Liam Martin
[email protected]
Wednesday 9:00-11:30
Room: McGuinn Hall 413
Office hours: Wednesdays 2.30-5
Strong emotions swirl around issues of crime and punishment. When Darren Wilson, a uniformed
white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager – America erupted.
Protesters marched and rallied against police violence. Police responded with tear gas and armored
trucks rolling through city streets. Protesters torched cars and smashed shop front windows. The
KKK handed-out fliers threatening “lethal force.” TV news and social media carried the conflict
into millions of American homes. The images of Ferguson meshed with a popular culture already
saturated with law and order. With the never ending news cycle of school shootings and local thugs.
The nightly menu of CSI and Cops and Law and Order Special Victims Unit. We are immersed in this
culture, bombarded with images that convert hard questions of morality and justice into the black
and white of front page criminals. It gets hard to make sense of what it all means.
I want this class to be a place of learning and reflection, an opportunity for a deeper look at
the truth of crime and punishment in America. These are emotion-laden issues that provoke
reactions in the gut and in the stomach. An academic classroom provides the time and space to
think more deeply about their meaning – not only in terms of social science, but politically and
ethically. We will approach the class from a sociological perspective. This means taking an historical
view on the current moment, and in particular, tracing the roots of a system of mass imprisonment
that now keeps more than two million people behind bars. It means thinking about interrelationships
and broad connections, the way that individual “criminals,” for example, are embedded in social relations
that not only push them to act in some ways and not others – but define who and what will be
punished as “criminal” at all. And it means paying attention to power, the way that prisons feed off
and into entrenched inequalities in access to power – the power to kill, to grab and detain, to punish
and exclude – and the powerlessness that so often bubbles just beneath individual acts of drug abuse
and interpersonal cruelty.
We live at a time when issues of crime and punishment are at the forefront of national
politics and debates about the future of the country. I hope the class will provide a set of tools for
seeing more clearly and making decisions about where you stand.
I see sitting and listening to someone else talk as a blunt way to learn, much less effective than being
actively engaged in talking about and processing new ideas with others. So I’ll avoid lecture as much
as possible. I want the class to be a learning community where we read and grapple with sometimes
tough questions – and do this together as a group. During classes, you’re more likely to hear the
voices of other students than mine. Running the course this way relies on everyone doing the work
and coming with questions and ideas. Not only will you ‘get out only as much as you put in’, as the
saying goes, but the whole class stands to gain (or not) from your commitment to reading, digesting,
and engaging with the work. The two elements of the final grade related to this aspect of the course
Reading Quizzes
10 percent
25 percent
Over the semester, there will be 5 or 6 in-class quizzes testing your knowledge of the reading for
that week. You won’t know in advance on which weeks there will be quizzes (or not). They will be
easy for anyone who did the assigned reading. But they mean you will need to come each
Wednesday having done the background work.
As well as a place for learning and digesting an assigned set of materials, I want the class to
support independent work on a topic of your own choosing. Much of the final grade will be based
on a semester long project that proceeds through a series of stages: a short proposal, then a longer
midterm paper, and a longer still final - each stage building on the one before. Outside class time,
we’ll meet and discuss the project individually as you move along, and inside class, we’ll set aside
time for sharing work in progress with other students working on similar topics. Our final meeting
of the semester will involve everyone coming together and presenting what they found. The
elements of the final grade related to this aspect of the course are:
Research Paper
55 percent
Mid-term Paper
Final Paper
25 percent
30 percent
Final presentation
10 percent
One last thing: please note that this course is not part of the Boston College social science core.
There will be no laptops or other electronic devices (computer, iPad, iPhone, etc.) allowed during
the class period. I know people like to use these for note taking, but on the whole, these tend to be
more of a distraction than a learning aid. If you have a special reason why you need to use a
computer to take notes, please schedule a meeting to discuss with me during office hours.
Week One: Introductions, January 14th
No reading for this week.
Week Two: Mass Imprisonment, January 21st
Western, Bruce. 2006. Punishment and Inequality in America, pp. 11-51.
Suggested Reading
Thompson, Heather Ann. 2010. Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline, and
Transformation in Postwar American History.
Currie, Elliott. Crime and Punishment in America.
Wacquant, Loic. 2009. Class, Race and Hyperincarceration in Revanchist America.
Week Three: If Punishment is not (mainly) about Crime Control – then What? January 28th
Reiman, Jeffrey and Paul Leighton. 2013. The Rich Get Richer and the Poor get Prison, pp. 1-65.
Suggested Reading
Beckett, Katherine and Western, Bruce. 2001. Governing Social Marginality: Welfare, Incarceration
and the Transformation of State Policy.
Wacquant, Loic. 2009. Punishing the Poor.
Gilmore, Ruth. 2007. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing
Week Four: Mass Imprisonment as the Revival of Racial Caste, February 4th
Alexander, Michelle. 1998. The New Jim Crow, pp. 1-58
Suggested Reading
Wacquant, Loic. 2002. From Slavery to Mass Incarceration: Rethinking the Race Question in the US.
Perkinson, Robert. 2010. Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire.
Forman, James. 2012. Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow.
