Sharon Dolovich

Professor of Law
Faculty Director, UCLA Prison Law & Policy Program
Director, UCLA Law Behind Bars Data Project

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

Sharon Dolovich is a leading scholar of prisons and punishment. Her work focuses primarily on the Eighth Amendment, prison conditions, and the state’s obligations to the incarcerated. She directs the UCLA Prison Law & Policy Program and the UCLA Law Behind Bars Data Project, and teaches courses on criminal law, the constitutional law of prisons, and other post-conviction topics. Dolovich has been a visiting professor at NYU, Harvard, and Georgetown, and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and with the Program on Ethics and the Professions at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In 2021, she received the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s highest honor for excellence in teaching.

Early in the pandemic, Dolovich launched the UCLA Law Behind Bars Data Project, which tracked the impact of COVID-19 in prisons, jails and detention centers nationwide. A leading national voice on the crisis of COVID in custody, Dolovich served on the 2020 National Academies of Sciences committee convened to examine the efficacy of decarceration in mitigating the spread of COVID. In June 2020 and again in October 2021, Dolovich and co-authors published landmark empirical findings in JAMA showing marked disparities in infection rates and COVID deaths in American prisons as compared with society as a whole. Read her article, Mass Incarceration, Meet COVID-19, here. In 2023, Dolovich received a UCLA Public Impact Research Award for her leadership of the Data Project.

Dolovich's recent work includes The Failed Regulation and Oversight of American Prisons, 5 Annual Review of Criminology 153 (2022) and The Coherence of Prison Law, 135 Harvard Law Review Forum 302 (2022). Her 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 35,000 times in more than 135 countries.

Dolovich conducted a landmark empirical study of the LA County Jail’s segregation unit for gay men and trans women, with award-winning articles stemming from this research appearing in the American Criminal Law Review and the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Her Rawlsian theory of punishment, Legitimate Punishment in Liberal Democracy,” 7 Buff. Crim. L. Rev. 307 (2004), was selected for the 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 is currently working on a project on sleep deprivation in prison. For this project, she is interviewing people from across the country recently released from prison about their experiences of sleeping/trying to sleep inside, and how being chronically sleep deprived may have affected their health, safety and well-being while incarcerated. She is also interviewing correctional officers about how mandated overtime and double shifts impact their sleep, how being chronically sleep deprived may affect COs’ health, safety and wellness at home and at work, and the impact on incarcerated people and on the effective operations of the prison when staff do not get enough sleep.

Dolovich hosts Prison Law JD, a listserv for law students and recent law graduates interested in advocating on behalf of people in custody. In 2020, she was named to Bitch Media’s Bitch 50, honoring those who “have utilized their creative or political power to further advance visibility, equality, or access” for people on society’s margins.


  • Books
    • The New Criminal Justice Thinking (edited by Sharon Dolovich & Alexandra Natapoff). NYU Press (2017).
  • Articles And Chapters
    • How Prisoners' Rights Lawyers Do Vital Work Despite the Courts, 19 U. St. Thomas L.J. 435. Full Text
    • The Coherence of Prison Law, 135 Harvard Law Review Forum 302 (2022). Full Text
    • The Failed Regulation and Oversight of American Prisons, 5 Annu. Rev. Criminol 153 (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
  • Covid/ Public Health (Peer Reviewed)
    • Life Expectancy and COVID-19 in Florida State Prisons (with Neal M.Marquez, Aaron M.Littman, Victoria E.Rossi, Michael C.Everett, Erika Tyagi & Hope C. Johnson), 62 Am J Prev Med 949. Full Text
    • COVID-19 Incidence and Mortality in Federal and State Prisons Compared With the US Population, April 5, 2020, to April 3, 2021 (with Neal Marquez, Julie A. Ward, Kalind Parish, & Brendan Saloner), 326 JAMA 18 (2021). Full Text
    • COVID-19 Cases Among Employees of U.S. Federal and State Prisons (with Neal Marquez, Julie A. Ward, Kalind Parish, & Brendan Saloner), 60 Am J Prev Med 840 (2021). Full Text
    • Willingness to Receive a COVID-19 Vaccination Among Incarcerated or Detained Persons in Correctional and Detention Facilities — Four States, September–December 2020 (with Marc F. Stern, Alexandra M. Piasecki, Lara B. Strick,Poornima Rajeshwar, Erika Tyagi, Priti R. Patel, Rena Fukunaga, Nathan W. Furukawa), 70 Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 473 (2021). Full Text
    • COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Federal and State Prisons (with Brendan Saloner, Kalind Parish, Julie A. Ward, & Grace DiLaura), 324 JAMA 6 (2020). Full Text
    • Mass Incarceration, Meet COVID-19, University of Chicago Law Review Online (2020). SSRN | Full Text
  • Other
    • Newsom is Afraid of a Winter COVID Surge? Then Do Something about Prison Crowding (with Klonsky and Johnson), SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (November 17, 2021).
    • The States that Lead the Nation in COVID-19 Cases are Hiding their Prison Data (Tyagi and Marquez), UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project blog (August 20, 2021). (reprinted in PRISON LEGAL NEWS, October 2021) Full Text
    • SARS-Cov-2 Variants Go to Prison: What Now? (with Rajeshwar), UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project blog (April 7, 2021). Full Text
    • Urgent Need for Vaccine Administration in Prisons, Jails, and Detention Centers (with Chaudhuri and Littman), PRISON LEGAL NEWS (Feb. 2021).
    • New Study Documents Startling Spread of Covid-19 in American Prisons and Jails (with Saloner), PRISON LEGAL NEWS (August 2020).
    • Coronavirus has Raged Inside American Prisons at a Higher Rate Than the Rest of the Nation (with Saloner), THE APPEAL (July 23, 2020).
    • Every Public Official with the Power to Decarcerate Must Exercise That Power Now, THE APPEAL (April 10, 2020). (reprinted in PRISON LEGAL NEWS, May 2020)
    • Reflections on an Evening at San Quentin, PRISON UNIVERSITY PROJECT NEWSLETTER Volume 7, No.1, at 2 (2012).
    • 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.