Topic outline

  • Prisons: Racism, Reform and Restorative Justice

    Daniel Kalla (John Sheehy and Kat Rickenbacker, sponsors)
    Mondays, 3:30 - 4:50
    World Studies Lounge

    This course is an introduction to the racial history of prisons in the U.S., to prison reform, and to restorative justice.  The U.S. prison population today is about 2.4 million people, larger than that of any other country both in absolute terms and per capita, and it has a higher proportion of racial minorities than that of any other country.  This mass incarceration is a very recent historical development: four decades ago, it was about one eighth the size it is today and shrinking, and most experts in criminology had expected prisons to disappear as a form of punishment.

    At the same time as the prison population has grown, the prison abolition movement has gained more support and restorative justice has started to be implemented worldwide, including in the Vermont Department of Corrections.  This course will start with an introduction to various issues surrounding prisons, with a focus on their anti-black racial history and some attention to the prison abolition movement.  It will then examine six reforms in prison history, specifically their intent and impact, and then look at restorative justice principles and practice.  The final part of the course will be focused on student interests relevant to restorative justice and prisons.

    • Syllabus

      • Readings and handouts

        Monday September 9th:

        Readings/viewings for Sept. 9 (Pick 2 of 3):

        Bryan Stevenson's TED Talk "We Need to Talk About an Injustice"

        "The Woolf Within", a story of Peter Woolf's experience with restorative justice 

        "Discipline and Punish" from "Foucault for Beginners" (scanned pdf below)

        Recommended Reading:

        Raise the Crime Rate

        Homework for this week:

        No journal due this week.  Instead, send me a question ( dkalla@marlboro.edu ) you have about prisons, racism, reform, or restorative justice before 10pm the day before class (Sunday Sept. 8)

        • Week 2

          Monday September 16th:

          Readings/viewings for Sept. 16:

          Loïc Waquant's From Slavery to Mass Incarceration

          Marc Mauer's "Prison Break" Lemonade

          Willie Horton Ad

          Mike Davis and Alessandra Moctezuma's Policing the Third Border

          Julie Browne's The Labor of Doing Time

          Recommended Reading:

          Chapters 9 and 11 from Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex.  These talk about the connections between the prison system and anti-Latino racism.  The scanned pdfs are below, or the book is on the reserve shelf (under Kalla).

          Homework for this week:

          First journal (here in in the future, about 1.5 pages, double-spaced, including a question)!  Send me your journal/reflection by 10pm on Sunday (Sept. 15), and remember to include a question at the end.  My email is dkalla@marlboro.edu

          • Week 3

            Monday September 23rd:

            Readings for Sept. 9:

            Read chapters 1-3 in Angela Davis's Are Prisons Obsolete? (available in the bookstore or on the Kalla reserve shelf, as well as here)

            Probation reading (I didn't find a perfect reading, but this gives some idea of common probation conditions, and is short)

            Recommended Reading:

            Prison Town prison comic

            Chain Gang News Article

            Homework for this week:

            Send me your (1.5 pages, double-spaced) journal/reflection by 10pm on Sunday (Sept. 22), and remember to include a question at the end!  My email is dkalla@marlboro.edu

            (By the way, if you sent me a journal I should have sent it back by now.  Tell me if you didn't get yours.)

            • Week 4

              Monday September 23rd:

              Readings for Sept. 9:

              Finish Angela Davis's Are Prisons Obsolete? (chapters 4-6: book available in the bookstore or on the Kalla reserve shelf, as well as here)

              Parole exercise, below.

              Recommended Reading:

              Masked Racism, a short piece by Angela Davis

              Most States Still Shackle Female Inmates While They're Giving Birth, from Jezebel

              Homework for this week:

              Send me your (1.5 pages, double-spaced) journal/reflection by 10pm on Sunday (Sept. 29), and remember to include a question at the end!  My email is dkalla@marlboro.edu

              Also, do the parole activity, below!

