21H.319 | Fall 2014 | Undergraduate
Race, Crime, and Citizenship in American Law


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Overview

This HASS-S seminar looks at key issues in the historical development and current state of modern American criminal justice, with an emphasis on its relationship to citizenship, nationhood, and race/ethnicity. We begin with a range of perspectives on the rise of what is often called “mass incarceration”: how did our current system of criminal punishment take shape, and what role did race play in that process? Part Two takes up a series of case studies, including racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty, enforcement of the drug laws, and the regulation of police investigations. The third and final part of the seminar looks at national security policing: the development of a constitutional law governing the intersection of ethnicity, religion, and counter-terrorism, and the impact of counter-terrorism policy on domestic police practices.


This course has no prerequisites.


Class Participation (includes two oral debates) 40%
Paper 1 15%
Paper 2 20%
Final Paper 25%


Part One: History and Structure of Contemporary Criminal Justice
1 Introduction  
2 In Search of Paradigms: History, Social Science, Politics, and Law  
3 The Question of Race and the Uses of History  
4 From the Revolution to the Gilded Age  
5 From the Gilded Age to the 1990s Paper 1 due
Part Two: Case Studies
6 Making History Count: The Death Penalty and Felon Disenfranchisement 1st Class Debate – Felon Disenfranchisement
7 The War on Drugs  
8 Controlling the Police  
9 Plea Bargaining and Sentencing: The Role of Prosecutors and Judges  
10 Judging Innocence and Guilt Paper 2 due
Part Three: National Security Policing
11 Ferguson, Race, and the Militarization of Local Police Forces  
12 Are Illegal Aliens “Criminals”? 2nd Class Debate – Illegal Immigration
13 Legal Process and Civil Liberties – from WWII to the War on Terror  
14 Counter-Terrorism Law Today  
15 Concluding Discussion Final Paper due
Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2014