Today 2.2 million Americans are behind bars--more than any other industrialized nation, taxpayers spend almost $80 billion a year on punishment, and racial minorities are disproportionately overrepresented in the justice system. Consequentially, some scholars, advocates, and policymakers argue that mass incarceration is one of the greatest social injustices of our time. The first half of the course will examine the interaction of law, policy, politics, and intellectual ideas that helped cause and sustain mass incarceration. What accounts for the growth of America's incarceration experiment? What are the origins of mass incarceration? What are the societal consequences of the prison build-up? The second half of the course will explore contemporary policy problems related to punishment in America and the policy efforts designed to combat them. Topics will include bail reform, fines and fees, solitary confinement, sentencing reform, felony disenfranchisement, and "ban the box" efforts. The course is for anyone interested in civil rights, criminal law, or public policy. Grades are based on class participation, in-class presentations, and a final paper.
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