Naomi D Murakawa
POL S 405
Intensive reading and research in selected problems or fields of political analysis.
Description: The American punishment regime at the end of the twentieth century is vast, internationally anomalous, and marked by extreme racial disparities. The Politics of Punishment explores the causes, purposes, and consequences of the America’s distinctively severe punishment regime. We begin by exploring the historical development of American crime policy and the modern mechanisms of punishment, focusing on why contemporary punishment in the U.S. differs so radically from previous periods of American history and from other western democracies. Case studies of the modern mechanisms of punishment include the war on drugs, the regulation and politicization of street crime, and the death penalty. We then examine the political purposes of punishment. Some scholars argue that the purpose of punishment is to minimize crime, to honor the social contract, and to maintain order, but other scholars argue that punishment’s purpose resides in social control, the preservation of class hierarchy, and racial domination. Finally, we identify the consequences of the American punishment regime, including trends in felon disenfranchisement and the rise of the prison industrial complex, giving particular attention to how crime policy restructures American political inequality.
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Texts: Thinking About Crime, Tonry; Worse Than Slavery, Oshinsky; The Rich Get Richer And The Poor Get Prison, Reiman; The Contradictions Of American Capital Punishment, Zimring; Illusion Of Order, Harcourt; Making Crime Pay, Beckett.
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