Hot Topics in Criminal Justice

Vanderbilt University

The "Hot Topics in Criminal Justice" course delves into the complexities and controversies of the American criminal justice system. Through a comprehensive examination, participants will gain insights into the need for reform and explore potential solutions to address the issues prevalent in the system. The course covers a wide array of topics, including mass incarceration, punishment and prevention, insanity and neuroscience, the death penalty, police use of force, and police surveillance.

By scrutinizing the nature and causes of mass incarceration, the lawfulness and usefulness of preventive detention and risk assessment, and the role of the insanity defense and neuroscience in assessing responsibility for crime, participants will develop a critical understanding of the current criminal justice landscape. Additionally, the course focuses on exploring laws regulating police use of force, the growing role of technology and big data in facilitating police surveillance, and remedies for police malfeasance.

Throughout the course, individuals will have the opportunity to engage with thought-provoking content, including video resources, readings, and comprehensive modules, designed to encourage critical thinking and assessment of the criminal justice system.

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Hot Topics in Criminal Justice
Course Modules

The "Hot Topics in Criminal Justice" course is divided into seven modules, each focusing on a specific aspect of the American criminal justice system, including mass incarceration, punishment and prevention, insanity and neuroscience, the death penalty, police use of force, and police surveillance.

Mass Incarceration

The "Mass Incarceration" module provides an in-depth examination of the factors contributing to high incarceration rates in the United States compared to other countries. Participants will explore legal and cultural reasons for these disparities and consider potential strategies for reversing incarceration trends.

Punishment & Prevention

The "Punishment & Prevention" module delves into the purposes of punishment, the accuracy of sentencing determinations, and the principles underlying preventive detention schemes. Participants will critically evaluate the effectiveness of various sentencing factors and treatment programs while considering alternative systems for achieving the ideal sentencing regime.

Insanity & Neuroscience

The "Insanity & Neuroscience" module focuses on cases involving the insanity defense, legal definitions of defenses based on mental disability, and the relevance of neuroscience in criminal justice. Participants will analyze the role of mental dysfunction and explore legal claims based on neuroscience and neurogenetics.

The Death Penalty

The "The Death Penalty" module provides a comprehensive overview of the history, economics, and influence of the death penalty. Participants will examine the impact of elections, jury confusion, and race on death sentences, while critically evaluating the causes of wrongful convictions and improper sentences.

Police Use of Force

The "Police Use of Force" module explores the frequency of police use of force, the legal aspects of deadly force and stop and frisk, and the implications of the exclusionary rule and damages remedies. Participants will consider oversight boards, training, and structural reforms to regulate police use of power.

Police Surveillance

In the "Police Surveillance" module, participants will examine the definition of search under the Fourth Amendment, the impact of surveillance, and reasons to regulate police surveillance. The module also explores the scope of the Fourth Amendment and the implications of police use of surveillance technology.

End of Course Final Quiz

The "End of Course Final Quiz" module provides an opportunity for participants to test their understanding of the course material through a comprehensive final quiz. Participants can assess their knowledge and retention of key concepts covered throughout the course.

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