Comparative Criminal Law: The Police State (S)


The term `police state' is often used to describe governments that exhibit elements of totalitarianism and exercise rigid controls over the social, economic and political life of their population. In this respect, police states are recognized by the laws and policies they enact and the effects of these laws and policies on citizens, more so than any given characteristic of the government structure itself. Under such laws and policies, which emerge within both democratic and non-democratic regimes, citizens experience restrictions on their mobility and liberty, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views. This course seeks to develop a framework for understanding why different regimes adopt laws and policies that could be characterized as repressive, totalitarian or `police state policies.' In particular, the course will explore: the conditions under which and legal mechanisms through which governments adopt these types of practices; what explains the durability or fragility of these laws and policies; the international and domestic political and legal limitations to their adoption; and how these practices spread globally. The course is divided into three parts. The first part establishes the framework employed throughout the course for understanding the conditions under which restrictive policing practices are adopted. The second part examines in depth three categories of police state policies: detention regimes; enhanced interrogation techniques; and policing of non-violent or violent forms of protest and insurgency. For each policy-category, one week will focus on the adoption of such practices within democratic states and one week on their adoption within non-democratic states. Particular consideration will be given to the legal limitations (both domestic and international) on their adoption. The final part of the course entails an in-depth case study of policing practices within the United States. Classes will consist of a combination of lecture, discussion, and simulations. Each student will choose from one of the following to satisfy the writing requirement for the course: a seminar paper on an approved topic; a certification paper on an approved topic; or three short (10-page) papers analyzing each of the three categories of policing practices. LIMITED WRITING REQUIREMENT: A limited number of students may be permitted to satisfy the upper-class writing requirement. **A student who fails to attend the initial meeting of a seminar (designated by an (S) in the title), or to obtain permission to be absent from either the instructor or the Registrar, may be administratively dropped from the seminar. Students who are on a wait list for a seminar are required to attend the first seminar meeting to be considered for enrollment.