Timothy A Deak
Reviews the major components - police, courts, and corrections - of the U.S. criminal justice system; investigates critical factors that shape criminal procedure; considers the relationship between criminal procedure and wider concerns of justice.
Crime is a part of social life. It can involve acts of overt violence: whether as victim or suspect, arrest, trial, or imprisonment. At the same time, we encounter crime in our everyday lives: watching news reports about murder, robbery, and child molestation; soaking in TV dramas like “Law and Order,” “Dexter,” or “Criminal Minds;” listening to the remarks of politicians; locking our doors; dealing with aggressive drivers and disruptive neighbors; and walking past surveillance cameras. Our concerns with criminal activity extend to the institutions that aim to address it, known as “the criminal justice system.” These institutions aim to reduce the incidence of crime without needlessly hindering civil liberties.
What is sometimes ignored in the way that crime is presented in the media, in the remarks of politicians, and in our ordinary encounters are: the broader social forces that contribute to crime, the social beliefs that shape what behaviors get defined as crimes, and the issues that arise when we create institutions that respond to crime. In this course, we will explore these neglected themes, by asking: What are some scholarly theories that try to explain criminal behavior? How do certain behaviors get defined as crimes, while others do not? What are some of the issues and dilemmas in the ways that our criminal justice institutions operate? How are social control and other punishments enforced by these institutions? Are they successful? What other responses to crime exist, other than incarceration?
Student learning goals
The primary goal of this course is to introduce students to scholarly texts (from law and society, criminology, and political theory) that address understandings of crime; examine the workings of the criminal justice system and social control; and explore the intersection of the criminal justice and mental health systems.
Additionally, this course begins the process of teaching students how to read scholarly texts. You will gain an understanding of the arguments made in academic texts, begin to understand the rhetorical strategies by which scholars make their arguments, and develop the skills to evaluate those arguments critically.
You will learn to express your positions clearly, both orally and in writing, and to engage in dialogue with others about these positions.
General method of instruction
This course employs a mixture of lectures and class-driven discussion. For more difficult readings, I will adopt a lecture approach (with Power Point slides) before we begin class conversation. When addressing articles that are more straightforward or brief, we will immediately examine them together as a class. We will work through the questions posed in the response papers to structure our collective tackling of the article’s content. (Therefore, students may find it helpful to jot down their answers to these questions as they work through the articles on their own, in preparation for our class discussions—even on the days when a written response paper is not due.) I will make thorough use of the white-board during class discussions to visually represent our progress.
No prerequisites are required.
Class assignments and grading
1. Four response papers. Students will write a three-page, double-spaced response paper for the day’s readings indicated in the syllabus.
2. Two course exams. The first exam will take place in class on April 30th. The second (non-cumulative) exam is take-home, which will be distributed on May 30th (our final class.) It will be due on June 6th by 7 PM.
3. Class participation.
The four response papers will count for 30% of the course grade, the first exam will count for 30% of the course grade, the second exam will count for 30% of the course grade, and class participation will account for 10% of the course grade.
All will be evaluated on their performance based upon results, not upon effort. In other words, students will be evaluated on the quality of the final product.