Laura Abrams

Laura Abrams

Professor of Social Welfare


PhD , Social Welfare, UC Berkeley
MSW, UC Berkeley
BA, Brandeis University

Areas of Interest:

Criminal Justice, Critical race theory and social work education, Equity - class/race/ethnicity/gender, Gender Issues, Incarcerated youth and identity transitions, Juvenile Justice, Qualitative and mixed methods research, Transition Age Youth Services




Office Location:

5323, Public Affairs

Recently in the News

Professor Abrams’ research focuses on improving the well being of youth and young adults with histories of incarceration. Her ethnographic studies have explored youths’ subjective accounts of criminality, risk, and institutions seeking to reshape their identities through therapeutic and punitive practices. These themes are fully examined in her 2013 book (co-authored with Ben Anderson-Nathe) Compassionate Confinement: A Year in the Life of Unit C, (Rutgers University Press). Her forthcoming book (c0-authored with Diane Terry)  Everyday Desistance: The Transition to Adulthood Among Formerly Incarcerated Youth (Rutgers University Press, 2017), examines how formerly incarcerated young men and women navigate reentry and the transition to adulthood amid challenging circumstances. Dr. Abrams is also the lead editor of a recently released volume on the role of volunteers and non-profits in changing lives and promoting more humane conditions in correctional settings:  The Voluntary Sector in Prisons: Encouraging Personal and Institutional Change (Palgrave, 2016).

Dr. Abrams is currently involved in several studies concerning juvenile justice, reentry, and transition age youth both locally and globally. A grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is funded to evaluate their Foster Youth Strategic Initiative in Los Angeles and New York City. This project (2013-2017) is conducted in conjunction with Westat, Inc. and Action Research Associates. The Institute on  Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin is funding a study on global youth justice models in four countries, examining how age and culpability are constructed in law and practice. She is also working with Dr. Elizabeth Barnert at UCLA Department of Pediatrics on a study of very young offenders, incarceration, and health, funded by the University of California Criminal Justice and Health Consortium and the UCLA Faculty Senate Transdisciplinary Seed Grant.

Dr. Abrams has served as an expert witness for death row appeals and in cases involving minors fighting their fitness to be tried as adults. She has provided public and congressional testimony regarding treatment in the juvenile justice system, the reentry needs of youth, and effective practices for the reintegration of reentry youth into the community. Serving the larger social work profession, Dr. Abrams  is a former vice-chair of the Group for the Advisement for Doctoral Education (GADE) and is currently a board member at large for the Society for Social Work Research. She serves on the editorial board of Social Service Review, Qualitative Social Work, and the International Journal of Social Welfare.

Professor Abrams teaches the following courses: SW 201A- Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Diversity, Oppression, and Social Functioning; SW 285- Research Methods with Children and Youth; SW286- Qualitative Research Methods; and SW 229: The Craft of Social Welfare Scholarship.

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Recent News Releases and Media Interviews:

Selected Books and Publications

Research Interests

  • Economics
  • Gender Issues
  • Global Health
  • International Development
  • Maternal/Child Health
  • Quantitative Analysis