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Crime, Prisons, Education and Justice Minor

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About the Minor

Students in the Crime, Prisons, Education, and Justice minor will participate in one of the most pressing civil rights challenges of the 21stcentury: ending mass incarceration and the carceral state.

For decades, scholars and activists have denounced the moral bankruptcy and political expediency that produced and sustained mass incarceration and the carceral state in the United States. The particulars are widely known: measured either in real numbers or per capita rates, the United States imprisons far more people for vastly longer periods than any other country on earth. More than two million people are in prison or jail. More than four million are under some form of custodial supervision. Millions more have lost the right to vote or have been locked out of the civil, communal, and economic life of the community. Today, the broad reach of the carceral state is truly staggering. Nearly half of all Black men and 40% of all white men between the ages of 18-23 have been arrested or convicted of a criminal offense. There are more Black men and women in custody or under the supervision of the criminal justice system in the 21st century than there were slaves in 1850.

This is the world of the carceral state and mass incarceration. But perhaps that world is changing. For the first time in nearly fifty years, the overlapping moral, economic, racial, and political problems of mass incarceration have come to occupy a central place in the American public square. A welcome bipartisan sentiment has emerged that mass incarceration is a problem the United States continues to ignore at its peril. From former Attorney General Eric Holder to former Congressman Newt Gingrich; from Charles Koch to George Soros; from the progressive supporters of the ACLU to the Tea Party activists in “Right On Crime,” there is now broad agreement that change in the American criminal justice system is not only possible, it is imperative.

Hyper-incarceration is a relatively new reality in the United States. For most of the 20th century, imprisonment rates in this country were relatively stable, and on par with the rest of the Western world. In the early 70s, they began to climb, and continued to climb through good economic times and bad, as crime rates rose and fell, in Red States and Blue, during Democratic administrations as well as Republican. Why? Any major social change produces winners and losers. Who benefited from the carceral state and who lost? And how did we get here? What were the arguments that justified and sustained these developments? How did these arguments interact and overlap with other arguments taking place at the same time about social welfare, individual responsibility, and the role of the state? And why might it be changing? Is change really upon us, or are the solutions that dominate the policy realm merely cosmetic? These are the sorts of questions that students in the minor will confront.

But students in the Crime, Prisons, Education, and Justice minor will not merely study these issues. The University has a longstanding relationship with the Cornell Prison Education Program. For many years, Cornell faculty and graduate students have enjoyed the privilege of teaching some of the most eager, appreciative, and thoughtful students they will ever encounter: the men participating in the CPEP programs in New York prisons. As part of the minor, students will serve as Teaching Assistants for Cornell classes in the prisons.

The minor thus teaches what no classroom experience can impart: that knowledge is intrinsically valuable, and that all human beings can be redeemed. It is civic engagement with a profound moral purpose that leads to a rare degree of cultural competence. Adding the classroom component of minor will give the students the opportunity for extended critical reflection on the complex phenomena of mass incarceration and the carceral state, and to integrate their learning in a real-world setting that is all too common for all too many: the American prison.

Minor Requirements

To satisfy the requirements of the minor, a student must earn a minimum of 15 credits and complete 5 qualifying, interdisciplinary courses. Since this minor is interdisciplinary, students may not take all five courses from the same department.

Below are the requirements:

1.  Submit an online enrollment application to the Undergraduate Coordinator, Danielle O’Connor in the Government Department.

2.  Successfully complete GOVT/AMST 3141 “Prisons” or 3152 “Prisons, Politics, Policy”

3.  Successfully complete GOVT 3142 “Incarceration, Policy Response, and Self-Reflection” (or its equivalent, pending approval by the minor’s Faculty Director).

4.  Serve as a Teaching Assistant for at least one class taught by the Cornell Prison Education Program at either the Auburn, Cayuga, Five Points, or Elmira Correctional Facilities. Students may also serve in a teaching assistant capacity at MacCormick Secure Facility or Finger Lakes Residential Center. In these Teaching Assistant roles, students are expected to prepare and participate in classes held at New York State Correctional Facilities.

5.  Earn a minimum grade of C+ on all classes to be used toward the minor.

6.  Obtain final approval from the Minor’s Faculty Director, Joe Margulies.

Students may tailor the minor for their particular academic and career goals. For a list of courses that may be taken to complete the minor, please see below. 

