Prison Life in Movies and TV: Media Images of the Culture of Punishment 1930-2014
General Catalog Course Title:
Freshman and Sophomore Seminar
Terms Offered:
Fall 2015

 The seminar will explore society's shifting notions of prison life, as evidenced by movies and TV programs. The students will view each week an important piece of cinema or television. Each example will be a launching pad into a discussion of themes of race, class and gender; identity; criminal justice; incarceration; crime; deviance and social control. The class will begin with vintage penitentiary movies (The Big House, starring Wallace Beery, 1930) and follow the evolution of the genre through the Netflix hit series, Orange is the New Black. The viewing experience will be supplemented by readings, including McLennan, R.M. (2008) "The Crisis of Imprisonment." This seminar is part of the Connections@Cal initiative. This seminar is part of the Food for Thought Seminar series.

William J. Drummond joined the faculty in 1983 after a career in public radio and newspapers. He has worked as an adviser to the San Quentin News since 2011. In 2014 San Quentin News was awarded the James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society for Professional Journalists for its work in raising the public's awareness about mass incarceration. From 1979 to 1983 Prof. Drummond worked in Washington for National Public Radio, where he was the first editor of Morning Edition before moving on to become National Security Correspondent. He has produced documentary-length radio programs on a wide range of subjects: Native Americans and welfare reform; jazz diva Betty Carter; Allensworth: the pioneering Negro colony in the California Central Valley; a profile of a psychiatrist whose specialty is interviewing serial killers; the early Jim Crow days in Las Vegas; an examination of why Americans are turned off by the political system; and a look at the tension between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, as seen through the eyes of youth. His honors include a 1989 citation from the National Association of Black Journalists for "Outstanding Coverage of the Black Condition," the 1991 Jack R. Howard Award for Journalism Excellence, and a 1994 Excellence in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists' Northern California Chapter for an advanced reporting class experiment in civic journalism. He was a member of the planning committee that created the Public Radio International program The World. 

Faculty web site:

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.