Course Details

Criminal Justice Reform

The United States is at the cusp of a potentially significant period of criminal justice reform. There is an emerging consensus in both parties and all three branches of government that the criminal system is malfunctioning in ways that do profound damage to the country. But consensus stops there: when it comes to explaining why the criminal system has unraveled and how it could be set right, the extant views seem so chaotically varied and conflicting as to impede thinking about and acting on policy reform in a coherent way. Yet the views are not as chaotic as they might seem: within the welter of diverse arguments, two distinct perspectives can be seen. On one side are those who think the root of the crisis is the outsized influence of a vengeful, ill-informed, or otherwise problematic American public, and the solution is to place control over the criminal system in the hands of officials and experts. On the other side are those who think the root of the crisis is a set of bureaucratic attitudes, structures, and incentives divorced from the American public’s concerns and sense of justice, and the solution is to make criminal justice more community-focused and responsive to lay influences. Of course, this bifurcation compresses the diverse views on each side to some extent and leaves certain views out of the equation altogether. But the benefit of the compression is the ability to bring a coherent theoretical perspective to what might otherwise be a cacophony of arguments. This course will examine criminal justice reform from these two theoretical perspectives. We will first examine the two perspectives themselves. We will then bring the two perspectives to bear on three of the major headings of the contemporary crisis: criminalization, sentencing, and plea bargaining. We will close by examining some of the major proposals for policy reform. Course Particulars: This course is a seminar, with a heavy emphasis on reading, writing, and discussion. Grades will be based on general class participation (20%), in-class presentations (20%), and the final paper (60%). I will approve all student requests for multi-draft papers. If you choose the one-draft paper option, the course will qualify for two credits. If you choose the two- or three-draft paper options, the course will qualify for three credits. Whichever option you choose, one of the goals of this course is to help you become a better writer, and in that spirit, we will discuss your final paper one-on-one before you start writing and you will get extensive feedback on it afterward. There are no prerequisites. Students who would like to complete the 2 draft writing requirement and earn one additional credit hour in this course will be able to self-enroll in the associated LAWWRT 602 course section (class nbr 18888) during open enrollment August 24-September 23, 2016. Students who would like to complete the 3 draft writing requirement and earn one additional credit hour in this course will be able to self-enroll in the associated LAWWRT 603 course section (class nbr 18908) during open enrollment August 24-September 23, 2016.

Catalog Number: CRIM 638


Course History

Fall 2016
Title: Criminal Justice Reform
Faculty: Kleinfeld, Joshua (courses | profile)
Section: 1     Credits: 3.0
Capacity: 25     Actual: 22