Faculty:  José Gómez, J.D.
Office:  Sem II - E4104; Mail Stop:  Sem II - A2117
Telephone:  (360) 867-6872
Fax: (360) 867-6553
Personal Home Page:
Office Hours:  By appointment, online (chat room) or in person;
    for appointment, send e-mail message or call by telephone


The URL for the course web site is  Links to the Web-X discussion site and seminar room are found there.  Links to optional reading are also found on the home page.


This summer, this course is offered as an eight (8) credit option that spans the full full session of summer school (10 weeks).

Class will meet once for a hands-on orientation to Web Crossing (Web-X) on, Tuesday, June 26, 7:00-9:30p, General Computing Classroom #1 (GCC1) located on the 2nd floor of the Library Building). The rest of the class will be taught via the Internet.

This course will take a critical look at controversial issues in criminal justice and law enforcement, including police misconduct and interrogation, mandatory minimum sentencing, decriminalization of medicinal marijuana and prostitution, needle exchange programs, the insanity defense, children tried as adults, privatization of prisons, and physician-assisted suicide.   It will be taught via the Internet through a course web site, an electronic message board, a chat room for seminars, and e-mail.  Meeting date above is for hands-on orientation.

The people of the United States are sharply divided on many important issues that affect our criminal justice system.  Fortunately, the democracy and freedom which we enjoy allows us to debate these issues openly and robustly as a way of contributing to solutions.  We are a people who value not only vigorous controversy, but also the democratic process, even if cacophonous, which we use to confront the most difficult political problems and controversies facing us.

The main objective of this course is to encourage critical thinking by examining conflicting views on these issues.  This is done not only through "point-counterpoint" readings, but also through the writing and seminars in which students and faculty participate.  Our academic purpose is not to achieve ideological consensus on these issues nor to take sides on any of them.  If anything, we should study and listen carefully to the views we most disagree with and then re-examine our own views with  what we have learned.

This course will be taught via the Internet.  This means you can take this course from home or, for that matter, from anywhere in the world where you can link to cyberspace.  Except  for the anthology used, this course will be paperless, and except for the in-person meeting the first week of the term, the course will use a "virtual classroom."  Instead of paper and a real classroom, the college’s conference server (web-crossing) will be the medium through which we will post our critical comments about the essays.  In addition, we will "seminar" in cyberspace through the use of chat rooms, but since we will engage in substantive discussions rather than chat, we will call them seminar rooms.  Students will also be able to communicate with the faculty and with one another via e-mail.

The purpose of the in-person meeting at the beginning of each term is to give students a hands-on orientation to the the technical aspects of our "virtual classroom".  At that time, digital photos will also be taken of you for use on the home page and conference server.  It is one way of making the virtual classroom a bit less impersonal, since your photo will appear next to each of your postings on the course’s conference server site.  It is possible that we will have an additional but optional in-person meeting at the end of the summer in order to debrief regarding this virtual experiment.  Students who want to take this course but who cannot be present for the hands-on orientation should make alternate arrangements with the instructor.

Please note that this is not a self-paced course.  While you will have considerable flexibility to fit the required work into your personal weekly schedule, there will be deadlines by which specific academic activities must be completed.


The following are the primary academic activities of the program, aimed not only at helping you to understand the materials you will read, but also to hone your critical thinking and communication skills:

1) Reading and Listening.  You will read the assigned material carefully.  It consists of opposing views about controversial political, social and legal issues.   You will also listen to professional debates on these issues.  Please give each reading and debate assignment careful analysis and reflection.  All of the assigned study is on the Internet.

2) Critical Comments.   On the course’s Web Crossing site, accessible through the home page, you will be required to post one substantive comment about each set of materials  you read.  There are no restrictions on the content of this "critical comment" except that it must be substantive.  Perhaps it is a new  insight you garnered from the reading.  Maybe it is a critique on some point made by the authors.  Or perhaps it is an alternative view from either of those presented.  The idea is that you should contribute something substantive to the critical dialogue we want to have about the issues.  While quality, rather than number of words, is the goal in these critical comments, they should be about 200 to 250 words in length, on average.  See the schedule below for the deadline for posting this.

3) Responses.  You will be required to read your classmates’ critical comments on each set of readings and to post at least three comments in response to something they have stated.  See the schedule below for the deadline for posting this.

4) Seminar Topics.  You will be required to suggest at least one topic for each seminar sesssion.  See the schedule below for the deadline for posting this.

