Section Description Provided by Instructor
This seminar examines detention centers, jails, and prisons in an era of "hyper" or "mass" incarceration. Nearly 2.4 million Americans are now behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults, far more per crime than any other industrialized nation. If we include persons on parole or probation, one adult in 31 is under correctional supervision. Criminologists say that the experience of incarceration is so pervasive among some social groups as to be a defining feature of their collective (rather than individual) experience. We will examine both how people get to prison and their experiences once there. We will look beyond the institutional walls to analyze external regulation and oversight by executive or other public bodies, the influences of organizations of correctional professionals, legislation addressing detention and incarceration, and litigation brought by public and private actors.
This course is designed to stimulate students to think critically about contemporary punishment practices, and the serious social and economic consequences of mass incarceration. What accounts for the growth of incarceration, including both prison and jail? What have been the effects of the prison build-up on individuals, their families and communities? What are the social costs of incarceration in the communities that send the most persons to prison? What are the public safety consequences? What happens to inner-city communities when prisoners return in need of social and economic support? What happens to the children of incarcerated parents? How shall we interpret and critique the development of "supermax" prisons in the 1970s that place individuals into indefinite solitary confinement? What happens after people are released from prison? We will address these topics, bringing legal, statutory, policy and criminological perspectives to bear on these important policy topics.
The seminar format will combine lecture, independent research, and student presentations. Each student will produce a research paper on a topic within the phenomenon of mass incarceration.
T 4:20-6:10 pm
Method of Evaluation
J.D. Writing Credit
Minor (upon consultation)
Learning Outcome Goals
- Students will develop critical analytical skills to assess contemporary punishment practices and the social and economic consequences of mass incarceration for those detained, their families and their communities
- Students will identify and review evidence from several disciplines to assess the sources of the rapid increase in incarceration from the mid-twentieth century to the present day, and also the racial disparities in incarceration over this period.
- Students will evaluate the effects of administrative and legal mechanisms for constitutional regulation of incarceration.
- Students will analyze the factors that influence the lives of ex-prisoners following release from incarceration.
- Students will identify diverse sources of information about incarceration trends and conditions.
- Students will become conversant in litigation strategies focused on incarceration practices and conditions.
- Students will develop a vocabulary of prison culture, incarceration conditions, and the workplace dynamics of the security staff and incarceration administrators.