Fall 2017 - 60822 - PA 388K – Advanced Topics in Public Policy

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race and Criminal Justice

This course examines the way in which racial bias in American history, policy and politics has impacted the relationship between African Americans and the justice system, from the convict lease era in slavery's aftermath to the crisis of mass incarceration and the age of Black Lives Matter. We will pay particular attention to the history and impact of federal anti-crime policy on sentencing, mandatory minimums, DOJ Byrne Grants, the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, the drug war, juvenile justice, and prisoner rehabilitation and rights since The Great Society. 

The course will take a panoramic view of the history of race and the criminal justice system. Beginning with the history of black criminalization after Reconstruction and focusing especially on postwar America’s institutionalization of a racialized criminal justice system and its corresponding impact on communities of color. We will examine what Michelle Alexander has labeled the New Jim Crow, the system of mass incarceration that makes the criminal justice system a gateway to multiple systems of oppression to a wide range of blacks and Latinos.

Requirements and Expectations

Students will be evaluated based on four criteria:

Weekly three paragraph critical analysis of the readings.
Midterm assignment of a 2-page policy brief: this will include a short, group presentation on your brief. More information on this assignment will be provided in class.
Final 20 page critical historical and policy analysis on a specific aspect of criminal justice reform (e.g. ending money bail system for criminal defendants charged with low level warrants).
Class participation.


We will read one book or article per week.