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LAW 5872: Crime, Law and Society in The Wire - 2204

Crime, Law and Society in The Wire
Class Term:
Spring Term 2019-2020
Catalog Number:
Class Schedule:
2:00 pm
3:50 pm
Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy Room


3 (2 Contact, 0 Field)
Graduation Requirements:
Upper-Level Writing
"W" Writing
Seminar - 3rd Year Priority
Full Year Course:
Standard Courses

Additional Information

Students will serve in small groups (two to four students per group) as weekly discussion leaders for the topics and episodes assigned for the week, which will be viewed by in advance; discussion leaders will lead the class for the week, along with the instructor. Readings will be assigned, along with pertinent episodes of the series. Students should expect to view the first season of The Wire and at least one other season for the class; episodes from other seasons may also be assigned. A complete copy of all episodes of the series will be available in the Law Library. Those wishing to enroll in the course should know that The Wire contains a considerable amount of violence, as well as adult content and language; some may find some or all of this offensive. Also, understand that the course does require each student to invest a significant amount of time outside of class watching the series. If these issues will present a problem, do not take this class.

Grading Details

Each student will write one short (5-7 pages) paper during the semester, and one traditional longform seminar paper (15-25 pages), focusing on one or more issues raised in The Wire. All papers will be graded on both content and the quality of the written product. Each paper will be returned to the student with extensive comments; students will then revise the papers in response to the instructor’s comments. During the last several weeks of class, students will present their long papers to the class. Grades will be based on the short paper (twenty percent), discussion leader and class participation performance (ten percent), and the long paper (seventy percent). Because enrollment and assignments may vary from year to year, the instructor may adjust these evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester, with notice to all students.



Few contemporary works of fiction have captured contemporary issues in the criminal justice system in as realistic a fashion as the HBO series The Wire. Written by a former police reporter for the Baltimore Sun and a former commanding officer for the Baltimore Police Department, The Wire presented viewers with a complex, detailed and highly nuanced view of the many problems faced by the criminal justice system in a large urban environment (Baltimore). This course will use The Wire as a text to study many of the most important and intractable problems in the criminal justice system in America today, including drug enforcement, race, confessions, police manipulation of crime statistics, mass incarceration, use of force, gender, criminal organizations, gun violence, and honesty and accountability in law enforcement.

Crime, Law and Society in The Wire