Torture and Human Rights
01 202 497 02

Michael Welch, Ph.D.
Criminal Justice

Office: Lucy Stone Hall A-357, Livingston Campus
Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 3.45pm to 4.45pm



In a post-9/11 world, torture has been revitalized as a (dubious) tool for the global war on terror. The course analyzes moral, ethical, and legal implications to policies and practices involving extraordinary renditions, detainee maltreatment, "enhanced" interrogation, and torture. Special attention is directed at the phenomenon known as modern torture in which "science" is incorporated into interrogation methods. Among other things, those "no-touch" torture tactics are designed to evade human rights prosecutions. (See also Learning Goals listed below.)


Welch, Michael (2009) Crimes of Power & States of Impunity: The U.S. Response to Terror New Brunswick, New Jersey & London: Rutgers University Press.

REQUIRED READINGS (to be distributed in class, bring a flash drive)

Welch, Michael (2009) "American Pain-ology in the War on Terror: A Critique of 'Scientific' Torture." Theoretical Criminology, 13(4): 451-474.

Welch, Michael (2011) Illusions in Truth Seeking: The Perils of Interrogation and Torture in the War on Terror. Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order, 37(2-3): 123-148.

Welch, Michael (in press) 'Doing Special Things To Special People in Special Places': Psychologists in the CIA Torture Program. The Prison Journal

Welch, Michael (in press) Clinical Torture: Drifting in the Atrocity Triangle. Onati Socio-Legal Series

Welch, Michael (2016) Renditions to Kafka-land: The Case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Mobility and Confinement: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Incarceration in America. Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, New York, March 29, 2016.


Physicians for Human Rights (2014) Doing Harm: Health Professionals' Central Role in the CIA Torture Program. New York: Physicians for Human Rights.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2014) Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program. Unclassified. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing.

Institute on Medicine as a Profession (2013) Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror. New York: Institute on Medicine as a Profession


Two Exams: 100 points each
Two Papers: 50 points each

Total Semester Points: 300

First Exam: September 29 (Thursday) CRIMES OF POWER (Chapters 1 through 5) ABSOLUTELY NO MAKE-UP EXAMS!!!

Second Exam: November 17 (Thursday) all five Welch articles on Torture (see above)

First Paper: In preparation for the first paper, view the documentary The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib ( Turning to the book CRIMES OF POWER (by Michael Welch) please critique the film by attending to the following themes: the allure of modern torture, the chain of command, and impunity. Cite specific passages from the book (use citation style contained in CRIMES OF POWER). Your critique should be four pages (single-spaced, 12 pitch). Also precious points will be awarded to those papers boasting an insightful title. The paper is due on October 20 (Thursday) at 1:44 pm. Deliver it in class and not via email. Penalties apply for late arrivals.

Second Paper: In preparation for the second paper, view the film COMPLIANCE (2012, available at NETFLIX, etc). Please critique the film by attending to the following themes: authority, obedience, psychological manipulation, chain of command, and sexualization. Cite lessons learned from the film alongside the readings concerning various techniques of interrogation, sexual assault, and torture. Your critique should be FOUR pages (single-spaced, 12 pitch). Precious points will be awarded to those providing an insightful title. The paper is due on DECEMBER 13 (Tuesday) at 1.47 pm. Hand-deliver it in class and not via email. Brutal penalties apply for late arrivals. Should you want your paper returned, please provide a self address stamped envelope. Otherwise, you may collect your paper next semester in my office.

There are NO extra-credit assignments.

Final Grades:

90 - 100% A
87 - 89% B+
80 - 86% B
77 - 79% C+
70 - 76% C
60 - 69% D
00 - 59% F

Nota Bene: Photographing, Video, or Tape recording are strictly prohibited, as well as note taking for commercial purposes.


Students often enroll in a class without the benefit of knowing much about the course, the professor, and what is expected of them. In deciding whether this course suits your personal needs, interests, and lifestyle, the following checklist may be of assistance. Should you have difficulty with any of these items, this course is probably not suited for you.

  1. Attendance and punctuality
  2. Rigorous reading assignments and challenging exams
  3. Being aware of current events and the world around you
  4. Tolerance for the ideas and opinions of others
  5. Remaining attentive and riveted to each lecture
  6. Abstract thinking and critical thought
  7. True and amazing stories

Program in Criminal Justice, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, March 2008

Learning Goals: A Statement of Principles

The Program Committee for the Program in Criminal Justice at Rutgers University in New Brunswick has adopted a series of learning goals for students who complete the major. These goals represent the consensus of the faculty regarding the concepts a student should grasp and the skills a student should acquire in the course of completing the major. These goals guide the choices faculty make about the structure of the curriculum and the requirements for our majors. Moreover, they guide faculty and instructors preparing course material and teaching courses.

The Program in Criminal Justice will provide students with a rich understanding of crime and criminal justice in the United States and abroad through an interdisciplinary approach that blends a strong liberal arts educational experience with pre-professional instruction in the field of criminal justice. Graduates of the program will be well-informed citizens on the topic of crime and justice, and qualified for graduate study or for employment as practitioners in a variety of legal, policymaking, and law enforcement fields.

Criminal justice majors graduating from a research university should be able to use critical thinking, factual inquiry, and the scientific approach to solve problems related to individual and group behavior. In addition, students should have an understanding of the legal, political and policymaking processes that affect criminal justice systems in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Finally, students should be familiar with the institutional structures and latest developments in the field in order to engage in meaningful debate about current public policy issues.

Learning Goals for Criminal Justice Majors


Theory. Students who complete the major in criminal justice should understand and be able to articulate, both orally and in writing, the core theoretical concepts that form the foundation of analysis and research in criminology and criminal justice today. Core concepts are derived from explanations of crime from a variety of perspectives, including biogenic, psychological, and sociological approaches. There are myriad theories of crime that are informed by these perspectives, including, classical, control, critical, ecology, labeling, learning, strain, and trait-based approaches. Theoretical literacy should extend to multicultural and international understanding.

Institutions. Students who complete the major in criminal justice should understand the special role of three types of institutions: Police, Corrections, and Courts. In addition, students should know how institutional forms vary across jurisdictions and how these institutions interact with and influence each other.

Research Methods. Students who complete the criminal justice major should be familiar with the tools, techniques, and data sources necessary for empirical analysis. Students should understand the various ways that empirical analysis is used in the scientific approach: for description, for developing, and for testing theories. They should be able to analyze data using computer applications and should be familiar with basic statistical techniques and regression analysis. They should be able to read and assess research from a wide range of sources, including general interest, academic, and government publications.

Critical Thinking: Upon completion of the major students should be able to apply their understanding of core concepts and quantitative tools to analyze and research real world problems, and evaluate alternative policy proposals on a range of criminal justice issues, from micro-level analyses relevant to particular cases to management concerns to macro-level analyses of legislative and other broad-scale policies. Accomplishment of this goal will require that students can apply their literacy and numeracy skills to different institutional structures, within the U.S. and across countries.

Scholarship: Qualified majors should have an opportunity through such avenues as advanced coursework, internships, and faculty interactions to conduct independent research on matters of central relevance to the field of criminal justice.