Mass Incarceration in the world and especially in the US and around the world is a major Human Rights issue which has implications for every facet of society. The US is the global leader in incarceration, maintaining 25% of the world’s total incarcerated population. An estimated 5 million people enter US jails each year. This is a burden not only on the country, but it is an unsustainable path to continue to follow. In completing the certificate in carceral systems and social change, students will explore alternatives to punishment/incarceration and ways to systemically embed decarceration into society. Engaging the next generation of students in such forward-thinking programs will enhance the career paths they choose and the contributions they make to them. This in turn can propel the US into a leadership role in global decarceration rather than mass incarceration.

Students obtaining a certificate in Carceral Systems and Social Change will develop a foundational level of knowledge of prison/incarceration in the US and its impact on the country as a whole as well as its global implications. This has been a central issue in American national discourse before, during, and after the national and international protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in 2020/2021. Students will also delve deeper into a specific area of interest within the field and complete a co-curricular activity to enhance their understanding of the actual prison experience through study and experiential learning of the ramifications of punishment/confinement. This study will help to prepare them to envision creative justice alternatives in the professions of law, public policy, social service, education and the arts.


To qualify for this certificate students must complete two academic courses, including an introductory level course and a more advanced course, and a co-curricular experience, from the options below. Students must complete one from each group*:

Credit #1: Introductory course:

  • POLS 238 Prison and Justice in America (Professor Anna Terweil)
  • ENGL 209 Prison Literature (Professor Sheila Fisher)
  • AMST 223 Prison and the Public Humanities (Professor Jordan Camp)

Credit #2: Upper level thematic course:

  • RHET 360 Rhetorics of Law (Professor Erin Frymire)
  • NESC 305 Neuro Law (Professor Sally Seraphin)
  • PBPL 304 Capital Punishment in America (Professor Glenn Falk)
  • PBPL 365 Crime, Punishment & Public Policy (Professor Glenn Falk)
  • HIST 350 Race and Incarceration (Professor Cheryl Greenberg)

Credit #3: Co-curricular experience**:

  • HRST/THDN 373 Human Rights Through Performance (Professor Joe Lea)
  • HRST/THDN 348 New Beginnings: Justice Alternatives and the Arts (Judy Dworin, Lisa Mattias)
  • Independent Study: Old New-Gate Prison (Professor Glenn Falk)

Other possible options:

  • Inside/Outside College Program at York CI (TBA)
  • Human Rights Clinic at Wesleyan
  • Watkinson Creative Fellowship


*If a student believes another course should count for either category 1&2 they should bring it to the attention of the certificate coordinator, Professor Ben Carbonetti.
**If there is another co-curricular activity (internship or qualifying co-curricular course at another institution) a student must consult with certificate coordinator Professor Ben Carbonetti for approval, preferably ahead of time.