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PRLS 2505: Latinxs in the Criminal Justice Complex (Aja): Home

Prof. Aja's Fall 2020 OER


Alan Aja

  • Professor: Alan Aja
  • Email:
  • Class: Tues & Thurs 11a,-12:15pm
  • Class Location: Online
  • Office Hours: By appointment

General Note

If at any time during the course, as this is a difficult time, you feel overwhelmed or you feel like you do not understand what we are doing in class, please email me as soon as possible. If an illness prevents you from attending a live session, I encourage you to obtain notes from another student in the class. I also encourage you to contact me as soon as you can to learn of any updates in the course.


“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” -- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1862.

Course Information

Official Bulletin Description:

LatinXs within the penal system; mass incarceration and reform; racial profiling; juvenile justice; drug criminalization; legal representation; immigration policy; human and civil rights struggles and organized movements; political activism and repression, including Puerto Rican nationalists; "gang" formation; globalization and labor formation after 1970's shift in global capital; school-to-prison pipeline; urban displacement. 3 hours; 3 credits.


Course Description:

This is an inter and trans-disciplinary course, which has two main objectives. The first is to serve as an introduction into the current realities and challenges of the LatinX community within the criminal justice complex in the United States. The course seeks to critically examine the misconceptions and realities of the LatinX community within the larger discussion of mass incarceration and prison reform in the United States. Close attention will also be paid to the use of criminalization as a form of social control and the proliferation of regulations, ordinances, and legislative acts that give legal form to such methods of discipline and punishment. The course will address dynamics and phenomena of racial profiling; juvenile justice; drug criminalization; and the intersection of immigration law with criminal law. In concluding, the course will shift to understanding and connecting the prison-industrial complex to what the future holds for marginalized communities within the current movement and crisis of global capital.

The course also seeks to improve your skills in critical reading, writing, and thinking. Paper assignments will provide opportunities to develop your own interpretations systematically and polish your writing skills.

While there undoubtedly exists an infinite research agenda when it comes to the study mass incarceration and the ongoing challenges of the LatinX community within the criminal justice system of the United States, it is only possible [in 15 weeks] to cover a limited surface/amount of such complicated history and realities of these topics. However, provided is a list of suggested/recommended readings for additional literature to be consulted.

Official SLO (Student Learning Objectives):

  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of race, ethnicity, class, gender, (im)migration, diaspora, national origin, intra- and inter-group dynamics, religion, language, and/or sexuality regarding Latinxs, Caribbean-, and/or Latin Americans, inclusive of Afro-Latinx and indigenous populations.
  • Students will design a plan of action, research project, or creative work focusing on advocacy and leadership involving issues of equity and social justice vis a vis Puerto Rican/Latinx communities, the Caribbean and/or Latin America, inclusive of Afro-Latinx and indigenous populations pertaining thereto.

Students will also:

  • Critically reflect on the criminal justice system’s role in racializing human “subjects”.
  • Understand the historical underpinnings of mass incarceration in the United States.
  • Better navigate the scholarly literature on mass incarceration, migrant detention, and racially disparate criminal justice policies and practices.
  • Further develop critical thinking skills and the ability to speak and write clearly and analytically.
  • Connect a series of social movements (e.g. Black Lives Matter, Prison/Police Abolition) to academic literature on race and criminal justice
  • Situate select Latino/a/x scholarship within a historical framework of U.S. criminal justice and contemporary carceral studies.
  • Critically reflect on the systems of state governance, institutions, organizations, commercial enterprises, and non-profits built around and upon the project of mass imprisonment.
  • Anchor criminal justice policy in electoral politics and the racial politics of crime control.
  • Understand the special role of three types of institutions: Police, Corrections, and Courts – and their impact on communities of color.

Reading and Film Response Papers (each 20% of Final Grade): 

Class Response Papers:

  • You will have to choose 1 out of 3 questions for you to answer in essay format (dates due TBA).
  • Your response is to be 3-4 pages double-spaced, with proper citations/in-text references and a bibliography page.
  • We will have a few documentary/film screenings in which we will review selections.
  • You are to write a response paper [2-3 pages] to the films in a manner that illustrates critical engagement of the material/literature from class discussions, assigned readings, and content of the films.
  • This is not a summary of the films, but rather a serious and scholarly analysis of the film. 

