August 26, 2020

Previous Intensives

Community Schools Research and Practice.  |  Our Lives, Our World. Teaching  and Learning About Human Rights Alongside Youth.   |  Intersections of Our Homes, Schools and Communities (Spring 2022)   |   Intergroup Dialogue on Race and Migration (Fall 2021)     |  MakerBoards: A Return to Play  |   Intersections of Our Homes, Schools and Communities |   French Language Lessons (Spring 2021)|  Legal Challenges: Local Interventions in the Criminal-Legal System  |  Life in a Buddhist Monastery |  Writing Medicine |  Fundamentals of Grant Writing (Fall 2020)  |  Music for Empowerment  | Intergroup Dialogue on Race and Migration. (Spring 2020)| French Language Lessons (Spring 2020) | Fundamentals of Grant Writing (Spring 2020) | Class Without Walls in Nature

[CLCS] 281, Legal Challenges: Local Interventions in the Criminal-Legal System, Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Professor Jeffrey Schneider, Professor Katie Hite

THEMATIC CLUSTER: Criminal Justice


In 2020, police killings of unarmed civilians (re)ignited a nationwide protest movement calling for a radical overhaul of the American criminal-legal system. This community-engaged intensive explores the efforts of local activist groups to document problems or effect changes in the criminal-legal system in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, and New York State. As a community of co-learners, we consider a number of different questions: What changes are local activists calling for? What role can Vassar students play? How does the involvement of Vassar students in these efforts intersect with town-gown relations? Along with readings on police accountability, mass incarceration, and systemic racism, participants also have a chance to speak to and learn from outside activists about their goals and strategies related to police reform, bail reform, court watching, Dutchess county jail expansion, conditions in local state prisons, the school-to-prison pipeline, alternatives to incarceration, and efforts to obtain justice for local victims of police violence. In addition to classroom discussions and self-directed readings related to one of these issues, students also intern with End the New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN), a Poughkeepsie-based advocacy organization, in conjunction with other local and state-wide organizations, such as Celebrating the African Spirit, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Vera Institute, Vocal-NY, and New York LGBTQ centers, among others. Meetings take place twice weekly, moving to once weekly as students begin to participate in meetings with various advocacy organizations and/or attend government meetings, such as the Poughkeepsie Common Council, the Dutchess County Legislature, and the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council.


Summer 2020: Expand court watching program from just the City of Poughkeepsie Court to Beacon City Court, Town of Poughkeepsie Court, and Dutchess County Court. Gather and track court cases from these courts in a database to be analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively.Develop court watching handbook.

Fall 2020: Offer an intensive on court watching and other local activist efforts to effect reforms of the criminal justice system.





Six-week intensive. One 2-hour period and individual conferences with the instructor.


CREDIT VALUE: 1.0 or 0.5


  • Guest Speakers


“This grant gave our student intern a thorough immersion in the world of community organizing and local politics. It has had a significant impact on the democratic process in the City of Poughkeepsie and the well-being of many of its residents, in particular low-income communities of color who suffer from overpolicing and limited opportunities to exercise civilian oversight of law enforcement.”

– Professor Jeffrey Schneider

“Because of COVID–which affected the operation of local criminal courts and prevented students from leaving campus–we had to modify the Intensive at the last minute to focus on other issues as we sought to gain access to online criminal justice proceedings, which only became possible in the final weeks of the semester. As an alternative, we focused primarily on police reform in the City of Poughkeepsie (attending city council meetings and county-wide public forums). Students also worked on issues related to incarceration in the Dutchess County jail (access to health and programming), re-entry from jails and prisons, outreach to this Spanish-speaking population, and media outreach for ENJAN and CAS.”

-Professor Jeffrey Schneider

Court Watch of Dutchess County

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