(LAWD-4060) - 2 UNITS

Substantive criminal law plays a central role in society, determining who can be imprisoned and for how long. Over the past century, substantive criminal in the United States has expanded exponentially, covering increasingly greater forms of conduct and aggravating punishment for conduct previously criminalized. All too often have the costs of the criminal law's expansion been concentrated on our most vulnerable populations: the poor, the underserved, and communities of color. In a time of mass incarceration and widespread racial inequity, there is significant interest in reexamining and reforming the criminal codes and sentencing policies that have given rise to these societal ills. The proposed seminar, "Criminal Law Reform: Theory and Practice," aims to shine a light on - and ultimately prepare LLS students to participate in - these processes of reexamination and reform of our substantive criminal laws.

During the first half of the semester, we will consider the big picture of criminal law reform in the United States. Here, our discussion will revolve around seven main topics:

(1) the history and present state of criminal law reform efforts;
(2) the moral, political, and economic influences that shape those efforts;
(3) the societal, racial, and administrative consequences of criminal law and its reform;
(4) the legislative and judicial pathways through which criminal law reform is achieved;
(5) the different players and organizations involved in criminal law reform efforts;
(6) the different kinds of writing that drive criminal law reform efforts, including: legislative drafting, code reform memoranda, scholarly articles, legal briefs, policy reports, and op-eds; and
(7) the different forms of advocacy deployed in criminal law reform efforts.

With this general foundation in place, we will transition during the second half of the semester to studying particular criminal law reform movements. Among other potential topics, our discussion is expected to cover:

(1) the criminalization of poverty;
(2) drug and gun law reform;
(3) men's reform, including felony murder; and
(4) sentencing reform, including mandatory minimum sentencing statutes.

Each student who takes this class will be expected to produce an original piece of criminal law reform writing - in one or more of the forms covered in this class (see 6, above) - in satisfaction of LLS' upper-level writing requirement. While students are free to select their own topics, they will be required to reach out to at least one criminal law reform player or organization for input on where original student research and advocacy would be most impactful. The hope is that whatever form of work product the student produces, it meaningfully contributes to a local, state, or national conversation over criminal law reform.

Satisfies Writing Requirement  


Criminal Law (LAWD-1001)