Unit 5: Punishment and Rehabilitation in the Criminal Justice System

What is the role of the correctional system when responding to persons convicted of breaking the law? How do advocates—those within the system and among the general public—work to improve the U.S. correctional system? In this unit, students gain a broad understanding of corrections within the criminal justice system, and explore reform initiatives from multiple perspectives. As they conduct research into different components of the correctional system through the lenses of individual cases, students critically analyze theories of punishment, sentencing laws and guidelines, incarceration rates, and the purpose and goals of correctinal facilities. They examine how correctional policies affect prisoners' rights and recidivism rates, and identify supports and challenges in helping convicted felons successfully re-enter society. Students consider how teh correctinoal system can more effectively balance public safety, the protection of the rights of convicted offenders, and the wel-being of communities.

Unit Length: 18 50-minute sessions

Unit Project Description

Students take on the role of members of a corrections committee and make recommendations for reforming the correctional system. To inform their recommendations, students learn the functions of different components of corrections, including sentencing, incarceration and prison life, and parole and re-entry, and the factors that help each component work effectively. Students conduct research on current reform initiatives from both within and outside the corrections system. They then synthesize their information and write up to three reform priorities for their corrections committee.


Register or login for immediate download of unit materials.

Media Resources
Note: These recommended Web sites have been checked for availability and for advertising and other inappropriate content. Because Web sites' policies and content change frequently, however, we suggest that you preview the sites shortly before using them.