There is a hidden crisis facing American society. For the first time in our history, not only is one out of every one-hundred adults behind bars, but some states are now spending more on prisons than higher education. And in minority communities, the statistics are even more troubling. More young African American men, it has been said, are in prison than in college. How did all of this happen? And what can, and should be done?
Taking a wide ranging — and, at times, unscripted — approach, in this course we shall examine the origins of the present crisis in crime and justice in the United States, not only in case law, national politics, and in the ongoing legacy of legally-mandated racial segregation, but also in the complex relationships between crime, poverty, racism, and the rise of drug trafficking in the United States to heretofore unknown new levels.
Individual class sessions will probe a variety of topics, including DNA evidence and forensic procedure, sentencing disparities, and the debate over capital punishment. Comprising both lectures and in-class discussions, this course will also feature visits by an array of guest speakers — including law enforcement officers, prosecutors and defense counsel — with hands-on experience in what has emerged as one of the most daunting public policy issues facing contemporary American society.