If you’re looking for an easy way to get a law school-level education, fire up your HBOGO account and get started on The Wire, because one law school professor has used the show’s portrayal of criminal law as the basis for his class.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, social sciences professors at various universities have been using the Baltimore-set show by David Simon in their courses for years. As TV inspired-MOOCs pop up across the internet, the phenomenon of teaching with The Wire is now spreading to very serious criminal law and criminal procedure instruction as well.
The main trailblazer in this arena is Adam M. Gershowitz of William & Mary Law School, who instructs his students to watch the first two seasons of the show before the first class (and to read his book, The Wire: Crime, Law and Policy).
“The Wire is a phenomenal piece of television not only because of its storytelling but also because of its realistic depiction of criminal procedure issues,” Gershowitz told the ABA Journal. For instance, as he writes in a December 4 paper: “Most criminal procedure classes do not cover the heightened standard for obtaining a wiretap, the statutory requirement that police minimize their listening, or the need for officers to provide magistrates with progress reports about the wiretap. The Wire vividly displays each of these legal concepts.”
“The course gets a large enrollment,” Gershowitz noted to the ABA Journal.
It’s not that surprising that The Wire, which ran on HBO from 2002-2008, was so attentive to detail and reality that professors would structure their courses around it: Simon, who created the show, was a crime reporter for more than a decade at The Baltimore Sun, before writing the book that would eventually be adapted into the award-winning TV show Homicide: Life On The Street.
Simon’s reporting and work in TV have also given him a platform for discussing his views on political and economic disparities, views that made headlines this week after he went on an angry rant about the state of equality in America.
“And so in my country you’re seeing a horror show,” Simon said during the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, which took place in early November in Sydney, Australia (joining David Mamet, albeit from the opposite end of the political spectrum as a Hollywood intellectual attacking the government this month).
“You’re seeing a retrenchment in terms of family income, you’re seeing the abandonment of basic services, such as public education, functional public education,” Simon continued. “You’re seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons. No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.”
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