Advanced Research in Criminal Justice

Course Overview

This course will involve intensive team research projects focused on various aspects of the incarceration experience. The goal is to produce research and policy documents that will help inform policymakers, practitioners, and advocates about best practices and necessary changes to prison operations in order to advance conditions that are more humane and respectful of human dignity.


The first few weeks of the course will involve substantive classes and a few short assigned readings to provide students with the necessary background for their research project. After that, the class will function more informally, with regular meetings between student teams and the instructor to ensure ongoing progress. Teams will likely each consist of four students. Students will look both nationally and internationally for guidance on best practices, and will seek to assess the impact that current conditions have on people who are incarcerated.


Although this is considered an “advanced” class, there is no prerequisite for the course.  However, students should be prepared to engage in substantial research and writing, and should be comfortable working in teams on a significant project. While a background in criminal justice or corrections is not required for the class, it would certainly be helpful.


Adjunct lecturer Alycia Welch will serve as co-instructor for the course.

Learning Objectives

Through this class, students will develop skills in conceptualizing, conducting, and completing a significant research project that will be of use to policymakers, corrections practitioners, journalists, and advocates. They will learn how to research and write for a policy audience, and will learn about key issues in corrections operations and management that affect the rights and safety of people in custody. Students will also improve their teamwork and project management skills.  


Course Requirements and Grading

Students are expected to attend all classes and team meetings, participate fully in the group work activities, submit work to their teammates in a timely manner, and use their best efforts to produce work products that are well-written, accurate, and responsive to the assignments. Each team will produce a variety of work products, including a short report, a one-pager, an Op-Ed, and possibly some other documents as well, and may be asked to conduct an oral briefing about their research.



Students will be graded on the basis of the quality of their individual contributions to the group project, the overall group project (a team grade), and on class participation.  Students will also be asked to submit a self-assessment as well as an assessment of their fellow team members’ participation in the group work.




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