Charis E. Kubrin is Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and (by courtesy) Sociology. She is also a member of the Racial Democracy, Crime and Justice- Network. Her research focuses on neighborhood correlates of crime, with an emphasis on race and violent crime. Recent work in this area examines the immigration-crime nexus across neighborhoods and cities, as well as assesses the impact of criminal justice reform on crime rates. Another line of research explores the intersection of music, culture, and social identity, particularly as it applies to hip hop and minority youth in disadvantaged communities.
Professor Kubrin has received several national awards including the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology (for outstanding scholarly contributions to the discipline of criminology); the Coramae Richey Mann Award from the Division on People of Color and Crime, the American Society of Criminology (for outstanding contributions of scholarship on race/ethnicity, crime, and justice); and the W.E.B. DuBois Award from the Western Society of Criminology (for significant contributions to racial and ethnic issues in the field of criminology). Most recently she received the Paul Tappan Award from the Western Society of Criminology (for outstanding contributions to the field of criminology). In 2019, she was named a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology.
Issues of race and justice are at the forefront of Professor Kubrin’s TEDx talk, The Threatening Nature of…Rap Music?, which focuses on the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials against young men of color. Along with Barbara Seymour Giordano, Kubrin received a Cicero Speechwriting Award for this talk in the category of “Controversial or Highly Politicized Topic.”
Areas of Expertise (6)
Race, Ethnicity, and Crime
Immigration and Crime
Rap Music and Media
Criminal Justice Reform
Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award (professional)
from the American Society of Criminology (for outstanding scholarly contributions to the discipline of criminology)
Coramae Richey Mann Award (professional)
from the Division on People of Color and Crime, the American Society of Criminology (for outstanding contributions of scholarship on race/ethnicity, crime, and justice)
W.E.B. DuBois Award (professional)
from the Western Society of Criminology (for significant contributions to racial and ethnic issues in the field of criminology)
Paul Tappan Award (professional)
from the Western Society of Criminology (for outstanding contributions to the field of criminology)
University of Washington: PhD, Sociology
- American Society of Criminology : Fellow
Media Appearances (23)
Is shoplifting on the rise? Retail data shows it's fallen in many cities post-pandemic
USA Today online
Charis Kubrin, a criminology [law & society] professor at the University of California, Irvine told USA TODAY that the gap in available data makes it difficult to analyze crime trends. She believes that while there are likely certain neighborhoods and cities where theft has risen, others may have seen levels fall. “The key is identifying at a more local level where this is happening,” she said. “I think claiming that retail theft is out of control, or you know, headlines that are particularly alarmist, I think are really off base because we simply don't know at this point.”
Sacramento County sheriff accuses major retail stores of stymieing efforts to stop theft
Yahoo News online
Charis Kubrin, a professor of criminology, law and society at UC Irvine, recently told The Sacramento Bee that crime isn’t the only factor causing problems at retail stores — it’s part of a puzzle. “These organized criminal rings, the smash-and-grabs that are making the news, the commercial robberies that we’re seeing, the commercial burglaries, none of those particular forms of retail theft have anything to do with Prop 47, by definition,” Kubrin has said.
California lawmakers want to stop ‘alarming rise’ in retail theft. How big is the problem?
The Sacramento Bee online
California lawmakers this session want to prioritize strategies to combat retail theft …. experts say undoing some of the state’s criminal justice reforms in the name of stopping thieves could prove ineffective or have negative consequences. “We have to dispense with this simplistic narrative that reforms are what caused the crime and the crime is what causes all of the retail problems that the retail establishments are reporting,” said Charis Kubrin, a professor of Criminology, Law and Society at UC Irvine.
San Diego jail populations plummeted during the pandemic. It didn’t impact crime, researchers say.
The San Diego Union-Tribune online
Charis Kubrin, a criminologist at UC Irvine, and Bradley Bartos, an assistance professor at Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy, devised a study that focused on six California counties with jail populations of more than 1,000 that saw inmate totals fall by about 30 percent in the year after the state’s pandemic-era bail rules went into effect. The results were mixed, but the researchers found plummeting inmate totals had no consistent impact on violent or property crime.
