Debate on Special Populations in Corrections
Divide students into four groups and assign each group the topic of one of the following specialized inmate populations:
- mentally ill offenders
- sex offenders
- HIV-/AIDS-related offenders
- elderly offenders
Each of the four groups is tasked with developing a budget for treatment and education for their assigned specialized inmate population. Annually, the total amount available for these services in the hypothetical correctional budget for all four groups is $750,000, and each group must request and justify their need for a specific amount to cover costs associated with treatment and education. The groups should seek to maximize their budgetary spending (i.e., secure the most funds for their specialized inmate population). Students will share their proposed budgets with the other groups in debate format (instructor will choose pairings, e.g., Group 1 vs. Group 4 and Group 2 vs. Group 3), while students from other groups vote for the most compelling argument. The winner will debate the second group pairing and remaining students will vote for the most compelling argument, deciding the debate.
For an additional activity, students may be asked to assess the intended and unintended consequences of focusing greater financial resources on one group compared to equal distribution among all groups.
Facilities to Address Mental Illness Among Criminal Justice Populations
Draw on knowledge from Chapter 7 (Facility Design to Meet Security and Programming Needs), Chapter 8 (Classification and Custody Levels), and the current material in Chapter 12 to draft a two-page policy memo to state legislators. The policy memo should include a description of the increase in use of jails/prisons in the past 40 years to house persons with mental illness and the conditions these detainees/inmates experience during their stay. Then, develop a persuasive argument describing noncarceral alternatives for persons with serious mental illness. Remind students that policy makers are busy and are often not familiar with the scientific literature or criminal justice issues, stress that lay language and non-jargon are important aspects of a clear and persuasive argument.
Mock Teen Court
In this activity, students will participate in a mock teen court. Randomly draw student names to serve as judge, offender, bailiff, attorneys, and jurors. During this simulation, students will act out the second chance program to develop a diversion or remediation plan for the offender. If the random assignment is done in advance, before the class period, students not selected for the mock teen court could be assigned to create scenarios for those participating in the mock teen court to act out.
After the mock teen court verdict has been reached, gather feedback from the mock teen court participants and audience:
- Predict what may happen to the youth after the completion of the suggested sentence.
- Compare and contrast how this case may have been handled in traditional juvenile court or adult court.
- Explain how the decision was reached and what sentencing goals were important in the decision-making process.
Give an example of when teen court might not be appropriate for a youthful offender.