FSS > Undergraduate Division > Letters & Science > UC Berkeley

Legal Studies 39I, Section 1
Punishment in America: Why, Whom, and How (2 units, LG)
Professor Christopher Kutz
Tuesday 10:00-12:00, 105 Latimer Hall , Class number: 42923

This seminar will look at the theory and modern practice of criminal punishment in the United States: we will read and discuss materials from philosophy, history, law, anthropology, and sociology to discuss under what conditions state punishment could be justified, and how the American modern practice of mass incarceration does or does not meet those conditions. Along with some classic philosophy and criminology readings, we will read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. The seminar will include a trip to San Quentin state prison and a court observation (the latter is self-guided). The requirements will consist of weekly readings and short, ungraded, written reactions, as well as two 5-6-page graded papers. You should be prepared to do 50-75 pages of reading per week (perhaps a bit more if the reading is not dense), and you will be expected to contribute on the basis of that reading to class discussion during every session.

I have taught at Berkeley since 1998, at the undergraduate, law, and doctoral levels, with a special interest in moral and political philosophy, as well as criminal and international law. I have a Ph.D in Philosophy and a law degree (JD), and especially enjoy bringing the tools of philosophy, literature, and history to the study of legal institutions. My most recent book, On War and Democracy (2016), is about the ethics and laws of war.

Quotes from Fall 2016 seminar:

It’s worth taking just out of interest; the topics are engaging and thought-provoking.

You learn a lot about legal theory, get to visit San Quentin (a great trip), and explore your views on punishment. Take it!

It is an intellectually stimulating course that will change the way you think about punishment and morality.
Freshman and Sophomore Seminars are co-sponsored by the Undergraduate Division
of the College of Letters & Science and the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.
For further information about the program,
contact Alix Schwartz (alix@berkeley.edu / 642-8378).

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