Education Inside US Prisons Seminar

Section 1, Spring 23

Schedule Information

Enrollment: 20/21
Credits: 3
Days* Time Room Start Date End Date
  • M
  • 1200-1400
  • WB121
01/23/2023 04/24/2023
*“R” means Thursday

Course Description

The United States spends more than $80 billion annually on corrections at the federal, state and local levels. With approximately 10.6 million people going to jail every year, and approximately 2.3 million men and women sleeping behind bars every night, equaling 1 in 100 adults 18 years of age and older, we are the leader among industrial nations in incarcerations and arrests. Men account for 92 percent of people in prisons, but the number of women behind bars has skyrocketed from 8,000 in 1970 to 107,955 in 2019. Many incarcerated men and women are parents of minors that are months old to age seventeen. Nearly half of the adults in state prisons—44 percent—lived with their children prior to incarceration, and 52 percent of mothers and 54 percent of fathers were the primary income earner for their household prior to incarceration. At a macro level, more than 5 million children—or 1 in 14 minors in the United States—have had a parent incarcerated in prison or jail at some point during their lives. Children in poverty are three times more likely to have experienced the incarceration of a parent than are families with higher incomes, and children in rural areas are more likely to have experienced parental incarceration than children living in metropolitan areas. At the same time, children of the incarcerated are, on average, six times more likely to become incarcerated themselves, and 23 percent of children with a father who has served time behind bars have been expelled or suspended from school more often compared to 4 percent of children whose father has not been in prison or jail. Once inside a prison, men and women of all races do what they can to survive physically and emotionally because 95 percent of them will return to their communities one day. Tragically, too many of them return to prison after release. So, what can we do to address recidivism as well as the collateral consequences of incarceration on families, children, and society? For more than 50 years, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures, philanthropists, educators, social entrepreneurs, and the formerly incarcerated have turned their attention to correctional education programs as a pathway of choice for self-improvement, to address recidivism, prepare for the workforce, or a combination thereof. Although public support for this approach is growing, prisoner rehabilitation through education remains one of the most contested ideas in criminal justice policy today. In this seminar, students will examine how legislative institutions, courts, executive agencies, and interest groups have shaped the provision of education inside prisons. We also will discuss a range of innovative models to address a big question at the center of a 234-year-old debate about crime and punishment in America: Are prisons designed for corporal punishment, human improvement, or a combination thereof? Students will be required to obtain a copy of Education for Liberation: The Politics of Promise and Reform Inside and Beyond America’s Prisons (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers), co-edited by Gerard Robinson and Elizabeth English Smith.

Course Requirements

Exam Info:
Final Type (if any): None
Description: None

Written Work Product
Written Work Product: Students may satisfy course requirements either by writing a series of short response papers on class reading or by completing one long (20+ pages) paper presenting original research. 2L, 3L or LLM students desiring to count the long paper toward their Upper-Level Writing Requirement must submit a signed Intent Form to SRO before the 5-week deadline noted in the Enrollment Deadlines section of LawWeb.

Other Work

Other Course Details
Prerequisites: None Concurrencies: None
Mutually Exclusive With: None
Laptops Allowed: No
First Day Attendance Required: Yes
Course Resources: See course description.
Course Notes:

Graduation Requirements

*Satisfies Writing Requirement: No
**Credits For Prof. Skills Requirement: No
Satisfies Professional Ethics: No

*If “Yes,” then students are required to submit a substantial research paper in this course, which means students do not need to submit any form to SRO for this paper to meet their upper-level writing requirement. If “No,” then students must submit a “special request” e-form to SRO (available via LawWeb) no later than five weeks after the start of the term for a paper in this class to be counted toward the upper-level writing requirement.

**Yes indicates course credits count towards UVA Law’s Prof. Skills graduation requirement, not necessarily a skills requirements for any particular state bar.

Schedule No.
Law No.
Modified Type
Cross Listed: No
Cross-Listed Course Mnemonic:
Public Syllabus Link: None
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Opens: Friday, April 21, 12:01 AM
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Closes: Sunday, April 30, 11:59 PM