ES 352 Social Equity and Criminal Justice

Spring 2020
IRES major
IRES minor

Brief Summary:

Critical issues related to police, prisons, criminal justice, and racial and gender inequalities.


Detailed Description:

The purpose of this class is to acquaint students with critical issues related to social justice and equality as they pertain to the history and present state of the U.S. criminal justice system. We will discuss thehistory of criminal codes, policing, and imprisonment. In addition, we will examine current debates such as those related to prison policies, the war on drugs, judicial discretion and mandatory sentencing guidelines, the expansion and curtailment of defendant rights, police profiling, victims' rights, theincreasing criminalization of immigration, and the death penalty. Particular attention will be given throughout the course to the ways in which both crime and the criminal justice system disproportionately impact the poor and people of color. Furthermore, specific attention will be given to the different ways that women, gays and lesbians, and transgender people are impacted by crime and criminal justice. Central to the course will be an ongoing critical attention to the historically variable relationships among legal and conventional definitions of crime and measures of social and personal harm.

As an ethnic studies course, this course will differ from courses in history, political science, or sociology,in that it deliberately exposes students to multiple methodological approaches, drawing from historical texts, contemporary social and theoretical analysis, ethnography, public policy, and first-hand activist accounts. It also seeks to understand race, ethnicity, and other social identities as bases for knowledge and resistance, rather than primarily as social variables.

This course is intended to satisfy the Social Science (SSC) group requirement. It is liberal in nature in that it is neither professionally oriented nor limited to the performance of professional skills. It covers a representative cross-section of key issues, perspectives, and modes of analysis employed by social science scholars working on crime, justice, incarcerations, policing, and social equality. The subject matter of the course is relatively broad since it involves more than one issue (law, policing, crime, victims' social movements, social policy, etc.) over a significant span of time.

The course is intended to satisfy the multicultural requirement for Category B: Identity, Pluralism, and Tolerance (IP), as it seeks to help students gain scholarly insight into the construction of collective identities (specifically, racial, gender, sexual, and class identities), the emergence of representative voices from varying social and cultural standpoints (including African American, Latino, Native American, and lower socioeconomic standpoints), and the effects of prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination (particularly as they relate to interactions disempowered social groups in the United States). This course considers race, social class, gender, and sexual orientation as contributing to cultural pluralism and as important factors in shaping identities and informing the emergence of voices in response to prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination. Our study of social equity and criminal justice will also consider general principles underlying the concept of tolerance.