Erin Kerrison, Ph.D.

University of California, Berkeley

Country: United States (California)

Research Interests

Crime Politics

Public Policy

Research Methods & Research Design

Urban Politics

Criminal Justice Policy

Prisons And Prisoners

Law And Courts

Police Policy

Police Violence

Relatives Of Prisoners

Critical Race Theory



Countries of Interest

United States

My Research:

Erin M. Kerrison is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work extends from a legal epidemiological framework, wherein law and legal institutions operate as social determinants of health. Specifically, through varied agency partnerships, her mixed-method research agenda investigates the impact that compounded structural disadvantage, concentrated poverty, and state supervision has on service delivery, substance abuse, violence, and other health outcomes for individuals and communities marked by criminal justice intervention. Erin has analyzed large longitudinal administrative datasets and collected ethnographic and interview data across policing, criminal court, and correctional contexts.  Her work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Justice, the Ford Foundation, and the Sunshine Lady Foundation. Erin’s recent empirical research has been published in Social Science and Medicine, Law & Human Behavior, Punishment & Society, and the Journal of Developmental and Life Course Criminology. She holds a BA in Sociology and Philosophy from Haverford College, an MA in Criminology, Law and Society from Villanova University, and a PhD in Criminology from the University of Delaware. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, Erin was awarded a Vice Provost's Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.


Journal Articles:

(2019) When Policing Causes Crime: The Criminogenic Effects of Police Stops on Adolescent Black and Latino Boys, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Proactive policing, the strategic targeting of people or places to prevent crimes, is a well-studied tactic that is ubiquitous in modern law enforcement. A 2017 National Academies of Sciences report reviewed existing literature, entrenched in deterrence theory, and found evidence that proactive policing strategies can reduce crime. The existing literature, however, does not explore what the short and long-term effects of police contact are for young people who are subjected to high rates of contact with law enforcement as a result of proactive policing. Using four waves of longitudinal survey data from a sample of predominantly black and Latino boys in ninth and tenth grades, we find that adolescent boys who are stopped by police report more frequent engagement in delinquent behavior 6, 12, and 18 months later, independent of prior delinquency, a finding that is consistent with labeling and life course theories. We also find that psychological distress partially mediates this relationship, consistent with the often stated, but rarely measured, mechanism for adolescent criminality hypothesized by general strain theory. These findings advance the scientific understanding of crime and adolescent development while also raising policy questions about the efficacy of routine police stops of black and Latino youth. Police stops predict decrements in adolescents’ psychological well-being and may unintentionally increase their engagement in criminal behavior.

(2018) Exploring How Prison-Based Drug Rehabilitation Programming Shapes Racial Disparities in Substance Use Disorder Recovery., Social Science & Medicine

Prison-based therapeutic community (TC) programming is derived from the perspective that drug addiction is primarily symptomatic of cognitive dysfunction, poor emotional management, and underdeveloped self-reliance skills, and can be addressed in a collaborative space where a strong ideological commitment to moral reform and personal responsibility is required of its members. In this space, evidence of rehabilitation is largely centered on the client's relationship to language and the public adoption of a “broken self” narrative. Failure to master these linguistic performances can result in the denial of material and symbolic resources, thus participants learn how to use TC language to present themselves in ways that support existing institutionalized hierarchies, even if that surrender spells their self-denigration. This research examines the interview narratives of 300 former prisoners who participated in a minimum of 12 months of prison-based TC programming, and described how programming rhetoric impacted their substance abuse treatment experiences. While many of the respondents described distressing experiences as TC participants, White respondents were more likely to eventually embrace the “addict” label and speak of privileges and reintegrative support subsequently received. Black respondents were more likely to defy the treatment rhetoric, and either fail to complete the program or simulate a deficit-based self-narrative without investing in the content of those stories. The following explores the significance of language and identity construction in these carceral spaces, and how treatment providers as well as agency agendas are implicated in the reproduction of racial disparities in substance abuse recovery.

(2018) Risky Business, Risk Assessment, and Other Heteronormative Misnomers in Women’s Community Corrections and Reentry Planning., Punishment & Society

This article uses ethnographic and interview data to explore how halfway house and community corrections staff in a women’s halfway house in the northeastern region of the U.S. police women’s sexuality and the ensuing complications of being queer and under supervision. In this setting, women are required to create a Reentry Home Plan that is approved by Community Corrections Officers, putting into tension some women’s newly emerging queer identity and/or nonnormative relationship schema that they see as “healthier” and more stable than heterosexual relationships, with Probation or Parole Officers’ heteronormative ideals that disapprove nontraditional home plans. This study shows how these women negotiate a marginalized sexual identity and resist biased forms of heteronormative surveillance that extend beyond the legislative parameters of community corrections supervision. It also illustrates the tensions between correctional staff, who view residents’ nonnormative relationships as potential sources of risk, and the supervised women, as they develop community release plans.