Liman Public Interest Workshop



Spring  2017 Syllabus

Mondays, 6:10-8 pm, room 124

Anna VanCleave, Director, Liman Public Interest Program
Judith Resnik, Arthur Liman Professor of Law

All readings will be available at:

The numbers of people in jails and prisons rose substantially from the 1970s through the present, with some leveling off or modest declines in recent years in a few jurisdictions.  More than 2 million persons are in jails or prisons.  More than 5 million people are under supervision through probation, parole, and supervised release.  Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that one in 107 American adults was behind bars, a rate roughly five times the worldwide average, and one in 50 was under some type of supervision. 

Incarceration does not have the same impact on all who live in the United States; race, gender, age, nationality, and ethnicity interact to affect the likelihood that one will be detained or have family and community members in detention.  People of color are disproportionately in prison.  In 2010, black men were six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men; African Americans and Latinos constituted more than 60% of people imprisoned. 

Participants in this Workshop will explore the history of detention and imprisonment in the United States; the rise of detention facilities owned and operated by the private sector; the use of specific forms of detention such as solitary confinement and specialized supermax facilities; and growing concerns about the costs —dignitary, social, political, and financial, — of the system now in use. Our sessions will address the law of prisons, the market for prisons, and the perspectives of those who direct prisons, who work in them, and who are detained by them.  When doing so, we will look at both U.S. and non-U.S. law,  such as the 1933 Guidelines of the League of Nations; the European Prison Rules of the Council of Europe; and the 2015 U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (“Mandela Rules”); statutes, and court decisions. We will consider the degree of oversight that courts, legislatures, and other actors have in shaping the parameters of permissible sanctions, regulating conditions of confinement, and in crafting remedies for violations.

Students participating in the Workshop will receive two units of credit. We meet weekly; preparation and attendance at these discussions is required for credit. Direction in class will specify required and optional readings. 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.

Further, all students participating credit/fail must choose four times during the semester after the first two sessions to submit two-page reflections (double-spaced, size 12 font) that offer comments on that week’s readings. Students must post their reflections on “Inside Yale” NO LATER than 10 p.m. on the Sunday evening before that week’s session, and should also circulate them via email instructors.  Students who do not complete these requirements during the semester will not receive credit for the class.

Students who would like graded credit have two options.  First, for two graded credits, students may write a responsive essay of no more than 3,000 words during the examination period.  Students who select this option will be provided with specific questions and directions that will require drawing on the course materials and class discussions. Alternatively, if students wish to complete a Supervised Analytic Writing or a Substantial Paper for three graded credits, they need to submit a proposal by the fifth week of the semester and meet with instructors to determine its feasibility and then to agree upon a research plan and schedule.

The class may be audited, with permission of the instructor; doing so requires regular attendance.  Visitors, again with permission, are also welcome.  

Requirements and Readings

This Workshop is a two-unit, ungraded course.  We meet weekly; preparation and attendance at these discussions is required for credit.  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. 

The readings for the workshop include both those listed on the syllabus as well as student postings.  Six times during the semester, students must post on “Inside Yale” a one-page 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.   We will all use these readings to launch our weekly discussions. Each person seeking credit is responsible for posting at least six times in the semester, and a failure to do so on time results in receiving no credit. Readings are posted on the Liman Public Interest Program’s website:  Those interested in pursuing additional research for supervised analytic or substantial writing requirements should consult individually with the instructors.