Editor’s note– We round out our consideration of “The Wire at Ten” with a post by legal, historical, and policy studies heavyweight Jonathan Simon. Simon is the Adrian Kragen Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, where he teaches classes on criminal law and socio-legal studies; he is also the author of multitudinous law review and criminology articles as well as several monographs, including Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (Oxford University Press, 2009), and the forthcoming Mass Incarceration on Trial: America’s Courts and the Future of Imprisonment (New Press 2013). Simon’s post today closes out our series on HBO’s The Wire with a consideration of the overlaps–and gaps– between the show’s narrative “realism” and the empiricism that goes by that name in the contemporary legal academy. Thanks again to all the Wire fans (and non-fans) who contributed to the series: Joe Spillane, Carlo Rotella, Sergio Campos, Stan Corkin, and Jack Halberstam. All your pieces matter!
The popularity of HBO’s The Wire among legal academics — especially scholars of criminal law–responds to the same transformations in the legal field that have made empirical studies increasingly influential there. But might the satisfaction of getting “realism” from a DVD (or download) deter a scholar from trading the couch for the backseat of a police car?
Empirical knowledge about law is enjoying unprecedented prestige in both law schools and courts.