Crime, Punishment, and Power in US History

History 100D

Fall 2015
Day & Time: 
TuTh 11-1230P

This upper division lecture course explores the history of the modern American criminal justice system and the people who have shaped and been shaped by its colossal, life-altering powers. We begin by examining three distinct spaces in which new ideas about crime, policing, race, and punishment were articulated and given material force after the American Revolution: the prison, the city, and the slave plantation. From there, we’ll trace the emergence of a new law enforcement state in the early 20th century, and assess the extent to which earlier ideologies and practices influenced this fledgling system. History is rarely a straight or unbroken line from past to present, and the history of American criminal justice is no exception: we’ll also study alternative practices of policing and corrections that were, if only for a moment, politically viable and even quite popular during America’s “Unfinished Revolution” (Reconstruction), the Progressive Era, and the Long Civil Rights Era. Turning in the last few weeks of the semester to the “post-industrial” era (1970s to the present), we’ll examine the retreat from earlier decarceration policies and the move to mass incarceration, “zero tolerance” policing, and the War on Drugs. Finally, as part of our effort to think historically about crime, punishment, and the possibility of change, we’ll meet two filmmakers whose new documentary, Last Day of Freedom, powerfully draws the historical connections among war, crime, and capital punishment. 


Course Books

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Stevenson, Bryan Speigel and Grau. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0812984965 Required
The Murder of Helen Jewett: the Life and Death of a Prostitute. by Patricia Cline Cohen Knopf. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0679740759 Required
Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California by Ruth Wilson Gilmore UC Press. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0520242012 Required
Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle Holt. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0805079333 Required
The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776 – 1941 by Rebecca McLennan Camrbidge. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0521537834 Required
The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad Harvard. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0674062115 Required
Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice by David M. Oshinsky Free Press. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0684830957 Required
The Murder of Helen Jewett: the Life and Death of a Prostitute by Patricia Cline Cohen Knopf. ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-0679740759 Required
Crime and Punishment in American History by Lawrence Friedman Basic. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0465014873 Required