What we know (and don’t) about the rise in retail theft
Los Angeles Times online
How the media frames and covers crime can have a strong impact on the perception of how safe we are. And with the prevalence of video monitoring in public spaces … it’s never been easier to record and share video of people behaving badly. ... As Charis Kubrin, a professor of criminology law and society at UC Irvine, witnessed firsthand recently, it’s difficult to shift gears to nuanced dialogue about crime after the emotional reaction of seeing violence, brazen thefts and other misdeeds. The spectacle of watching crime tends to trump a lesson on crime statistics.
Opinion: The truth about Proposition 47 and smash-and-grab robberies
The Orange County Register online
Studies [links to a UCI study led by Charis Kubrin, professor of criminology, law & society] have shown that Proposition 47, and similar policy changes across 37 U.S. states, did not increase property crime. And in California, property crime has actually fallen since Proposition 47 passed in 2014. [Subscription required, campus-wide access provided by UCI Libraries. Sign-up here: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/news/ocregister]
50 Cent, ScarLip on hip-hop and violence stereotype: 'How about we look at society?'
USA Today online
Charis E. Kubrin, a criminology professor at the University of California, Irvine, recalls reading works from theorists such as Harvard professor William Julius Wilson and Yale professor Elijah Anderson when she was getting her Ph.D. in sociology and noticed "social theories were mirrored in the lyrics of Biggie Smalls and Tupac and others. They were saying the same things, but just completely differently."
Groups of young people loot stores in Philadelphia
Philadelphia PD now say they’ve arrested at least 30 people. But this is a part of a larger trend of smash-and-grab schemes and frankly just plain old shoplifting that some major retailers say are forcing them to close stores… NBC’s Dana Griffin is following this for us. Also with us, professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine, Charis Kubrin. “Although crime is definitely part of the puzzle, it’s not the entire puzzle as to what’s going on with retailers shuttering their stores… it’s kind of a mixed bag as to what is going on – that’s important because that determines what to do moving forward to stop this,” says Kubrin.
No, California Proposition 47 doesn't allow you to steal $950 in store items | Fact check
USA Today online
The claim in the Facebook post is “absolutely false,” Charis Kubrin, a criminology professor at the University of California, Irvine, told USA TODAY. California voters passed Proposition 47 in November 2014. It downgraded many nonviolent offenses, including some nonviolent property crimes where the value does not exceed $950, into misdemeanors, according to the text of the measure. It did not give shoppers a license to steal beneath that threshold, experts say. “What Prop 47 did was reclassify some low-level drug and property offenses as misdemeanors rather than felonies – still keeping them as crimes,” Kubrin said.
Opinion: Decarceration and Crime Do Not Go Hand in Hand
Scientific American online
Charis E. Kubrin, UCI criminology, law and society professor and co-author writes: “COVID fundamentally altered how states administer justice. Arrests dropped, and prisons nationwide released inmates on an expedited basis. Perhaps nowhere was this last change more evident than in California. To stem COVID outbreaks, the state released thousands of individuals incarcerated in its jails and prisons. Immediately, critics voiced concern about the impacts of these releases on crime rates. Three years later, we can answer the question: How were COVID downsizing measures and crime trends related? In a newly published study, we show there is little connection. These results, and others like it, suggest that reducing the number of people incarcerated won’t compromise public safety.”
Florida photo mischaracterized in posts about California property crimes law
Proposition 47 in California, meanwhile, was a ballot measure passed by voters in November 2014. It made some nonviolent property crimes misdemeanors, as long as the value of the stolen goods did not exceed $950, according to the Los Angeles County public defender’s office. That includes certain forgeries, commercial burglary and theft crimes. … The law’s goal was to limit the state’s prison population, Charis Kurbin, a criminology, law and society professor at the University of California, Irvine, told the news outlet.
She was arrested outside S.F.’s Mid-Market Whole Foods a week before it closed. Here’s what happened next
San Francisco Chronicle online
Charis Kubrin, a criminology professor at UC Irvine, said she was “sympathetic” to the district attorney’s challenges but believes the impact of Prop. 47 on retail crime has been overstated. Kubrin co-authored a 2018 study of Prop. 47 that suggested the measure had no effect on robbery or other violent crime trends statewide in the years after it was passed, though larceny and motor vehicle thefts increased moderately.
