Law & Order: The History of American Policing and Prisons, 1776-present

Fifty and Better Fall Session

Law & Order: The History of American Policing and Prisons, 1776-present

How did crime and punishment come to play such a large role in American life? As of 2021, the United States has nearly 2.3 million people in prison, an exponentially higher rate of incarceration than any nation on Earth. Since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement beginning in 2013, there has been rising public attention to racial inequality in policing and prison policy. Few Americans, however, understand the longer history of policing and incarceration in the United States. From the “workhouses” of the Colonial period to the chain gangs of the 19th century, to the militarized apparatus of the war on drugs, this course will examine that history, demonstrating how ideas and practices around punishment, reform and abolition have evolved over time.

David Parsons, PhD, received his doctorate in history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is a professor and writer whose work focuses on the political, social, and cultural history of 20th century America. He has taught courses in U.S. history at CUNY and New York University, and hosts a long-running weekly podcast on history and politics called The Nostalgia Trap.

Fifty and Better was designed to offer university-level courses (no tests, no homework) taught by experts in the field, and to host social engagement activities for individuals age 50 and older.

Cost is $35 for this six-week course.


Register by Friday, Sept. 3, at 3 p.m.

Sponsored By
Fifty and Better


Christina Tierney