Final Paper (40% of Final Grade broken into 2 parts):

  • You will be responsible to write a 7-10-page analytical paper engaging the material discussed in the course.
  • You must show in-depth knowledge of the literature assigned in the class.
  • A full description of the paper and its requirements will be addressed during class. As such, plan accordingly.
  • ALL students will present for a 3-5 minutes synopsis of their final paper topic during;
    • Week 9/10 of the course and
    • Their final research findings during Week 15.

Both assignments due on Blackboard via Turn It In.

Attendance/Class Participation (20% of Final Grade)

Participation grades are based on qualitative assessment of YOUR contribution to class discussions. You are expected to attend live on-line class sessions having already read assigned course materials for that week and demonstrate familiarity with assigned readings. You will also have several opportunities to participate in other ways, such as through Blackboard.

Class/Reading Participation

Please come to on-line sessions prepared to participate in informed discussion of assigned readings and to engage actively in the in-class activities designed to help you apply what we are learning to a research project of interest to you. You will also be assigned to a group that will be responsible for re-calling and discussing a particular reading. The reading for which your group is responsible will be decided during our live sessions and the day that reading is covered will be posted on blackboard. On those days, please come prepared for me to “call on” you to discuss the reading.

Grade Distribution


Grade Percentage

Due Date

Attendance/Class Participation



Reading Response Papers



Film Critiques



Final Research Paper-Annotated Bibliography


Week 8

Final Research Paper-Full Paper


Week 16

CUNY Policies

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The Brooklyn College Center for Student Disability Services is back to working in-person on campus, though you can still reach out via email and phone. Please email them at for assistance.

Location: 138 Roosevelt Hall
Phone: 718.951.5538
FAX: 718.951.4442
Department Office Hours:

  • Monday: 9 a.m.–4:45 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 9 a.m.–4:45 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 9 a.m.–6:45 p.m.
  • Thursday: 9 a.m.–6:45 p.m.
  • Friday: 9 a.m.–4:45 p.m.

Note: Office hours during summer and winter intersession breaks varies.

Students should inform the professor if they have a disability or any other situation that may require Section 504/ADA accommodations.  The faculty and staff will attempt to work out whatever arrangements are necessary.

Please provide your professor with your course accommodation form and discuss your specific accommodation with your professor as soon as possible to ensure accommodations are met in a timely fashion.

In order to receive academic accommodations students must first be registered with the Center for Student Disability Services. Students who have a documented disability or who suspect that they might have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell or the Assistant Director, Josephine Patterson or their general email

Center for Student Disability Services (CSDS) Mission:
It is the mission of the Center for Student Disability Services (CSDS) to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to all campus facilities, curricula, and activities. The program’s objective focuses on providing students with reasonable disability-related accommodations and the opportunity to maximize their academic success at Brooklyn College. The goal is to ensure an inclusive environment while maintaining and enhancing the college’s academic excellence by providing students with disabilities the opportunity to achieve their highest possible academic potential.

Academic dishonesty of any type, including cheating and plagiarism, is unacceptable at Brooklyn College. Cheating is any misrepresentation in academic work. Plagiarism is the representation of another person’s work, words, or ideas as your own. Students should consult the Brooklyn College Student Handbook for a fuller, more specific discussion of related academic integrity standards.

Academic dishonesty is punishable by failure of the “…test, examination, term paper or other assignment on which cheating occurred” (Faculty Council, May 18, 1954).

In addition, disciplinary proceedings in cases of academic dishonesty may result in penalties of admonition, warning, censure, disciplinary probation, restitution, suspension, expulsion, complaint to civil authorities, or ejection (Adopted by Policy Council, May 8, 1991).

NOTE: If you have a question about how to cite correctly ask your teacher BEFORE submitting your work.

