Centers Of Excellence

Prison Law and Policy Program

The Prison Law and Policy Program takes an expansive view of the criminal legal system and aims to deepen our understanding of the role the law plays in shaping all aspects of the carceral experience.

Support Prison Law and Policy

Closely Examining the Criminal Justice Process

Supporting legal education to bring about meaningful change to the penal system and criminal punishment.

UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Data Project seeks Data Scientist to join our team. Learn more.


American law schools typically focus on the "front end" of the criminal justice process: investigation, prosecution, and verdict. But for these offenders convicted of crimes, the trial process is only the preamble to an extended period in the custody of the state. The Prison Law and Policy Program is committed to examining the "back end" of the carceral system and to exploring the way the law structures all aspects of the contemporary experience of criminal punishment in the United States, from the sentence to the administration of penalties (whether fines, probation, incarceration, or death) through the challenges of reentry and the many "collateral consequences" imposed on people with criminal convictions.

The past four decades have seen unparalleled growth in the American prison population and in the deployment of the state's power to punish as a mechanism of social control. The burdens of this expansion have been borne disproportionately by poor people and people of color, making the American criminal legal system a central driver of racial and economic injustice in this country. In recent years, American society has begun to reckon with the considerable harms caused by our now-massive carceral enterprise. The Prison Law and Policy Program aims to contribute to this national conversation in a variety of ways: by exposing interested students to a wide range of related issues and perspectives; by supporting faculty research; creating a space for community building among students and faculty committed to this field; and by training and supporting those students planning to use their legal education to help curb abuse and neglect in carceral spaces and to bring about meaningful change.

Among other initiatives, the Program sponsors speakers and conferences, supports student research and related projects, and publishes an annual Prison Law Summer Job Search Guide. The Program hosts the Prison Law JD listserv for current law students and recent law graduates nationwide who are interested in working in the area of prisoners' rights and criminal legal reform more broadly. In addition, the program connects with community partners who are doing this work on the ground in Los Angeles and across the state of California.

The Program also supports the UCLA Law Students for Decarceration's involvement in the Incarcerated Persons' Correspondence Project. UCLA Law receives hundreds of letters from inmates seeking help with their criminal cases and conditions cases. While student volunteers cannot give legal advice, the project seeks to connect inmates with much-needed resources. This is a great way for students to develop client communications skills and assist an underserved population.

Many Program students also participate in the Re-Entry Legal Clinic, which falls under UCLA's El Centro Legal Clinics. The clinic allows students, as early as their first year in the law school, to work with its partner organization, A New Way of Life, to prepare petitions and declarations on behalf of clients seeking expungements to remove employment and housing barriers.

Who We Are

Jane Kahn Prison Law Fellowship

  • About the Fellowship

    The Prison Law and Policy Program hosts the Jane Kahn Prison Law Fellowship, a one-to-two year fellowship generously endowed by the Bien/Kahn family and Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld. The Jane Kahn Fellows, current UCLA law students, are directly supervised by Professor Sharon Dolovich. They play an integral part in the Prison Law and Policy Program, supporting numerous program initiatives, including the speaker series, Prison Law Summer Job Search Guide, Prison Law JD listserv, and Prison Conditions Expert Witness Directory. The Fellows also maintain the Program's social media presence and take the lead on implementing new events and projects in support of the Program's mission of connecting students, faculty, attorneys and others committed to advocating on behalf of people impacted by the carceral system.

  • Jane Kahn and RBGG

    The Jane Kahn Fellowship is named for noted civil rights attorney and mental health specialist Jane Kahn. Read more about Jane Kahn in her biography and learn more about the support provided by Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld by visiting its fellowship page.

  • Jane Kahn Fellowship Fund

    Donate to the Jane Kahn Fellowship Fund and support future fellows and the work of the Prison Law & Policy Program.

Resources

  • Summer Job Search Guide

    The Program and publishes an annual Prison Law Summer Job Search Guide supporting student research and related projects.

  • Expert Witness Directory

    The Expert Witness List for Plaintiffs in Prison Conditions Cases Spreadsheet was developed by a group of UCLA Law Epstein Public Interest Program Students, and is maintained by the Jane Kahn Prison Law Fellows in the UCLA Prison Law and Policy Program. The spreadsheet was created out of a need by litigators who represent incarcerated plaintiffs, who often struggle to identify and secure expert witnesses to testify in cases. Often, prisoners’ rights listservs are flooded with individual messages requesting suggestions for expert witnesses.

    Expert witnesses are a crucial component of a successful litigation strategy challenging conditions of confinement in carceral settings, whether their expertise is in the administration of carceral institutions or medical conditions experienced by incarcerated people.

    This expert witness list can help to centralize and efficiently share reliable expert witness contact information and data with plaintiff-side litigators assisting incarcerated people. The spreadsheet is a current, centralized list of professional expert witnesses that litigators can reach out to and more quickly and reliably find to use in their case. This list can be periodically shared on Prisoners’ Rights listservs, and it can be emailed individually to litigators who are actively searching for an expert in their case.

    This initial spreadsheet contains over 120 names of various kinds of experts who testify on behalf of plaintiffs in prison condition cases. When possible, the spreadsheet contains publicly available contact information for experts and links to prior testimonies in cases.

    The Jane Kahn Prison Law Fellows of the Prison Law and Policy Program are responsible for updating the spreadsheet and maintaining this centralized resource. Please reach out to Korbin Felder (felder2023@lawnet.ucla.edu) or Kaila Johnson (johnson2023@lawnet.ucla.edu) to receive an electronic copy of the Expert Witness List for Plaintiffs in Prison Conditions Cases Spreadsheet. 

    Please view our Expert Witness Directory.

  • Prison Law J.D. Listserv

    To join the Prison Law J.D. Listserv, please contact Jamie Libonate.

News
See All
Oct 14, 2021

Bail Practicum: Securing Success in County Courtrooms

Read More
Oct 14, 2021

Joanna Schwartz Writes an Op-Ed in USA Today on the Need to Reform Police Qualified Immunity

Read More