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Keramet Reiter

Professor, University of California-Irvine
Chapter Member: Los Angeles Unified SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Keramet

Reiter studies prisons, prisoners’ rights, and the impact of prison and punishment policy on individuals, communities, and legal systems. She uses a variety of methods in her work — including interviewing, archival and legal analysis, and quantitative data analysis — in order to understand both the history and impact of criminal justice policies, from medical experimentation on prisoners and record clearing programs to gun control laws and the use of long-term solitary confinement in the United States and internationally.

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Guest on ABA Journal, April 19, 2017.
Guest on Hidden Brain, NPR, April 3, 2017.
Opinion: "The Social Cost of Solitary Confinement," Keramet Reiter, Time Magazine, October 21, 2016.
Opinion: "How to Fix Solitary Confinement in American Prisons," Keramet Reiter, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2016.


"'Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't:" Perceptions of Guns, Safety, and Legitimacy among Detained Gun Offenders" Criminal Justice and Behavior 43, no. 1 (2016): 140-155.

Draws upon 140 in-depth interviews with gun offenders detained in Los Angeles County jails to examine legal and extra-legal factors that influence illegal gun possession. Findings suggest that feelings of insecurity coupled with perceptions of, and experiences with, law enforcement interact in complex ways to condition legitimacy-based beliefs, and ultimately, compliance.

"Continuity in the Face of Penal Innovation: Revisiting the History of American Solitary Confinement" Law & Social Inquiry (2017).

Demonstrates how penal technologies that violate current sensibilities can survive, despite changing macro‐level social factors that otherwise explain penal change and practice, provided those technologies serve prison officials' internal goals.

"Crossing Borders and Criminalizing Identity: The Disintegrated Subjects of Administrative Sanctions" (with Susan Bibler Coutin). Law & Society Review 51, no. 3 (forthcoming).

Draws on in-depth, qualitative interviews that examine individual experiences in two different legal contexts: deportation regimes and supermax prisons. Identifies common legal processes of punishment experiences across both contexts. Specifically, the U.S. legal system re-labels immigrants (as deportable noncitizens) and supermax prisons (as dangerous gang offenders).

"Theoretical and Empirical Limits of Scandinavian Exceptionalism: Isolation and Normalization in Danish Prisons" (with Lori Sexton and Jennifer Sumner). Punishment & Society 20, no. 1 (2018): 92-112.

Draws on interviews with 76 prisoners, 47 prison staff, and 14 experts, to document lived experiences of punishment in the Danish prison context. Argues that, regardless of “humanizing” elements of normalization and humanity, prisoners and staff may experience the power of the carceral state in Denmark in ways similar to those under more obviously harsh confinement regimes, as exist in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in the United Kingdom.

"23/7: Pelican Bay and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement" (Yale University Press, 2016).

Tells the history of an original "supermax," California's Pelican Bay State Prison, where extreme conditions sparked statewide hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013—the latter involving nearly 30,000 prisoners. Reiter describes how the Pelican Bay prison was created—with literally no legislative oversight—as a panicked response to the perceived rise of black radicalism in California prisons in the 1970s.