4) Virtual Seminar.  Each week, you will be required to participate in two real time seminars online (except for the first week of the First Session, when you will have only one seminar).  The large number of students who usually register for this course make it possible for us to schedule several seminars at a variety of times.  Taking students' preferences into consideration, the seminar schedule will be created the evening of the hands-on orientation.  As soon as it is available, the schedule will be posted as an announcement on the course home page.  The deadline for posting critical comments  and responses on a particular issue will precede the real time seminar discussion on  on that issue.  This sequence will ensure that you have given careful thought to the seminar topic and will have something substantive to say about it.  See the schedule below for the seminar times.

5) Essays.  At the end of the summer session, you must write "yes/no" (counterpoint) essays on a question of your choice. You can read instructions for writing and submitting the essays by clicking here. Please note that the essay requirement will be waived in the case of students who consistently write very good to excellent critical comments and meaningful responses and who maintain excellent "attendance" at the virtual online seminars.


The twice-weekly real time seminars via a chat room are determined by student preference. The following was the schedule for last summer (2007). Seminar times will be determined based on student responses to a questionnaire the first day. Depending on enrollment, there may be two or three groups.

GROUP A (seminars on Mondays and Thursdays 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.)
For Group A, the sequence of activity deadlines is:
Sundays and Wednesdays 10 p.m. for critical comments
Mondays and Thursdays 12:00 noon for your three responses
Mondays and Thursdays 5:00 p.m. for your suggested seminar topic.

GROUP B (seminars on Tuesdays and Fridays 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.)
For Group B, the sequence of activity deadlines is:
Mondays and Thursdays 10 p.m. for critical comments
Tuesdays and Fridays 12:00 noon for your three responses
Tuesdays and Fridays 7:30 p.m. for your suggested seminar topic.

GROUP C (seminars on Tuesdays and Fridays 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.)
For Group C, the sequence of activity deadlines is:
Mondays and Thursdays 10 p.m. for critical comments
Tuesdays and Fridays 12:00 noon for your three responses
Tuesdays and Fridays 5:00 p.m. for your suggested seminar topic.


Assignments for each topic of study consist of debates and point-counterpoint (yes/no) writings on each question.  The debates, which you should listen to and consider along with the writings before you write your critical comments, are in the form of streaming audio.  You will need RealOne Player, Windows Media Player or Apple QuickTime Player to download and listen to the audio.   If you don't have one of these on your computer yet, you can download it for free.  If you aren't sure whether or not you have this software, try clicking on one of the audio file links to see if anything happens.  Either the audio file will start downloading or you will get a message telling you that you need to download the relevant software.

If any of the links have a PDF logo, it means that they are in Portable Document Format (PDF).  To download PDF files, you need to have Adobe Acrobat on your computer.  You can download that software for free, also.

You can access the required and optional assignments by summer school session or by semi-weekly topic.  Click on the linked text below (underlined and in red) for the information you wish to see.

WEEK ONE Topic #1 Topic #2 WEEK SIX
Topic #1 Topic #2
WEEK TWO Topic #1 Topic #2 WEEK SEVEN Topic #1 Topic #2
Topic #1 Topic #2
WEEK FOUR Topic #1 Topic #2 WEEK NINE
Topic #1 Topic #2
WEEK FIVE Topic #1 Topic #2 WEEK TEN
Topic #1 Topic #2

Please note: There is only one required reading in Week One of the First Session because the hands-on orientation is on Tuesday, June 24.  In the remaining weeks, there are two sets of topics with assigned debates and readings.  Normally the first set of topics carries with it posting deadlines early in the week. The second set of essays carries with it posting deadlines later in the week.  These deadlines may vary depending on the assigned seminar days: for example, Mondays/Thursdays or Tuesdays/Fridays or Tuesdays/Thursdays or Wednesdays/Fridays.

In Week One of the First Session, the required study in lieu of a first set of  readings/debate is for you to become intimately familiar with the course web site, the Web-X site, the syllabus, and the assignments, as well as to test the Web-X chat room.  Because of the great variety of platforms, hardware, browsers, and Internet service providers, some students will experience technical problems getting into the chat room.  These problems are surmountable, but you may not wait until the first seminar session to see if you can log into the chat room.   Part of the assigned work for the first half of Week One is for you to not only test the chat room, but also resolve any technical problems you may face.  See the Notices page of this web site for some troubleshooting instructions that you should follow if you find that the chat room will not load.  Only after you have followed those instructions should you seek technical assistance from the faculty.

(You need only one of the players.  We recommend Real.)

Download : RealOne Player for Windows | RealPlayer 8 Basic for MacOS 9
Download : Early versions of the RealPlayer
Download : Windows Media Player | Windows Media Player for Mac OS
Download : Apple QuickTime player for Mac OS and Windows
Download : Adobe Acrobat Reader for all systems.  For assistance in downloading and installing the software, see Adobe Acrobat Reader Troubleshooting Guide.  Also: a PDF what, why & how.


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