Pell Grants for Inmates
Discuss with students the Obama Administration’s efforts to reintroduce Pell grants for higher education among inmates and refer to policy-based resources underscoring the effects education-based programs would have for this population (https://www.naspa.org/rpi/posts/pell-grants-for-prisoners-considerations-in-the-new-administration). Ask students to consider the four Amendments and inmate rights as highlighted in Chapter 3 as they develop five talking points in favor or against the expansion of Pell grants. Have students share their thoughts with the class and debate the pros and cons of each talking point.
You may wish to randomly assign students to create talking points in favor or against instead of allowing students to choose which side of the argument they wish to discuss.
Provide students with a copy of the statement about the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) from the National PREA Resource Center (https://www.prearesourcecenter.org/about/prison-rape-elimination-act-prea). Ask students to write a letter to their senator describing how sexual assault occurring in carceral facilities may be considered a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Encourage students to present factual support for their argument.
Debating Sentencing Goals of the Death Penalty
In this activity, students will debate two sentencing goals of the death penalty covered in Chapter17: deterrence and retribution.
You may wish to assign students to work in small groups or individually. Assign students to four groups:
(A) Death penalty is a deterrence against crime
(B) Death penalty is not a deterrent against crime
(C) Death penalty is retributive
(D) Death penalty is not retributive
Students assigned to Groups A and B will debate their assigned position on the deterrent value of the death penalty.
Students assigned to Groups C and D will debate their assigned position on the retributive value of the death penalty.
Provide students time to conduct research on the issue and provide any instruction on the topic prior to the activity. Encourage students to prepare a strategy for supporting their assigned position.
For the debate portion of the activity, have groups take turns delivering their presentation. The debate format structure is below:
- Group A receives 2 min to present their case to the audience.
- Group B receives 2 min to present their case to the audience.
- Group B receives 2 min to present their rebuttal and summary to the audience.
- Group A receives 2 min to present their rebuttal and summary to the audience.
The audience then votes on the most convincing argument. You may wish to use polling software or an anonymous voting ballot.
Constitutionality of the Death Penalty
Introduce students to literature on studies that demonstrate the racial biases in how the death penalty is administered in the United States. Examples include:
- The United States generally (https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf).
- The Maryland Study (https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/1601).
- Pennsylvania (https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/pennsylvania-1).
Students will write a reaction paper to the readings and analyze whether the current use of the death penalty in the United States is constitutional based on the current research findings highlighting discriminatory practices in its implementation and the Supreme Court Decision in Miller-El v. Cockrell. Students should:
- Summarize the current use of the death penalty across the United States.
- Highlight racial disparities as noted in the references provide above and additional materials provided by the instructor.
- Assess the potential for widespread application of the Miller-El v. Cockrell ruling.
- Provide a recommendation for policy makers tasked with assessing disparities in the death penalty and its overall constitutionality.