angeles Times (July 7, 2002).
    • In Memoriam: David Charny, 17 Harvard Blackletter Law Journal 7-11 (2001).
    • Invasion of SWAT Teams Leaves Trauma and Death, Los Angeles Times (September 22, 2000).
    • Saying No to the War on Drugs, Harvard Law Record (April 19, 1996).
    • Beyond Liberal v. Conservative, Harvard Law Record (March 1, 1996).
    • Looking Back, Thinking Ahead, Globe & Mail (June 10, 1995). Dispatch from Hong Kong.
    • Where Ghosts Walk the Streets, Globe & Mail (May 16, 1992). Dispatch from Czechoslovakia.
    • Learning a Bitter Lesson, Globe & Mail (Sep. 21, 1991). Dispatch from the West Bank.