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Spring 2019
Aug 15, 2020
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GOVX 400 - Prison Reform Project
Applications Due on August 5 for Spring 2020 “Making an Exoneree” Course (to be filmed for a multi-episode series to air on a major network)

We are now accepting applications for the Spring 2020 GOVX 400 (Prison Reform Project) course, informally known as “Making an Exoneree.” The main enrollment process will take place much earlier this year, since the course will be fully covered by a professional film crew for a multi-episode documentary series that will air on a major network.

This 5-credit course is intended for a small number of passionate and highly-motivated students. The class will not have readings, papers, or exams. Instead, students will spend an intensive semester as investigative journalists, documentarians, and social justice activists, with the goal of creating a public documentary (in addition to a website and social media campaign) that makes the case for the innocence of a wrongfully convicted person who is currently languishing in prison. Students will leave campus regularly and travel to visit their “client” (all travel expenses will be covered), as they reinvestigate the crime and conviction. Their task will be to portray the main issues, challenges, injustices, and human stories involved in each case.

The course is co-taught by Professor Marc Howard and his childhood friend, Adjunct Professor Marty Tankleff, who was himself wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for almost 18 years before being exonerated. Previous versions of the course have resulted in the exoneration and release of Valentino Dixon, while also providing significant progress in the legal prospects of several other potential exonerees.

The class is scheduled for Fridays 9:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Although we will not always meet as a full group each week for that full block of time, students must keep their Fridays open, free from other classes or regular commitments. Students will be meeting and working together within smaller groups, and consulting with the professors, on a regular basis throughout the semester.

The output for the course—which will be prepared by five groups of students working closely together in teams of three—will include the production of short documentaries that are humanizing portraits of the lives, families, and complicated legal cases of five people who were likely wrongfully convicted. At the end of the semester, the students will present their final documentaries at a larger public event hosted by the Prisons and Justice Initiative. Throughout the semester, the production company will cover the efforts and activities of the Georgetown students as they investigate their cases. The show will track the students on their personal journeys as they experience the emotional ups and downs of pursuing truth and justice.

The course will be restricted to a maximum of 15 Georgetown students. Priority will be given to those students who have a strong academic or practical background in this area, along with a passion for the issue of wrongful convictions and criminal justice reform. Having a background in investigative journalism and/or video production is a bonus, but not a requirement.

The enrollment process for this course will take place this summer (with a secondary process in the late fall). Interested students should submit an application to Professor Howard at mmh@georgetown.edu by Monday, August 5 at 5pm, with the subject line "GOVX 400 application." Your application should consist of a brief cover letter, a resume, an unofficial transcript, and a 3-minute webcam video (submitted as a link to a video on Google Drive) in which you explain why you want to take the course and what you have to offer, while also providing any background information that may be relevant or helpful. Please note that by submitting an application, you consent for us to share your application with the television production company (though we will not share your transcript or any other information that you ask us to keep private). 

5.000 Credit hours
5.000 Lecture hours

Levels: MN or MC Graduate, Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Seminar

Government Department

Course Attributes:
Mean Grade is Calculated

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