Race, Policing, Criminal Justice, and the Carceral State in the 20th Century United States

Sep 2015

I was very surprised when reading Prof. Roberts' other reviews because I thought that his seminar was GREAT. Perhaps he is more effective in seminars than he is in lectures (but I have also seen Prof. Roberts speak for large groups of people, and I think that he can be an organized, effective speaker). First of all, as mentioned in other reviews, Prof. Roberts is brilliant. He has a deep understanding of the history of racial inequality and criminal justice in the United States and always brought his expertise in the history of medical and public health into our discussions. All of the texts that we read for the course were extremely interesting and gave us a good historical foundation for our discussions on current events related to policing and incarceration. Although Prof. Roberts' classes were sometimes not as organized as they could have been, I did not necessarily think that this was a complete loss. The way that he structured the class gave us the space to discuss the parts of the texts that were most relevant and interesting to us and to talk about how the historical framework that the texts provided shaped our understanding of these issues presently. Also, as a professor who is actively working to address the issues that he discusses in his work, Roberts brings his applied experiences and practical knowledge into the classroom. Lastly, Prof. Roberts genuinely cares about his students' growth. He demonstrates this by leaving class time to address students' specific interests, meeting with students one-on-one regularly, and providing detailed feedback on assignments. For example, the big project of the course was to write a 20-page research paper related to the history of criminal justice in the United States (we pick the specific topic). From the first class, Prof. Roberts emphasized that we should meet with him to discuss the paper and so that he would be able to provide resources/show us where to find resources and so that he could get a better understanding of our research interests and career goals. Prof. Roberts' individualized guidance (that was always honest and never sugar-coated) made me a much stronger writer and researcher. It was an honor to learn from a professor who is genuinely dedicated to ensuring that his work in academia has a direct impact on the communities that he centers.