  • The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from cheating and plagiarism.
  • Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes cheating and plagiarism and for avoiding both.
  • View complete text of CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and Brooklyn College procedure for policy implementation.
  • If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member must report the violation.
  • Please read the section entitled “Academic Regulations and Procedures” in the Brooklyn College Undergraduate Bulletin or Graduate Bulletin for a complete listing of academic regulations of the College.

Bereavement Policy:

  • Students who experience the death of a loved one must contact the Division of Student Affairs, 2113 Boylan Hall, if they wish to implement either the Standard Bereavement Procedure or the Leave of Absence Bereavement Procedure. The Division of Student Affairs has the right to request a document that verifies the death (e.g., a funeral program or death notice). Contact Email:
  • Typically, this death involves that of a family member, in parallel to the bereavement policy for faculty and staff. However, it is up to the discretion of the Division of Student Affairs to determine if a death outside of the immediate family warrants implementation of the student bereavement policy.
  •  As an option, and in consultation with the Division of Student Affairs, students may take the Leave of Absence Bereavement after the Standard Bereavement.
  • Reference to the Student Bereavement Policies will be noted on course syllabi.
  • Students requesting a religious accommodation should contact the Division of Student Affairs as well. The chief student affairs officer, or a designee, and the student will engage in an interactive process with the goal of finding an acceptable accommodation.

Bereavement Procedure:

  • Upon approval from the Division of Student Affairs, the student is allowed one week, commencing from the day of notification to the Division of Student Affairs, of excused absence.
  • Should the student feel that he/she needs additional days, these should be discussed with individual course instructors and/or the Division of Student Affairs.
  • The Division of Student Affairs will contact the student’s faculty and academic staff of the student’s courses.
  • Faculty and academic staff will be advised that extensions must be granted to the student for the period of one week of excused absence.
  • Further extensions may be negotiated with the student when he or she returns to campus.
  • Students are encouraged to discuss options with their instructors.

Leave of Absence Bereavement Procedure:

  • Students may be allowed to withdraw from the semester in which the death occurs.
  • The Bereavement Leave of Absence is for one semester only.
  • Students who have opted to take the Bereavement Leave of Absence and have already attended classes for the semester of the leave will be allowed to re-enter the following semester without having to reapply to the college.
  • Students who wish to take the leave of absence prior to the beginning of the semester will be required to reapply for the following semester.
  • Students who are in good academic standing will be given the opportunity to successfully complete the credits for the semester in which they return.
  • Students will consult with the Division of Student Affairs, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether they should withdraw from their courses during this leave of absence or to request incompletes from the faculty member.
  •  Given that there may be a potential impact on financial aid, students who receive financial aid and who take the Bereavement Leave of Absence, upon arrangement with the Division of Student Affairs, will meet with a financial aid adviser prior to taking this option.
  • The New York State Education Law provides that no student shall be expelled or refused admission to an institution of higher education because he or she is unable to attend classes or participate in examinations or study or work requirements on any particular day or days because of religious beliefs.
  • Students who are unable to attend classes on a particular day or days because of religious beliefs will be excused from any examination or study or work requirements.
  • Faculty must make good-faith efforts to provide students absent from class because of religious beliefs equivalent opportunities to make up the work missed; no additional fees may be charged for this consideration.
  • If classes, examinations, or study or work requirements occur on Friday after 4 p.m. or on Saturday, similar or makeup classes, examinations, or study or work requirements will be made available on other days, where possible and practical.
  • The faculty and the administration will not allow any adverse or prejudicial effects to accrue to students availing themselves of this regulation.
  • If students have complaints about the application of this policy, they are entitled to bring action or a proceeding for enforcement of their rights in the Supreme Court of Kings County
Number-letter grade equivalents
Numerical grade Letter Grade
97-100 A+
93-96 A
90-92 A-
87-89 B+
83-86 B
80-82 B-
77-79 C+
73-76 C
70-72 C-
67-69 D+
63-66 D
60-62 D-
Below 60 F


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