The class serves as an introduction to the Crime, Law and Justice Studies minor through an interdisciplinary approach. The course uses approaches from history, sociology, ethnography, critical theory and literature to examine the sequence of events that occur in the criminal legal system to address the following questions and topics: Is our system just? What is crime, and what are some theories that claim to explain "criminality"? How did the US criminal legal process and procedures emerge, and how do they function today? What is the history of policing and the police, and what are current issues that shape policing today? What happens once a person is caught up in the criminal legal process, and what role do judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and forensics play in that process? In the small percentage of cases that proceed to trial, what happens, and what are the options for the person? What happens after, and do prisons administer just punishment? What about after prison?
The driving question of the course is what it means to have and create a just system and for whom, and how does race, gender, sexuality and other categories of identity shape how a person experiences this sequence of often inevitable events. To understand complex issues like Crime, Law and Justice, we will use numerous case studies and stories such as Kalief Browder, a 16-year who spent years in Rikers Island Prison without a conviction, and whose case spurred the movement to close Rikers. We look at how judges and prosecutors make decisions in a Cleveland Courthouse, how one man experienced the death penalty, and read short stories that imagine societies with different ways of administering justice. This class will have multiple class visits including a Juvenile Prison superintendent, a police officer, people who have been in prison, a lawyer with the Clemency project and others.
The purpose of this .5 seminar is to provide students with guidance and a supportive environment in which to pursue an independent research project that will serve as the culmination of their minor in Crime, Law and Justice Studies. The course allows students, in consultation with the CLJ director, to reflect upon, evaluate, and apply the knowledge they have gained in their course work with an institution, group or organization related to crime, law and justice. Students conduct research for or about the organization, which might include archival research, interviews or participant observation. Students identify themes, as well as particular questions and/or methodological comparisons to create connections between their coursework and the organization. The culmination of the seminar is project in a paper or non-paper format that they present to the class. For example, a student who focused on carceral systems might choose to work with an organization or with a legislator involved in prison reform and write about that experience. A student focusing on forensics and policing could examine how the Tacoma police utilize forensic science through a video, zine or slide presentation. A student focused on law and race in the US could shadow a lawyer at the Defenders Association or Civil Survival and create a video about it or write a paper, short story or art installation.