This seminar examines detention centers, jails, and prisons in an era of "hyper" or "mass" incarceration. Nearly 2.4 million Americans are now behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults, far more per crime than any other industrialized nation. If we include persons on parole or probation, one adult in 31 is under correctional supervision. Criminologists say that the experience of incarceration is so pervasive among some social groups as to be a defining feature of their collective (rather than individual) experience. We will examine both how people get to prison and their experiences once there. We will look beyond the institutional walls to analyze external regulation and oversight by executive or other public bodies, the influences of organizations of correctional professionals, legislation addressing detention and incarceration, and litigation brought by public and private actors.
This course is designed to stimulate students to think critically about contemporary punishment practices, and the serious social and economic consequences of mass incarceration. What accounts for the growth of incarceration, including both prison and jail? What have been the effects of the prison build-up on individuals, their families and communities? What are the social costs of incarceration in the communities that send the most persons to prison? What are the public safety consequences? What happens to inner-city communities when prisoners return in need of social and economic support? What happens to the children of incarcerated parents? How shall we interpret and critique the development of "supermax" prisons in the 1970s that place individuals into indefinite solitary confinement? What happens after people are released from prison? We will address these topics, bringing legal, statutory, policy and criminological perspectives to bear on these important policy topics.
The seminar format will combine lecture, independent research, and student presentations. Each student will produce a research paper on a topic within the phenomenon of mass incarceration.