Inspiring criminologist

Keramet Reiter

Professor Reiter honored by American Bar Association

Keramet Reiter has been named one of a dozen “2023 Members Who Inspire” by the American Bar Association.

The ABA Journal’s Amanda Robert writes that the UC Irvine professor of criminology, law and society “has spent countless hours inside prisons, working with individuals who are incarcerated and studying the impact of prison and punishment policies on them, their communities and the legal system. As part of her work, Reiter has focused on expanding access to in-prison education programs. She says these programs are highly effective, as several national studies show educating incarcerated individuals has societal and economic benefits.”

Reiter co-founded and directs UCI’s Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees (UCI LIFTED). In 2022, a cohort of 25 students at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego began taking classes in the first in-prison Bachelor of Arts program in the University of California system.

The ABA article notes that Reiter was an undergraduate at Harvard University when she first got involved in tutoring programs at a youth detention facility and later an adult prison. She helped establish a tutoring program on Rikers Island on the way to earning her master’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Reiter also worked with the college program at San Quentin State Prison during her studies for the juris doctorate and PhD she would obtain from UC Berkeley.

Two years after she joined the UCI faculty as an assistant professor in 2012, the state started funding in-prison community college programs. After the California State University system began offering bachelor’s degree classes, Reiter and others lobbied the UC to join in the efforts, which led to the development of LIFTED in 2018.

The journal piece cites the professor for being the longtime co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section Corrections Committee, which recently urged governments to stop using stigmatizing labels for individuals in the criminal justice system. Reiter also is credited for helping create UCI’s PrisonPandemic digital archive, which preserves the stories of people who live, work or have family members in California prisons and jails.