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In this seminar, we will explore some of the themes and debates at the forefront of criminal law, criminal procedure, and criminal justice policy brought to light in the HBO series, The Wire. As sociologist William Julius Wilson noted, “The Wire has ‘done more to enhance our understanding of the challenges of urban life and the problems of urban inequality than any other media event or scholarly publications, including studies by social scientists.’” We will discuss topics such as the “war on drugs,” juvenile justice, wiretaps and other technological issues currently at the forefront of criminal procedure, re-entry and the reintegration of exoffenders, interrogations and techniques, “snitching” culture and its effects on the criminal justice system, poverty and economics, and other topics addressing how criminal law and procedure play out on the ground. In addition to readings, you will be assigned to watch episodes from Season 1 of the HBO series, “The Wire,” that correspond to the topics and readings to be discussed in a given week.

In this course you will write and present a paper on a topic on criminal justice law or policy, meaning you will have an opportunity to perform in-depth research and to experience an intensive and supervised writing process in this discipline. The point of this seminar and its subject paper is not to survey an area of criminal law; instead, it is to become an expert on one particular problem through an individual, self-chosen research project. You will also practice writing well by following a schedule to organize your thoughts and then learn about critique by presenting your topic to an audience.

PREREQUISITE: Criminal Procedure (Law 811)