SMNR: Crime, Law, and Policy

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
WED 3:55 - 5:45 pm JON 5.257

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


This course surveys legal and economic analyses of the criminal legal system, exploring areas related to policing, prosecution, and incarceration. The topics of this course are structured in three parts. The first part, “How Did We Get Here,” will explore pre-1960s policies and examine how laws, policies, and institutions conditioned U.S. society for mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Students will learn basic statistical concepts for quantitative reasoning and evaluation of statistical evidence. The second part of the course, “Domestic Wars and Racial Disparities,” focuses on the War on Crime and the policies and legal precedents that led to the War on Drugs. This includes legal precedent related to discretionary policing, collective bargaining and police protections, as well as the change from indeterminate to determinate sentencing guidelines, all of which have been linked to racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Lastly, we will examine several current equity-focused reforms to reduce racial disparities in the criminal legal system. This includes bail reform, algorithmic risk assessment, and community-oriented policing. Students should be prepared by reading all assigned materials and be willing to engage in active class discussion. Students will be asked to write short papers in response to readings and will be required to write a policy brief or create a proposal for criminal justice reform.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

No materials required


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Important Class Changes

Date Updated
08/30/2023 New Course