SMNR: Crime and Punishment
This seminar will explore criminal and quasi-criminal proceedings with a particular focus on how the enforcement of law uniquely affects people (and communities) of color. Through assigned reading and classroom discussion, seminar participants will explore a number of topics including: the prison industrial complex and the rise of mass incarceration, family separation, the criminalization of poverty (e.g., debtors’ prisons) and immigration. How are these proceedings alike? How are they different? To what extent does the criminal justice system serve as a model for non-criminal proceedings? This course will utilize, in part, Critical Race Theory, Social Conflict Theory and Social Capital Theory as frameworks to connect emergent themes. Approximately two-thirds of the semester will be devoted to readings that will include judicial opinions, scholarly articles, as well as less traditional materials including policy briefs and proposed and enacted legislation. In addition to robust discussion, class meetings may occasionally include guest speakers directly impacted by these systems and those working to change them. The final third of the semester will be devoted to students presentations of their seminar papers. Grades for the course will be based upon class participation and completion of a paper (minimum 30 double-spaced pages, inclusive of footnotes). Students’ papers may examine any issue concerning the criminal justice system or quasi-criminal proceedings so long as a substantial focus of the paper is an examination of doctrinal, theoretical, and/or policy-based facets of a legal problem and corresponding solutions.