21H.319 | Fall 2014 | Undergraduate

Race, Crime, and Citizenship in American Law



Debate 1: Felon Disenfranchisement

Debate prompt: “Felon disenfranchisement is a legitimate tool of penal policy, and is consistent with American constitutional norms.”

Draw from the readings for Session 6 to prepare for this debate.

The format of the debate is as follows: 10 minutes for opening statements by each side, 5 minutes to respond, an additional 10 minutes for each side to develop arguments further and / or question the opposing side, and a closing argument of 5 minutes for each side.

Debate 2: Illegal Immigration

Debate prompt: “Illegal aliens are ‘criminals’ and should be deported.”

The materials on which you should base your preparation are the readings for Session 12. Nothing else should be necessary but you are welcome to explore other resources if you like.

The format of the debate is as follows: 10 minute opening statements by each side, followed by 15 minutes of unstructured debate, followed by 10 minutes of questioning by the professor of each side, followed by 10 minute closing statements by each side. The opening and closing statements should be handled by sub-teams of two (five minutes for each person, ten minutes total per side), so that everyone has a chance to speak in a sustained way for at least five minutes.

Written Assignments

Two of the three written assignments will ask you to discuss a currently pending criminal case of your choosing. This case, which you will follow throughout the semester, should concern some aspect of American criminal justice that falls within the parameters of the seminar. Within that broad space, you are free (and indeed expected) to pick a topic that is most interesting and important to you, and to look into the records and other primary sources for that case. You should identify your case by the end of Part One of the course. The specific topics and deadlines for the three papers are as follows:

Paper 1

Five page critique of Stuntz in relation to the readings by Whitman, Steiker, Alexander, and Forman from Part One of the seminar (due Session 5, 15% of final grade).

Sample Student Work

“American Criminal Justice – Problems and How They Came to Be” (PDF) (Courtesy of Dishaan Ahuja. Used with permission.)

Paper 2

Six to seven page analysis of your chosen case in relation to the readings from Part Two of the seminar (due Session 10, 20% of final grade).

Sample Student Work

“Illegal Immigration: Evaluating the Constitutionality of SB 1070 in its Enforcement” (PDF) (Courtesy of an MIT student. Used with permission.)

Final Paper

Nine to ten page paper comparing the use of history in the debates over race discrimination in “everyday” criminal justice (seminar Parts One and Two) versus national security policing (seminar Part Three). The paper should discuss both the relevant seminar readings and your chosen case as it relates to the larger comparison about the place of history in understanding contemporary criminal law enforcement (due final session, 25% of final grade).

Final Paper Checklist

Some points to consider as you prepare your final papers:

  1. Have you considered two concrete examples of discrimination-related issues from the street crime part of the course (Part 2)?
  2. Have you considered how authors from Parts 1 and 2 have tried to place those issues in historical context by analogizing them to earlier experiences?
  3. Have you taken up a couple of concrete examples from the national security policing part of the course and considered how some (not all) of our authors relate these issues to prior historical episodes?
  4. Does the paper make clear your own position on the validity and use of these historical analogies, including whether they bear equally on both street crime and national security policing issues?
  5. Have you used your own case from the 2nd paper to develop your answer to point 4?
  6. Does the paper have a clear introductory thesis statement that summarizes what you are doing with respect to the above points, especially point 4?
  7. Have you carefully cited your sources and checked formatting of those cites in addition to proofreading the whole paper?

Sample Student Work

“Awareness of Racial Discrimination in American Policing: Transforming The Silent Observer” (PDF) (Courtesy of an MIT student. Used with permission.)

“Historical Patterns in Street Crime and National Security Policing” (PDF) (Courtesy of Dishaan Ahuja. Used with permission.)

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2014