The Politics of Criminal Justice in the U.S.

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Political Science

Politics of Criminal Justice
Spring 2021
Taught By: Dion Nania
Section: A

Course Reference Number: 9053

Credits: 4

The central objective of this seminar is to introduce students to the processes by which politics have shaped the practice of criminal justice in America. Rather than taking ‘crime’ as the central category, we will explore the processes of criminalization, their antecedents and their outcomes. This seminar will explore these processes across three main, overlapping dimensions: race, political economy and electoral politics. In turn, it will look at the institutional outcomes which derive from these, in particular the scope of incarceration and the nature of policing. The impacts of policing and mass incarceration are disproportionately borne by communities of color. Taking political contest around racial hierarchies as a starting point, we will explore how programs of criminalization, primarily during Reconstruction, in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement, and the War on Drugs have functioned to reinscribe inequality, despite the emancipatory progress which has often proceeded them. In terms of political economy, we will explore the extent to which practices of criminal justice can be understood as state management or intervention in the labor market, and the extent to which criminal justice structures working lives outside the prison walls. Other economic matters bound up in criminal justice, such as prison work, privatization, and the reliance on revenue streams generated by policing will also demand attention. Alongside these interrelated factors we will explore how and why electoral politics have driven processes of criminalization, and handicapped attempts to redress the injustices that have resulted. Throughout, we will remain attentive to the role of social movements in pushing back against the criminal justice system, with a focus on inside-prison activism, and the contemporary Black Lives Matter and abolition movements We will read selections from the following authors: Vesla Weaver, Bruce Western, W.E.B. DuBois, Michel Foucault, Stuart Schrader, Michael Dawson, Michelle Alexander, Marie Gottschalk, Piven & Cloward, Heather Thompson, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Noah Zatz, David Garland, Angela Davis and others.

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Political Science (LPOL)

Campus: Online (DL)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Max Enrollment: 22