Course Description

601.615. Police, Prisons, Protest


This seminar explores two important aspects of modern criminal law: prisons and police. In recent years, incarceration and law enforcement have been the subject of significant controversy as the broader public has recognized the dramatic growth of prison populations and the frequency of police violence. The challenges presented by imprisonment and policing are part of a longer history of policy debates, philosophical critiques and racial discrimination. The aim of this course is to provide students with a deeper understanding of these challenges and the various avenues pursued within them. Topics covered will include mass incarceration, private prisons, reform vs. abolition, the role of technology, police unions, defunding, movement lawyering, etc. The intersection between race, law and criminalization will be an overriding focus. Students will also study how protest is used as a means of pushing the law in new directions and pushing against unjust laws.

The seminar will employ an interdisciplinary approach to these subjects, exposing students to disciplines and learning materials beyond those traditionally found in law school. The semester will be reading intensive: students will be required to prepare a significant amount of reading each week to facilitate robust class discussions. The readings will represent perspectives from different intellectual traditions, ranging from conservative to radical, and include global comparative dimensions. At the end of the course, students will be equipped with the theoretical and practical tools to engage these subjects as scholars, practitioners and policy advocates.