About This Course
This introductory course seeks to develop a basic understanding of patterns of crime and punishment in the United States over time, as well as critical awareness of the current situation on the ground, based on cutting-edge theories in philosophy, sociology, and criminology.
We will begin the course by familiarizing ourselves with the empirical data on crime and punishment, with a focus on the exceptionally high crime and incarceration rates in the United States. We will examine the data with a "critical eye," that is, learn to appreciate the value of quantitative data, as well as its limitations, and develop the skills necessary to distinguish between reliable data and propaganda.
We will then move on to the more theoretical segment of the course, during which we will examine and explore various theories in crime and punishment. We will address questions such as: why are there such exceptionally high crime rates in the United States? How come race plays such a significant role when it comes to putting people behind bars? What is it about suburbia that makes it America's safest environment? Why do we punish in the first place, and how have prisons become our default, taken-for-granted method of punishing? We will conclude the course with a transition from the macro and abstract to the micro and concrete: we will examine crime and punishment in the mundane, quotidian, everyday life—our life.