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Workshop Syllabus & Readings

Liman Workshop

Moving Criminal Justice: Practices of Prohibition, Abolition, Regulation, and Reform

Spring 2014
Mondays, 6:10-8 pm, room 124

Hope Metcalf, Director, Liman Public Interest Program
Megan Quattlebaum, Senior Liman Fellow in Residence
Judith Resnik, Arthur Liman Professor of Law

Student Conveners: Jessica Asrat, Emma Kaufman,
Josh Levin, Sam Oliker-Friedland


A consensus is emerging that all facets of the criminal justice system -- prosecutorial and police practices, detention, and sentencing -- need reform. This workshop considers how reform agendas are formulated, do or do not gain currency, and result in changes in laws and practices that produce consequences, both generative and harmful. Our questions include the parameters of proposed reforms; the alternative modes of government regulation (e.g., prohibition, abolition, regulation); the intellectual and political gestalts in which reforms are shaped; the impact of federalism and transnational lawmaking; and how such efforts develop traction, build on extant social, religious, and political movements or create new ones, use communication systems and law, receive financing, and imagine the future.

We meet weekly; preparation and attendance at these discussions is required for credit. The syllabus below includes both readings and questions to facilitate preparation for discussion. If you need to miss a class, please be in touch with the professors in advance of the meeting. Students missing more than two sessions without permission will not receive credit. All students participating for the option of credit/fail must submit six comments on readings. To do so, you need to post on “Inside Yale” a one-two page analysis and reflection on readings -- due NO LATER than 9 a.m. on the Monday mornings of the workshop -- as well as send a set by email to the instructors. Please use these comments to address how you see the relationships among the readings for the particular class. Failure to post the required number of reflections on time results in receiving no credit.

This workshop is offered for 2 units, with the option of graded credit. To receive graded credit, students are, in addition to the required reflections, to write a paper of no more than 15 pages on a topic of their choice. The topic must be approved in advance by the professors and related to the seminar. In addition, students may, with the permission of the instructors, receive SAW/Supervised Analytic and an extra credit for their papers. Students wishing to explore this option must approach the instructors within the first two weeks of the semester.

This syllabus outlines the subject matters and provides sets of readings, not all of which will be assigned. The readings are set forth below; thereafter, we will specify which readings are required for the following weeks. Readings are also posted for each week on the class site. Participants are welcome to suggest supplemental readings and/or in comments to post links to relevant additional articles.

Throughout the syllabus, you will find questions following the readings; these prompts are meant to preview the class discussions and to explain the links across the materials. Please be sure to bring a copy of the U.S. Constitution to class (we will provide a pocket version for those who need them).


Jan. 27 The Architecture of Reform: Imagining Alternatives

Feb. 3 Prohibitions: Alcohol

Feb. 10 Prohibitions: Drugs & Optional Reading

Feb. 17 Criminalization or Regulation? Smoking/Guns

Feb. 24 Detention Before Trial: Bail Reform in the 1960s,the 1980s, and in 2014

Mar. 3 Victims’ Roles and Rights

Mar. 10 Death Penalty Abolition

Mar. 24 Sentencing: Cycles of Reform

Mar. 31 Framing Reforms through the Demography of Incarceration: For and Against “the New Jim Crow”

Apr 3  Seventeenth Annual Liman Colloquium

Apr. 7 Engendering Punishment: Where are Women and Men? Why?

Apr. 21 From Prisoners’ Rights to Reentry as Social Movements

Apr. 28 The Political Economies of Reform