Unit 6: Engaging Youth in the Law, Current Issues in Criminal Justice

Does understanding the law give people the power to change it? How does knowledge translate into action? How can innovative approaches to problem-solving help us improve the U.S. criminal justice system to better address 21st century issues?

In the first five units of the Foundations in Criminal Justice course, students learn about the components and processes of the criminal justice system—how and why criminal laws are created; how the legal system responds to, prevents, and investigates crime; the purpose and steps of criminal trials; the components of the correctional system; and the functions of the juvenile justice system. Students also critically examine issues in the criminal justice system that touch on power, equity, and fairness.

In this final unit, students build on the knowledge and skills they have gained throughout this course, and identify one current problem of interest to investigate further. They conduct independent research, develop an innovative action plan, and present their work at (or submit their work to) a youth summit.

 Unit Length: 23-25 50-minute sessions

Unit Project Description

Students reflect on the criminal justice issues and problems they have explored throughout the course and select one on which to base their unit project. They create a problem tree for their issue; review research methods and tools; conduct research in their community; investigate laws, policies, and court cases; examine statistical data; and analyze and synthesize their findings. Based on their research, students develop an innovative action plan for addressing their chosen problem and improving the U.S. criminal justice system. The class decides whether to hold a local youth summit or to submit their action plans to a state, national, or international youth summit.


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