Professor of Social Welfare and Department Chair
PhD , UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare
MSW, UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare
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
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Professor Abrams’ scholarship focuses on improving the well being of youth and young adults with histories of incarceration. Her ethnographic studies have examined youths’ experiences of criminality, risk, and institutions seeking to reshape their identities through both therapeutic and punitive practices. These themes are presented in her 2013 book (co-authored with Ben Anderson-Nathe) Compassionate Confinement: A Year in the Life of Unit C, (Rutgers University Press). Her most recent 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 in the context of urban Los Angeles. Dr. Abrams is also the lead editor of a 2016 multidisciplinary volume on the role of volunteers and non-profits in changing lives and promoting more humane conditions in prisons and jails: 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. She recently completed a four year evaluation of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Foster Youth Strategic Initiative in Los Angeles and New York City. The Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin also funded a pilot 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 is currently partnering with professor Laura Wray-Lake (social welfare) on a study of civic engagement among urban youth.
In the community, 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 211B- Theory II; SW 285- Advanced Research Methods with Children and Youth; SW286- Qualitative Research Methods; SW 229: The Craft of Social Welfare Scholarship, and SW 290T: Juvenile Justice Policy.
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