Course Catalog

Prisons & Criminal Justice Systems

  • Semester 1 2024-2025

    Aug 28, 2024-Dec 13, 2024 For Members Register
  • Semester 2 2024-2025

    Jan 8, 2025-April 25, 2025 For Members Register

Course Overview

How do societies balance individual freedoms with security? How do definitions of “crime” and “punishment” shift across jurisdictions and time periods? How do recent protests and discussions about racial biases and systemic racism inform our understanding of criminal law and its applications? Although the United States has been frequently cited as having the highest “mass incarceration” rate, other countries in the world have also been criticized for injustices in their criminal justice systems.

In this course, students become familiar with the legal rules and institutions that determine who goes to prison and for how long. Along the way, students gain a concrete, practical understanding of legal systems while grappling with mass incarceration as a legal, ethical, and practical issue.

To understand current views on crime and criminal punishments and to examine proposed systemic reforms, students immerse themselves in the different forms of rhetoric and media that brought the U.S. and other nations to our present. They read and analyze jury arguments, courtroom motions, news op-eds, judicial decisions, recent cases, and other forms of public persuasion that shape the outcomes of criminal defendants.

The final project requires students to advocate for a major reform to a criminal justice system in a city, state, or country. Having developed research skills, students apply them to build an effective argument that includes a real-world solution.

Students in GOA courses will need reliable access to a computer with webcam/microphone connections, an email address (preferably school-based), a Web-conferencing app (GOA courses use Zoom), and a Word processing app (GOA courses use Google’s G Suite). When necessary, alternative arrangements may be made.

NCAA-approved course

UC-approved course

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