Qualifying Courses

To satisfy the requirements of the minor, a student must earn a minimum of 15 credits and complete 5 qualifying, interdisciplinary courses. Since this minor is interdisciplinary, students may not take all five courses from the same department.  Among the 5 qualifying courses, students are required to:

• Successfully complete GOVT/AMST 3141 Prisons (View GOVT 3141 Syllabus ) or GOVT 3152 Prisons, Politics, Policy

• Successfully complete GOVT 3142 Incarceration, Policy Response, and Self-Reflection (View GOVT 3142 Syllabus) (or its equivalent, pending approval by the minor’s Faculty Director).

• Serve as a Teaching Assistant for at least one class taught by the Prison Education Program at either the Auburn, Cayuga, Five Points, or Elmira Correctional Facilities. Students may also serve in a teaching assistant capacity at MacCormick Secure Facility or Finger Lakes Residential Center. In these Teaching Assistant roles, students are expected to prepare and participate in classes held at New York State Correctional Facilities.

• Students are required to earn a minimum grade of C+ on all classes to be used toward the minor.

Students may enroll in any of the following courses to meet the minor elective requirements**:

AMST 3762 Law, Latin@s, Illegality (View AMST 3762 Syllabus)

AMST 3615/PAM 3610 Orange is the New Black (View AMST 3615/PAM 3610 Syllabus)

ANTHR 4071 Through the Prison Threshold (Please contact instructor for syllabus)

ASRC 2241 Reading The New Jim Crow and Contemporary Modes of Racialization (Please contact instructor for syllabus)

ENGL 4100 Writing Behind Bars (Please contact instructor for syllabus)

GOVT 3001 Constitutional Law and U.S. Politics ( View GOVT 3001 Syllabus)

GOVT 3002 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (Please contact instructor for syllabus)

GOVT 3012 The Politics of Poverty in the United States (View GOVT 3012 Syllabus)

GOVT 3785 Civil Disobedience (View GOVT 3785 Syllabus)

GOVT 4232 The Politics of the Inner City (View GOVT 4232 Syllabus)

HIST 1600 History of Law: Great Trials (View HIST 1600 Syllabus)

HIST 2422 History of the U.S. Prison (Please contact instructor for syllabus)

HIST 2423 Dazed and Confused (View HIST 2423 Syllabus)

HIST 4945 The Birth of the Prison in 18th Century Europe and America (View HIST 4945 Syllabus)

LAW 4051 The Death Penalty in America (View LAW 4051 Syllabus)

LAW 7672 Race and the Criminal Justice System (View LAW 7672 Syllabus)

PAM 2080 Confinement! (View PAM 2080 Syllabus)

PMA 4680 Prison Theatre and the Possibilities of Transformation (View PMA 4680 Syllabus)

SOC 2220 Controversies about Inequality (View SOC 2220 Syllabus)

SOC 2460 Drugs & Society (View SOC 2460 Syllabus)

SOC 3120 Urban Sociology (Please contact instructor for syllabus)

SOC 3850 Mass Incarceration and Family Life (View SOC 3850 Syllabus)

**This list is not definitive, students may earn credit for alternative courses they would like to substitute for their minor electives so long as they obtain prior approval from the Faculty Director. Please note, the sample syllabi posted above are meant to provide a general overview of what each course offers; specific readings, guest lectures, and assignments may vary from semester to semester.

People

Danielle O’Connor
Minor Undergraduate Coordinator

(607) 255-4180
dko1@cornell.edu
Joe Margulies
Faculty Director 

Jm347@cornell.edu
Mary Katzenstein
Faculty

Mfk2@cornell.edu
Jamila Michener
Faculty

Jm2362@cornell.edu
Bruce Levitt
Faculty

Bal5@cornell.edu
Rob Scott
Executive Director
Cornell Prison Education Program
(607) 255-9104
Robscott@cornell.edu
Jan Morgan Zeseron
Courtesy Lecturer
East Asia Program
Z17@cornell.edu

Enrollment

CPEJ Enrollment Form

CPEJ Enrollment Form

Students interested in the Minor in Crime, Prisons, Education, and Justice should complete the Minor Enrollment Form. Please review minor requirements prior to submitting your application.

For Inquiries Related to Enrollment in the Minor in Crime, Prisons, Education, and Justice, Please Contact:

Danielle O’Connor, Undergraduate Field Coordinator

Department of Government

Tel: (607) 255-4180

dko1@cornell.edu

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