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Spring 2021 Seminar

What’s Wrong with Mass Incarceration

This seminar will be co-taught with FAS Professor Adaner Usmani.

Prerequisites: By permission of instructor. Please email Professor Lewis ( a one paragraph response that includes your background and interest in the topic.

Exam Type: No Exam

Most academics who think and write about Mass Incarceration do so because we believe it to be wrong. But what exactly is wrong with it? This course canvases the range of answers that social scientists, lawyers, philosophers, and activists have given to that question. It is motivated by our view (to be developed in a forthcoming book) that the most common answers make both logical and empirical errors, and that better answers will require more clarity about facts and more explicit normative reasoning. Our view is still developing, and students will be strongly encouraged to argue against us. The ambition of this course is to help us and to help students—whether aspiring social scientists or budding lawyers—to think more carefully about the relationship between facts and values in discussions of race, class, crime, and punishment.

Note: This seminar is cross-listed with FAS as SOCIOL 1193.