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Free online course: Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration

Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration is an online course offered by the School of Divinity at Vanderbilt University in the United States. The class is focused on the problem of mass incarceration in America, where 2.2 million adults are currently in jail and another 5 million are currently serving probation or parole sentences. A beginner level course taught in English, the class is open to anyone who wants to better understand the American justice system.

For Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration, students will need to watch a series of videos and complete assigned readings. The course lasts for 6 weeks and requires students to devote 3 to 5 hours of study time per week. Each lesson culminates with a quiz that assesses how well students have mastered the information covered. A short writing assignment is also given at the close of each week. Students who receive a passing grade on each writing assignment will successfully pass the course. A Certificate of Completion can be obtained by paying a small fee.

During the first week of Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration, students receive an introduction to the United States prison system and get some background into why mass incarceration is a major social problem in America. The class then explores the nature and purpose of crime and punishment in Week 2 and how prisons came to be in Week 3. During the 4th week, students take an in-depth look at what life is like in prison. The class culminates with modules related to the role of race in incarceration and what alternatives there are to incarcerating convicted criminals.

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