GOVT-219 Prisons and Punishment
Fall for 2017-2018
Faculty:
2.3 million Americans currently reside in jails and prisons, often under conditions of severe overcrowding, race-based segregation, and horrific physical and sexual violence. They are granted few (if any) educational opportunities or job training, in stark contrast to many European countries, which operate extensive rehabilitation programs that prepare inmates for their eventual release and reintegration into society. Yet even though prisoners and former prisoners (not to mention their family members) constitute a substantial portion of the American population, they are generally a powerless and forgotten group of people, with few rights or opportunities. Surprisingly, very little is known or taught about prisons and punishment—in the United States or elsewhere.

This course will explore these issues in a comparative perspective. It will seek to answer the following questions: Why does the U.S. maintain an incarceration rate that is seven times higher than other democracies, even though Americans are no more likely to be the victims of crimes than are people in other societies? Why is the U.S. one of the few democratic countries to sanction the death penalty? In other words, why is the criminal justice system in this country so much more punitive than in comparable countries? This lecture course will also involve several different formats, including smaller group discussions of certain readings, the viewing of several excellent movies and documentaries that relate to prisons and punishment, and a class “field trip” to an actual prison.

This course has been renumbered, effective Fall 2014. A student who earned credit for GOVT 361 Prisons and Punishment in a prior term should not enroll and cannot earn credit in this class.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Course syllabi
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Fall '17: Howard M (description, file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.
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