LAW 389

Prison Law and Policy

Criminal Justice, Critical Race Studies, Public Interest Law

Courses in criminal law tend to focus on the “front end” of the criminal justice process:  investigation, prosecution, and verdict. But for those offenders sentenced to prison, the trial  process is only the preamble to an extended period in the custody of the state. This class focuses in depth on a key component of the “back end” of the criminal justice system: the law and policy of incarceration. The governing questions are: what legal obligations does the state have toward those it incarcerates? And given legal limits, how should we run the prisons? These questions are particularly urgent given the current size of the nations prison population; as of 2009, there were over 2.3 million people in Americas prisons and jails, more prisoners per capita than any other  country in the world. Topics to be covered  include: the history of prisoners’ rights litigation; the scope of prisoners’ constitutional  rights; inmate access to the courts; the prison disciplinary process; conditions of confinement (including supermax prisons); medical care; the problems of prison rape and overcrowding; and the Prison Litigation Reform Act.   

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