Stores are locking up products to curb shoplifters. How that's affecting paying customers.
USA Today online
The gap in data makes it difficult to analyze crime trends, according to Charis Kubrin, a criminology professor at the University of California, Irvine. She believes that while there are likely certain neighborhoods and cities where theft has risen, others may have seen levels fall. “The key is identifying at a more local level where this is happening,” she said. “I think claiming that retail theft is out of control, or you know, headlines that are particularly alarmist, I think are really off base because we simply don't know at this point.”
Did Mac Dre Really Go to Prison Because of His Lyrics?
Charis Kubrin, a criminologist and UC Irvine professor, says the reason that the use of rap lyrics in trials is so concerning is because they could be used to exploit existing racial biases. “What’s happening in the minds of jurors, we think, are that folks are saying, ‘gosh, if someone could write these kinds of lyrics, they could do these kinds of crimes,’” she said. “Now, nobody thinks that with other music genres, or nobody’s thinking Quentin Tarantino is doing that with his violent films. But when it comes to rap music, it’s much easier to make that leap. And that’s because of stereotypes and biases that we have about young men of color who are primarily making the music.”
Playing Eminem At Work May Be Sexual Harassment, According To Court
Charis Kubrin, a rap music expert and professor at the University of California, Irvine, studied misogyny in rap music. Although her findings show that in the late 1990s, about one in five rap songs had misogynistic lyrics, she says that misogyny is not limited to rap music. "Country music, rock lyrics, all of the different genres of music have quite misogynistic themes," she explains.
The Bay Area saw 3 mass shootings in one weekend. Is gun violence trending up?
San Francisco Chronicle online
Crime can be “idiosyncratic,” UC Irvine criminologist [Professor] Charis Kubrin previously told The Chronicle, meaning it can fluctuate month to month for reasons criminologists don’t fully understand. That’s why Kubrin, and other criminologists tend to look at longer-term fluctuations, like the decades-long decline in violent crime in the U.S. that began in the 1990s. There are, of course, major exceptions — most recently and obviously, the major spike in gun violence and homicides that swept the U.S. in 2020. The national murder rate rose by 30% in a single year from 2019 to 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Criminal justice reforms should not be scapegoated for any and every crime in California
Long Beach Press-Telegram online
Research published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science in 2016 determined that AB 109 had no significant impact on overall crime, but may contribute to slight increases in property crimes. “We’ve seen no appreciable uptick in assaults, rapes or murders that can be connected to the prisoners who were released under realignment,” said Charis Kubrin, professor of criminology, law at society at UC Irvine at the time.
Rap on Trial – Decriminalizing Artistic Expression
Look West: How California is Leading the Nation radio
Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer sits down with … Harvey Mason Jr. … LL Cool J … and [UCI] professor of criminology, law and society, Charis Kubrin …. they talk about why the new Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act is so important …. “I’ve done some experimental research that shows that jurors and others are playing on stereotypes that prosecutors are using about young men of color as inherently threatening and dangerous. This experimental research shows that there are unique stereotypes and biases associated with rap in terms of perceptions of dangerousness and that sort of thing that you don’t see with violent content in other music genres.” [Kubrin said. Starts at 6:28]
Black rappers call out double standard of using hip-hop lyrics as evidence in rapper Young Thug’s criminal trial
NBC News online
It’s not uncommon for prosecutors to use rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials …. Prosecutors use the tactic because it’s effective in getting convictions, said Charis E. Kubrin, a professor at the University of California Irvine, who has researched the use of rap lyrics in the justice system. …. Through her research Kubrin has found bias against rap music and artists, she said, adding that much of that bias is racialized. … “Rap and race are so intertwined,” Kubrin said. That means using lyrics from rap music, a historically Black genre, can infect jurors with anti-Black racism regardless of whether the defendant himself is Black, she said.
Should Rap Lyrics Be Admissible in Court?
