California spends billions of dollars on state corrections and has the largest prison population in the country. African-American men born in the late 1960’s were more likely by 1999 to have served time in prison than to have obtained a college degree or served in the military. This class will focus primarily on the legal issues surrounding prison administration—including parole and probation—but it will situate those legal issues within their social and political contexts. The course will have a particular emphasis on California corrections. Topics will include the justification of and legal challenges to prison receivership; prisoner’s rights to legal, educational, and health care access; the history of the penitentiary; indeterminate sentencing and parole; female prisoners and prisoners with children; statistical studies analyzing the relationship between prison populations and the crime rate; the Prison Litigation Reform Act; ex-felon disenfranchisement; supermax facilities; alternatives to incarceration; civil commitment; and policy proposals relating to all of the above.
Students will be graded on class participation and will be required to complete a final paper on a legal or policy issue relating to corrections. There will be no laptops allowed in class. Some students will be eligible for the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement.