Scribner Seminar Program
Incarceration Nation:The Twisting Tale of Crime, Punishment, and Prisons in Modern America
Instructor(s): Eric Morser, History
Today, the United States, which is home to less than five percent of the people on Earth, has a quarter of the world’s prison population. Why are these numbers so high and what do they tell as about American society in the twenty-first century? In this seminar, we will explore the rich history of crime and punishment in America to try to answer these questions. We will focus on a number of themes, including the evolving definition of criminal behavior, links between social and economic changes and crime, how prisons shape the people who come into contact with them, perceptions of crime and punishment in popular culture, and how theories of rehabilitation have changed over time. In the end, students will leave class with a clear sense of why prisons matter and how understanding their story reveals a great deal about who Americans are today.