Faculty of Law

Queen's University
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Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

Lisa Kerr. Photo: Greg Black


Lisa Kerr is an Assistant Professor at Queen’s Law where she teaches courses on criminal law, sentencing and prison law.

Professor Kerr earned her JD at the University of British Columbia. She clerked with the BC Court of Appeal and was an associate at Fasken Martineau. She also served as staff lawyer at Prisoners’ Legal Services, Canada’s only dedicated legal aid office for prisoners.

Lisa obtained an LLM and a JSD at New York University, where she was named a Trudeau Scholar.  Her research focuses on punishment theory, the comparative study of criminal law and prisoner rights, and the relationship between sentencing and prison conditions. Professor Kerr has published a number of papers and opinion pieces in law journals and newspapers on these topics.

Professor Kerr is preoccupied with the concept of litigation as an instrument of social change, and she engages extensively in pro bono litigation work. For several years, she has worked with Pivot Legal Society on a campaign to decriminalize sex work.  She has worked on multiple cases with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and with the John Howard Society of Canada in efforts to abolish solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. 

Research:

  • Prison law
  • Punishment theory
  • Sentencing
  • Criminal Law

Recent Publications:

Articles (peer reviewed):

  • “Easy Prisoner Cases” (2015) 71 Supreme Court Law Review (2d) 235-262
  • “The Chronic Failure to Control Prisoner Isolation in US and Canadian Law” (2015) Queen's Law Journal Vol. 40, No. 2, 483–530
  • “The Origins of Unlawful Prison Policies” (2015) Canadian Journal of Human Rights Vol. 4, No. 1, 91-119
  • “Contesting Expertise in Prison Law” (2014) McGill Law Journal Vol. 60, No. 1, 43-94

Review Essays (peer reviewed):

  • “How to End Mass Imprisonment: the Legal and Cultural Strategies of Bryan Stevenson”(2017) University of Toronto Law Journal Vol. 67, 104-123

Articles (peer edited)

  • “The Legitimate Scope of Criminal Law: A Question for Legal History?” Critical Analysis of Law (forthcoming, special collection of invited essays on Lindsay Farmer’s Making the Modern Criminal Law: Criminalisation and Civil Order (2016))
  • “Judging a Joint Submission: Comparing the US and Canada on the Judicial Role in Plea Bargaining” (2017) 32 Criminal Reports (7th) 22–30
  • “The Right to Maximum Prisoner Liberty?” (2016) 26 Criminal Reports 7th 245–250 

Book Chapters:

  • “Making Rights Real: the Case of Mothers” in The New Criminal Justice Thinking, Sharon Dolovich and Alexander Natapoff (eds) (2017, NYU Press)

Book Reviews:

  • Review of Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights and Carceral Logic by Kitty Calavita and Valerie Jenness (University of California Press, 2014) in British Journal of Criminology (forthcoming)
  • “Choice Talk” review of Sister Wives, Surrogates and Sex Workers: Outlaws by Choice? by Angela Campbell (Ashgate Publishing, 2013) in (2017) Canadian Journal of Women and the Law Vol. 28, No. 3

Media:

  • "Solitary confinement: Why is Ontario willing to do what Ottawa won’t?" May 8, 2017. The Globe and Mail.  
  • “Why Rules on Solitary Confinement Must be Written in Law,” May 2, 2016. The Globe and Mail.
  • “The Conservative Take on Crime Policy," with Anthony N. Doob, August 20, 2015. The Ottawa Citizen.
  • “Court’s Use of Remains Did Not Respect Cindy Gladue’s Dignity,” with Elin Sigurdson, April 6, 2015. The Toronto Star.
  • “Solitary Confinement on Trial,” January 26, 2015. The National Post.
  • “Canada’s Law-and-Order Agenda Weighs Heavily on Aboriginal People,” March 12, 2013. The Toronto Star.
  • “Mandatory Minimums for Drug Crimes Have No Future in Canada,” June 3, 2014. The Toronto Star.