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Home > Academics > Undergraduate > Ethnic Studies >
Ethnic Studies
Course Description

Ethnic Studies 157
Race, Gender and the Criminal Justice System

The U.S. has the highest number of imprisoned peoples in the world. Over the past 100 years, the population of prisoners has multiplied more than 20 times, reaching over two million to-date, and youth and adults of color represent the majority of those imprisoned and on probation. In light of such overwhelming racial and gendered discrepancies, the criminal justice system has succumbed to scrutiny by lawmakers and social justice activists alike. This course will provide students with the tools, historical background, and contemporary analyses of the criminal justice system to engage in meaningful debates about race, gender, crime and punishment and produce their own analyses of the pros, cons, and potential reforms that might create a more equitable system of justice.

We will engage in a four-part exploration of these topics beginning with an examination of the histories of thought that produced ideas about race, gender and criminality in the U.S. We will also consider historical forms of racialized incarceration including American Indian reservations and American Indian Boarding Schools, American “heritage” houses, post-emancipation limits on African/Black Americans, quarantine stations for incoming immigrants, connections between citizenship and legality, and the alienation and internment of Japanese Americans in the 1930s-40s. From there, we will focus on contemporary ideas about crime and punishment by looking at the juvenile justice system, the Provocative Doctrine Act, the Violence Against Women Act, the “prison industrial complex,” and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. The class will conclude with a study of alternative justice movements including Native American “restorative justice” systems and the “new abolitionist” movement that seeks to reform social norms of criminality and put an end to U.S. systems of imprisonment.

The class has an optional Service Learning Component (0.25 credits), which includes 30 hours service in an organization or agency working on criminal justice issues, the completion of a Practicum paper, time log (signed by your Service Learning supervisor) and an in-class presentation. Students who do not complete a service-learning component will produce a Policy paper and an in-class presentation.

Prerequisites: ETHS 051 or 052
Meets the Human Institutions and Behavior and Multicultural Perspectives requirements 

Shaun Gabbidon and Helen Taylor Greene (2005) Race and Crime, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Additional readings on electronic reserve.

Grading Criteria
Class attendance and participation: 10%
Midterm examination: 25%
Movement Analysis Paper 25%
Paper proposal/bibliography: 10%
Final Research Paper: 30% 

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Last Updated: 6/22/17