Smithsonian Magazine online
Thug and Gunna are just the latest in a line of rappers whose lyrics have been used against them in court as evidence. In these cases, prosecutors treat rap lyrics as “nothing more than autobiographical accounts—denying rap the status of art,” Charis E. Kubrin, a criminologist at the University of California, Irvine, tells the New York Times’ Livia Albeck-Ripka.
California Bill Could Restrict the Use of Rap Lyrics in Court
The New York Times online
Charis E. Kubrin, a professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine, who has extensively researched the use of rap lyrics in criminal proceedings, said that the way prosecutors have used defendant-authored lyrics in court was unique to rap.
A Violent Crisis
The New York Times online
Community-police relations are also still fraught, especially in minority neighborhoods. “If there is a fundamental breakdown in the community, the police are simply not going to be able to do an effective job,” said Charis Kubrin, a criminologist at the University of California, Irvine.
Angry Drivers, Lots of Guns: An Explosion in Road Rage Shootings
The New York Times online
“It’s the identical form of ball of wax: Folks getting pissed off, feeling strained and appearing out towards others,” stated Charis E. Kubrin, a criminologist on the College of California, Irvine. “One factor that we do know is that there was an enormous rise in gun gross sales,” she added.
Sanctuary Status and Crime in California: What’s the Connection?Justice Evaluation Journal
2020 In 2017, California officially became a sanctuary state following the passage of Senate Bill 54, which limits state and local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Following the passage of SB54, critics worried that crime rates would rise. What impact did this policy have on crime in California? The current study, the first of its kind, addresses this question.
Medical Marijuana Laws and SuicideArchives of Suicide Research
2019 In the current study we use a synthetic control group design to estimate the causal effect of a medical marijuana initiative on suicide risk. In 1996, California legalized marijuana use for medical purposes. Implementation was abrupt and uniform, presenting a “natural experiment.”
Institutional Completeness and Crime Rates in Immigrant NeighborhoodsJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
2018 A growing body of research finds that immigration has a null or negative association with neighborhood crime rates. We build on this important literature by investigating the extent to which one theory, institutional completeness theory, may help explain lower crime rates in immigrant communities across the Southern California region. Specifically, we test whether two key measures of institutional completeness—the presence of immigrant/ethnic voluntary organizations in the community and the presence and diversity of immigrant/ethnic businesses in the community—account for lower crime rates in some immigrant communities.
Imagining violent criminals: an experimental investigation of music stereotypes and character judgmentsJournal of Experimental Criminology
2018 Using an experimental approach, participants were presented with music lyrics and asked to make judgments about the person who wrote the lyrics. All participants read the same lyrics but were told they were from a country, heavy metal, or rap song, depending upon the condition into which they were randomly assigned.
Can We Downsize Our Prisons and Jails Without Compromising Public Safety?Criminology & Public Policy
2018 Our study represents the first effort to evaluate systematically Proposition 47’s (Prop 47’s) impact on California’s crime rates. With a state-level panel containing violent and property offenses from 1970 through 2015, we employ a synthetic control group design to approximate California’s crime rates had Prop 47 not been enacted.
Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Contentious IssueAnnual Reviews
2018 Are immigration and crime related? This review addresses this question in order to build a deeper understanding of the immigration-crime relationship. We synthesize the recent generation (1994 to 2014) of immigration-crime research focused on macrosocial (i.e., geospatial) units using a two-pronged approach that combines the qualitative method of narrative review with the quantitative strategy of systematic meta-analysis.
Suicide in Happy Places: Is There Really a Paradox?Journal of Happiness Studies
2017 In 2011 researchers published a paper that exposed a puzzling paradox: the happiest states in the U.S. also tend to have the highest suicide rates. In the current study, we re-examine this relationship by combining data from the Multiple Mortality Cause-of-Death Records, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the American Communities Survey to determine how subjective well-being and suicide are related across 1563 U.S. counties.
The Threatening Nature of “Rap” MusicPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
2016 Rap music has had a contentious relationship with the legal system, including censorship, regulation, and artists being arrested for lewd and profane performances. More recently, rap lyrics have been introduced by prosecutors to establish guilt in criminal trials. Some fear this form of artistic expression will be inappropriately interpreted as literal and threatening, perhaps because of stereotypes.