Unit 4: Youth Justice: Exploring the Juvenile Justice System

How and why do young people enter the juvenile justice system? What role should the state play in protecting or punishing young people? What are or should be the goals of the U.S. juvenile justice system? In this unit, students will focus on the case of several teenagers who have been referred to juvenile court. As students explore why and in what circumstances teenagers become court-involved, they critically examine how both individual factors and broader laws and policies bring youth in contact with the juvenile justice system. Students consider whether the courts are designed to protect or punish youth, and explore resources available to prevent youth detention and to support youth under the supervision of the state. Students explore different intervention strategies and draw on their understanding of the goals of the juvenile justice system to choose one that they think will lead to a just outcome for a young person facing detention, then reflect on the ways in which a social justice framework can make the juvenile justice system more humane and effective for the youth its designed to serve.


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