              • Week 5

                Monday October 7th:

                There are a lot of readings for this and next week, but most of them are quite short (all the overcrowding ones are news articles), and the total is still under 60 pages.  Themes are: (In)Determinate Sentencing; Overcrowding; and the Birth of the Modern Prison

                Readings for Oct. 7th:

                (In)Determinate Sentencing: pdf from Conklin's Criminology, scanned below

                Overcrowding:

                  As California Fights Prison Overcrowding, Some See Golden Opportunity

                  Governor, Stop Stalling on the Prisons

                  California Prison Overcrowding set to Worsen as Governor Raises State Cap

                  California Sheds Prisoners but Grapples with Courts

                  California: Delay Sought for Cutting Inmates' Numbers

                  California Wins Four-Week Reprieve of Deadline to Reduce Prison Population

                  Vermont: One Tiny State's Movement to Ban Private Prisons

                Birth of the Modern Prison:

                  Solitary Confinement: A Brief History

                Recommended Reading:

                Prisoners of a Hard Life: Women & Their Children from Prison Comix

                The Missouri Miracle, an example of successful reform (or abolition, depending on your point of view)

                Homework for this week:

                No journal due this week.  Instead, send me three possible topics for the reform paper, due next week (Oct.14), by 10pm on Sunday (Oct. 6th).

                (Description of reform assignment: For this 4-5 page paper you will choose an example of prison reform in history (you may expand on one from the reform unit or choose your own), document its development, and use it to explain an aspect of modern-day prisons.)

                • Week 6

                  Monday October 7th:

                  Themes this week: Life Without Parole; Supermax Prisons; and Solitary Confinement

                  Readings for Oct. 7th:

                  Life Without Parole (LWOP): 

                   Death-in-Prison Sentences: Overutilized and Underscrutinized from Life Without Parole: America's New Death Penalty? (scanned pdf below)

                  Supermax Prisons:

                   Chapter 2 from Michael Santos's Inside (scanned pdf below)

                  Solitary Confinement:

                   Third California Prison Strike Impending

                   California Prison Hunger Strike is a Call for Justice

                   Force-Feeding Prisoners in California and Guantánamo Solves Nothing

                   Inmates End California Prison Hunger Strike

                  Recommended Reading:

                  Opinion piece by Michael Santos about reintegration

                  TRIGGER WARNING (disturbing imagery; intense physical pain): Standard Operating Procedure for force-feeding inamtes at Guantánamo Bay, illustrated by Yasiin Bey (formerly, Mos Def)

                  Article from ESPN about Willie Clark (mentioned in LWOP reading)

                  Article from Denver Post about Willie Clark (for contrast)

                  Homework for this week:

                  No journal due this week.  Instead, the reform paper is due in class today.

                  (Description of reform assignment: For this 4-5 page paper you will choose an example of prison reform in history (you may expand on one from the reform unit or choose your own), document its development, and use it to explain an aspect of modern-day prisons.)

                  • Week 8

                    Monday October 28th:

                    Week 7 in Hendrick's: no class.  Rest, spend time with family (if you're going home), work on your reform paper if you haven't finished it.

                    Readings for Oct. 28th:

                    Howard Zehr's Changing Lenses, Chapters 2-5 (I think this reading is 61 pages even though I tried to limit each week to 60: sorry.  But you have an extra week to read that page!)

                    Recommended Reading:

                    Changing Lenses, chapter 1 (which is a really short introduction)

                    Diane Metzger's The Manipulation Game: Doing Life in Pennsylvania, pdf below (I meant to post this as recommended reading last week; oh well...)

                    Short Delay Granted for Inmate Cuts: Update in California Overcrowding

                    Homework for this week:

                    Send me your (1.5 pages, double-spaced) journal/reflection by 10pm on Sunday (Oct. 27), and remember to include a question at the end!  My email is dkalla@marlboro.edu

                    • Week 9

                      Monday November 4th:

                      Readings for Nov. 4th:

                      Howard Zehr's Changing Lenses, Chapters 6, 7, and 9

                      Recommended Reading:

                      Changing Lenses, chapter 8 (Biblical Justice)

                      Homework for this week:

                      Send me your (1.5 pages, double-spaced) journal/reflection by 10pm on Sunday (Nov. 3), and remember to include a question at the end!  My email is dkalla@marlboro.edu

