Race, Crime, and the Crisis of Mass Incarceration
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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 that our legal system perpetuates the same racial injustices Jim Crow laws in 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 minority involvement in serious and violent crimes.
This course interrogates these and other perspectives on the crisis of mass incarceration in the U.S.. We will study the relationship between race, crime and the evolution of punishment between 1970 and 2020. The course emphasizes three goals for student learning. The first is deepening students’ understanding of the role of legal institutions in shaping society’s response to crime. The second goal is developing analytical skills in evaluating major theories of and research on the relationship between race, crime and law enforcement. Third, students will draw upon the readings and seminar discussions in formulating their own ideas about the role of race in our system of criminal justice, crime and its causes, and how our legal institutions respond to criminal behavior.
As part of the seminar sessions, we will review prominent historical, sociological and legal studies of crime and punishment, prepare and review written responses to weekly study questions, and actively participate in seminar discussions of the readings and theories considered.
Credits per quarter
- Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
Class Size: 15
Scheduled for: Evening
Final schedule and room assignments:
First meeting:Monday, September 24, 2018 - 7:00 pm
Located in: Olympia