Bobo, Lawrence and Victor Thompson. 2010. Racialized Mass Incarceration: Poverty, Prejudice, and
Week Five: Prison Life - Voices from Inside, February 11th
Abu-Jamal, Mumia. 1996. Live from Death Row, pp. 3-43.
Shakur, Assata. 1978. Women in Prison: How It Is With Us.
Baca, Jimmy Santiago. A Place to Stand, pp. 1-6.
Suggested Reading
Rosenberg, Susan. 2005. Women Casualties of the Drug War.
Morris, Norval. 1995. The Contemporary Prison: 1965-Present.
Gregory Frederick. 2003. Prisoners are Citizens.
Abu-Jamal, Mumia. 2005. Caged and Celibate.
Week Six: The Broad Footprint of Mass Imprisonment - Schooling, February 18th
Nolan, Kathleen. 2011. Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School, pp. 1-11, 39-73
Suggested Reading
Hirschfield, Paul. 2008. Preparing for Prison? The criminalization of school discipline in the USA
Monahan, Torin and Rodolfo Torres. 2010. Schools under Surveillance: Cultures of Control in
Public Education.
Kupchika, Aaron and Torin Monahan. 2006. The New American School: Preparation for Post‐
Industrial Discipline.
Week Seven: The Broad Footprint of Mass Imprisonment - Families, February 25th
Comfort, Megan. 2003. In The Tube at San Quentin: the ‘Secondary Prisonization’ of Women
Visiting Inmates.
Suggested Reading
Comfort, Megan. 2007. Punishment beyond the Legal Offender.
Comfort, Megan. 2009. Doing Time Together: Love and Family in the Shadow of the Prison.
Bandele, Asha. 1999. The Prisoner’s Wife: a Memoir.
Braman, Donald. 2002. Families and Incarceration.
Week Eight: Spring Break, March 4th
No class or reading for this week
Week Nine: The Broad Footprint of Mass Imprisonment – Community, March 11th
Special Topic: Ferguson and Police Violence in Black Communities
Readings will be distributed in class
Suggested Reading
Wacquant, Loic. 2001. Deadly Symbiosis: when Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh.
Goffman, Alice. 2014. On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City.
Clear, Todd. 2007. Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged
Neighborhoods Worse.
Huling, Tracy. 2002. Building a Prison Economy in Rural America.
Fraser, Joelle. 2000. An American Seduction: Portrait of a Prison Town.
Week Ten: Hustling and Street Crime, March 18th
Bourgois, Philippe. 2003. Understanding Inner-City Poverty: Resistance and Self-Destruction under
US Apartheid.
Suggested Reading
Valentine, Betty-Lou. 1978. Hustling and Other Hard Work.
Wacquant, Loic. 1998. Inside the Zone: The Social Art of the Hustler in the Black American Ghetto.
Young, Jock. 1999. Cannibalism and Bulimia: Patterns of Social Control in Late Modernity.
Contreras, Randol. 2012. The Stickup Kids.
Bourgois, Philippe. 2002. In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio.
Week Eleven: Drugs and Addiction, March 25th
Mate, Gabor. 2010. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, pp. 133-220.
Suggested Reading
Currie, Elliott. 1994. Reckoning: Drugs, the Cities, and the American Future.
Bourgois, Philippe. 1998. Just another Night in a Shooting Gallery.
Bourgois, Philippe and Jeff Schonberg. 2009. Righteous Dopefiend.
Week Twelve: Crimes not Usually Talked About: White Criminals and Middle-Class
Offending, April 1st
Currie, Elliott. 2004. The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence,
pp. 1-17, 41-123.
Suggested Reading
Mohamed, Rafik and Erik Fritsvold. 2010. Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the Privileges of Race
and Class.
Linnemann, Travis and Tyler Wall. 2013. ‘This is Your Face on Meth’: the Punitive Spectacle of
‘White Trash’ in the Rural War on Drugs.
Pierce, Todd. 1999. Gen-X Junkie: Ethnographic Research with Young White Heroin Users in
Washington, DC.
Week Thirteen: Crimes of the Powerful: Suite Crime and Financial Fraud, April 8th
Barak, Gregg. 2012. Theft of a Nation, pp. 1-39.
Suggested Reading
Taibbi, Matt. 2011. Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?
Taibbi, Matt. 2014. Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.
Hagan, John. 2010. Who are the Criminals?
Week Fourteen: Violence, April 15th
Currie, Elliott. 2009. The Roots of Danger: Violent Crime in Global Perspective. 1-8, 24-41, 55-111.
Suggested Reading
Gilligan, James. 1999. Violence: Reflections on Our Deadliest Epidemic.
Davis, Angela. 1998. Public Imprisonment and Private Violence: Reflections on the Hidden
Punishment of Women.
Kaufman, Michael. 1987. The Construction of Masculinity and the Triad of Men’s Violence.
Week Fifteen: Anti-Violence Strategies in an Age of Mass Imprisonment, April 22nd
Richie, Beth. 2012. Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation, pp. 1-18,
Suggested Reading
Crenshaw, Kimberley. 1993. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence
Against Women of Color.
Davis, Angela. 2001. The Color of Violence against Women.
Incite-Critical Resistance. 2001. Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex.
Week Sixteen: Student Presentations, April 29th