                      • Week 10

                        Monday November 11th:

                        Readings for Nov. 11th:

                        Howard Zehr's Changing Lenses, Chapters 10-11, Afterword to the First Addition, Appendix 2

                        Recommended Reading:

                        Changing Lenses, Afterword to the Third Addition

                        Homework for this week:

                        Send me your (1.5 pages, double-spaced) journal/reflection by 10pm on Sunday (Nov. 10), and remember to include a question at the end!  My email is dkalla@marlboro.edu

                        • Week 11

                          Monday November 18th:

                          Readings for Nov. 18th:

                          Donella Meadows's Leverage Points (read either of these versions; they're basically identical);

                          http://www.sustainer.org/pubs/Leverage_Points.pdf

                          http://www.natcapsolutions.org/Presidio/Articles/WholeSystems/ThinkingInSystems_MEADOWS_TiS%20v13.2_DRAFT.pdf (chapter 7 in this version, page 130)

                          Recommended Reading:

                          Meadows's Dancing With Systems (chapter 8 in the pdf above, or below)

                          http://www.sustainer.org/pubs/Dancing.html

                          Homework for this week:

                          No assignment to hand in this week; catch up on journals if you're behind.  In class this week we'll be discussing restorative justice solutions to three different problems, so pick (at least) one of them and think about it; you'll be asked to present in class tomorrow.  The three harms are as follows:

                          1. The QRC poster situation.  How should the campus respond to posters being violently torn down, either at the time or later after a lot of conflict comes up?

                          2. Murder (not by a battered wife or similar situation; not self-defense).  Assume the victims' family knows the offender (they could be neighbors, friends, etc.).  The case hasn't yet gone to trial, but the offender is currently being detained and the evidence is strong enough that conviction is almost certain.  Assuming the system allows for restorative justice possibilities, how should they address this?

                          3. Corporate crime.  In this example, imagine that a large corporation has been manufacturing cars that don't comply with federal safety standards in some way for the past five years, leading to 37 preventable deaths.  The federal government (and press) have just found out about this.  How should they respond (and can restorative justice work for corporate crimes)?

                          • Week 12

                            Monday November 25th:

                            Readings for Nov. 25th:

                            "The Outer Frame of Circles" from Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community (scanned pdf below)

                            Recommended Reading:

                             

                            Homework for this week:

                            Send me your (1.5 pages, double-spaced) journal/reflection by 10pm on Sunday (Nov. 24), and remember to include a question at the end!  This is the last journal of the course.  My email is dkalla@marlboro.edu

                            • Week 13

                              Monday December 2nd:

                              Readings for Dec. 2nd:

                              "Mediation Observation: Case Examples and Analyses" from Victim Meets Offender: The Impact of Restorative Justice and Mediation (scanned pdf below)

                              Recommended Reading:

                               

                              Homework for this week:

                              Catch up on any homework you haven't submitted yet, and start planning your final paper.  (Or better yet, use Thanksgiving break as a break and relax!)

                              Final Project:

                              Choose a crime or uncriminalized harm and propose a restorative justice solution for addressing it. The project should also consider ways that this reform could potentially further institutionalize and expand the prison system, and ways to prevent that. By default it is a paper, but other options are possible with instructor’s approval. This will be due during the finals period, and we will meet and briefly present on our projects instead of a final exam. 5-7 pages, or longer if you prefer.

                              • Week 14

                                Monday December 9th:

                                Readings for Dec. 2nd:

                                None: come to class with a draft of your final paper (or as much work on it as you have), because we're going to workshop.

                                Recommended Reading:

                                 

                                Homework for this week:

                                Work on your final project, to bring to work on in class on Monday.

                                Final Project:

                                Choose a crime or uncriminalized harm and propose a restorative justice solution for addressing it. The project should also consider ways that this reform could potentially further institutionalize and expand the prison system, and ways to prevent that. By default it is a paper, but other options are possible with instructor’s approval. This will be due during the finals period, and we will meet and briefly present on our projects instead of a final exam. 5-7 pages, or longer if you prefer.