Justice in the Classroom: Teaching about Crime, Safety, Fairness, and Criminal Justice Reform in America

Seminar 8
Apr 24, 2024, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
PK-12 Community


Udi Ofer, J.D.
School of Public and International Affairs


Event Description

Students today are growing up in a world where criminal justice issues are all around them. They hear about Black Lives Matter protests calling for police accountability and many know the names of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. Millions of students have an incarcerated parent, and many will even experience firsthand the criminal legal system. In 2020, there were an estimated 424,300 arrests involving persons younger than 18. Less than 1 in 10 (8%) of these arrests were for a violent crime.

Yet few schools teach about criminal justice matters, let alone the current debates on the issue. What
is the context for policy debates on issues of policing, criminal justice reform and racial justice? What are the basic facts and how can you incorporate them into your lesson plans? And how can teachers use current discussions on this topic to teach more broadly about civic engagement and public service?

For the past 50 years, America has experienced what experts have called mass incarceration, a term used to describe the fact that the United States incarcerates more of its people, both per capita and by volume, than any other western nation, and that after incarceration people continue to face tens of thousands of legal restrictions on their ability to reintegrate into society, with disproportionate impact on people of color.

This seminar aims to introduce teachers to the issue of crime and punishment, provide basic historical context and current data and studies on the topic, and discuss efforts to reform the system.