With the onset of the War on Drugs in the 1980s, the pace of incarceration in the United States increased until today it is the highest in the world, with one of every 100 people behind bars. Racial disparities complicate the picture; for example, while black and white Americans use and sell drugs at about the same rate, in some regions and cities blacks are much more likely to be incarcerated on drug charges. Mass incarceration and racial disparity are two of a constellation of problems related to incarceration that we will explore in this course through extensive reading, some self-directed research, and the development of analytical essays. Our readings will include the memoir A Question of Freedom by R. Dwayne Betts, an alumnus of Warren Wilson's MFA program.
Throughout the course, we will consider the interplay between structure (in this case, the prison and criminal justice system) and human agency (the ability of individuals within systems to make decisions and shape their situations). In its emphasis on writing, the course will propose that the very act of writing and putting out one’s work to be read is an act of agency that shapes society.
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