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. 

Recent Publications


  • “Contesting Expertise in Prison Law” (2014) McGill Law Journal Vol. 60, No. 1, 43-94

  • “The Origins of Unlawful Prison Policies” (2015) Canadian Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 4, No. 1, 91-119

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

  • “Judging a Joint Submission: Comparing the US and Canada on the Judicial Role in Plea Bargaining” (2017) 32 Criminal Reports (7th), 22–30

  • “The Legitimate Scope of Criminal Law: A Question for Legal History?” (2017) Critical Analysis of Law, Vol. 4, No. 1, 11–21

Book Reviews

  • “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

  • 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)


  • “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 Right to Maximum Prisoner Liberty?” (2016) 26 Criminal Reports 7th, 245–250

  • "'They Want In': Sex Workers and Legitimacy Debates In the Law of Public Interest Standing" (2017) 80 Supreme Court Law Review (2d) 145–175

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

  • "Sentencing Ashley Smith: How Prison Conditions Relate to the Aims of Punishment" (2017) Canadian Journal of Law and Society Vol. 32, No. 2, 187–207