CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, December 6, 2004

William & Mary Law Students Teach Literature and Law Classes to Virginia Inmates

ClassinjailPaul Marcus, a CrimProf at William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law, has helped some of his law students become teachers to a non-traditional group of students--a group of 17 inmates at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.  The law students lead discussion among the inmates about literature involving legal issues.  This past week, the class discussed Sister Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking, a book that looks at the human consequences of the death penalty. 

Third-year law student Janelle Lyons asked her discussion group, "What do you think about the statement that race, poverty and geography determine who gets the death penalty?"  "Do you think there's a way to make the system fair?" she asked.  Inmate Josi Smiley doesn't think so.  "Money or power could tip the scales in someone's favor," said Smiley, who is in jail for forgery and passing bad checks.  Lyons has found the inmates are "much more intelligent than most people probably believe...Just because they're in jail doesn't mean they don't have a love of learning."

"It's one thing to read opinions that look at the same set of facts and come up with conclusions," said David Lacy, a third-year law student. "But it's another thing to hear someone who knows what it's like to be incarcerated or knows what it's like to deal with the system...It's good to hear someone with real life experience," he said. "We are - I don't want to say - sheltered," but leading the discussions has offered the law-students valuable real-world experience.  More... [Mark Godsey]

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