The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 1980, approximately 500,000 people were behind bars in this country. Now, even after significant pandemic-related, the figure approaches 2 million (over two-thirds of whom are non-white), incarcerated in jails, state prisons, and federal prisons. This course will examine the constitutional law, and some statutory law, relevant to their incarceration. The central topics will be the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments and its Fourteenth Amendment analog, and Congress’s regulation of litigation brought by prisoners in the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Other classes will examine First Amendment rights in prison, solitary and supermax confinement, race discrimination inside jails and prison, and the law of injunctive relief in constitutional cases brought by inmates. (We will not discuss criminal procedure, habeas corpus, or sentencing.) This course is for anyone interested in civil rights, criminal prosecution, or criminal defense.
The course will be co-taught by UM Prof. Margo Schlanger and Amy Fettig, the director of the Sentencing Project and former Deputy Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. It is 2 credits, meeting 4 hours per week for the first 5 weeks of the semester, with one weekend day negotiation exercise on Feb. 5 or 6. Note: Professor Schlanger has been nominated for an administration position. If she is confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Fettig will teach the class alone from that point forward.