Instructor(s): Nader Hasan

For graduate students, the course number is LAW3029HS.

Note: This course satisfies either the Perspective or the International/Comparative/Transnational course requirement.

Note: The Quercus program will be used for this course. 

What makes punishment legitimate? When can the state deliberately inflict suffering upon its citizens through imprisonment or other deprivations? In this course, we will explore the justifications for and goals of state-sanctioned punishment as well as its constitutional limits. We will then examine the law of proportionate punishment as reflected in the criminal sentencing regimes in Canada and the United States, and we will consider the legal remedies afforded prisoners seeking to challenge their conditions of confinement. We will also discuss some of the key legal controversies surrounding proportionate punishment in Canada and the United States today, including, e.g., mandatory minimum sentences, habitual offender (“three strikes”) laws, juvenile sentencing, and the death penalty. We will then explore why criminal punishment is meted out disproportionately upon racialized minorities and the economically disadvantaged and discuss whether criminal sentencing can or should be a tool of restorative justice. Finally, we will explore what role (if any) the risk of wrongful convictions should play in determining the parameters of legitimate punishment.

This in-depth examination of punishment and proportionality will serve as a springboard for understanding the workings of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the U.S. Bill of Rights. Although the course will focus on Canadian and U.S. materials, it will draw on other international (U.K., South African, Indian, Israeli, German) sources where appropriate. The course is designed for students who plan on pursuing a career in litigation either in Canada or the United States.

A research paper of 6,000-7,500 words on a subject approved by the instructor (85%); class participation 15% (5% attendance and 10% input into discussion).
Academic year
2022 - 2023

At a Glance

Second Term
Perspective course



22 JD

1 MPP student


Th: 6:10 - 8:00 pm