This upper-division seminar looks at the theory and practice of criminal punishment in the United States: we read and discuss materials from philosophy, history, law, anthropology, and sociology to discuss under what conditions state punishment could be justified, and how the American modern practice of mass incarceration and capital punishment do or — as most agree — do not meet those conditions.
The substantive goal for this seminar is to give you an understanding of the problems of American penal policy, and enable you to engage in the project of its reform. A second, and equally important, goal is to help you hone skills in interpreting complex materials and information, both written and observed.
This course is an Art of Writing seminar, which means that we focus intensively on the craft of writing, both analytically and persuasively, through frequent, iterative writing projects.
If public health conditions permit, we will make a visit to San Quentin Prison and the Oakland criminal courts. This may involve you excusing yourself from other commitments on those two days of field visits in order to participate.