Liberty, Justice, and Imprisonment in the United States

Matt Whitt
Duke University
Discipline(s): CompositionPhilosophyPolitical Science
Syllabus Last Updated: 
September, 2015

A profound tension runs through the public culture of the United States. On the one hand, the U.S. declares itself to be a “land of liberty,” in which individual freedom is cherished and protected. On the other hand, the U.S. has historically denied freedom to large sections of its population, and today it imprisons more people per capita than any other nation. What do we make of this? How do we reconcile the ideals of liberty affirmed by U.S. public culture with the realities of bondage and imprisonment that shape U.S. society? This class uses political theory, philosophy, and academic writing to explore this important issue.