Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and then answer the discussion questions. Your students may find it helpful to follow along using the transcript.
Summary: Efforts are underway to fix problems with the nation’s criminal justice system, including taking a closer look at what to do about teenagers who commit minor crimes. One program in Newark, New Jersey, offers an alternative to jail for minors: Newark Youth Court. The court has brought together public schools, municipal courts and police as they worked to develop an alternative sentencing program for teenagers. This piece is produced by 12-year old Yasmeena Sharif of Philip Academy Charter School, part of PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs.
1) Essential question: How should the criminal justice system handle minor offenses committed by juveniles?
2) What is restorative justice? (answer: encouraging students to resolve their differences by talking to each other rather than resorting to violence) If you are not sure, how could you find out?
3) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Newark Youth Court?
4) Media literacy question: Do you think there is a difference in how those involved in the Newark Youth Court might react to youth reporters interviewing them as opposed to adult reporters? Explain your response.
5) Schools across the country are moving away from an era of zero-tolerance policies and shifting toward methods that involve restorative justice. In New York City, five schools that have implemented this system are already seeing results. Watch the PBS NewsHour story “Schools resolve conflicts by getting kids to talk things out” to learn more. Do you think more schools will adopt the restorative justice approach? Why or why not? Would you like your school to implement such a program? Explain.