Since the 1980s, rates of incarceration in the U.S. have risen precipitously. Our country now imprisons a larger percentage of its population than any Western democracy. Racial and ethnic minorities continue to comprise the large majority of those incarcerated. Some who study this issue believe our current system of criminal justice treats racial and ethnic minorities accused of crimes far more severely than whites. They argue our legal policies perpetuate the same racial injustices as the Jim Crow laws of the early 20th century. Others assert that the disproportionate imprisonment of minorities, particularly African Americans, originates instead from social and economic conditions that foster higher rates of involvement in serious and violent crimes.
This seminar interrogates these and other perspectives on the crisis of mass incarceration in the U.S.. We will study the laws and policies connecting race, crime and the evolution of punishment between 1970 and 2020. The seminar emphasizes three goals for student learning. The first is deepening students’ understanding of how legal policies combined with levels of racial and economic inequality have influenced society’s response to crime. The second goal is developing analytical skills in evaluating major theories of and primary research on policies that shaped the relationship between race, crime and patterns of imprisonment. Third, students will draw upon the readings and seminar discussions in formulating their own ideas about the relationship between crime, race and other social forces that shape patterns of incarceration in the U.S. Over the course of the term, each student will develop, complete, and present to the seminar a feasible policy solution (or set of policy solutions) to alter the administration of justice in ways that remedy the disproportionate incarceration of people of color.
Fri Apr 29, 6 - 10p, Sat Apr 30 - Sun May 1, 9a - 5p
Fri May 20, 6 - 10p, Sat May 21 - Sun May 22, 9a - 5p