Examining prison systems

Do Now
Directions: If you could change up prisons in America, how would you change them? If you have no idea, would you change up what laws led people to prison? Explain . (FILL UP 4 LINES FOR FULL CREDIT)

America vs. Norway
Directions: Watch the two video clips about America and Norway’s prison systems. Do you think America or Norway’s prisoners commit MORE crimes once they are released back into society?

The first video is an excerpt from the Vice News YouTube video. The second video is an except from a documentary on Norway also available on YouTube.

America  Norway

Read and Annotate
Directions: Read the excerpt below from Elizabeth Gudrais in Harvard Magazine. Annotate on the paper 5 things that surprised you about America’s prison systems and explain why it surprised you.

You can find Elizabeth Gudrais unadapted and entire piece here.

The American Prison Problem

THE UNITED STATES has the dubious distinction of having the world’s highest incarceration rate. About 1 in 100 adults) are in prison. Only eight countries have rates above one-half of 1 percent. The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has nearly one-quarter of all the prisoners in world. That’s right! If you totaled up all the prisoners in the WORLD, 25% of all prisoners are in America and America ONLY has 5% of the world’s population.

Now, the United States has reached “mass incarceration”—“a level of imprisonment so vast that it forges the collective experience of an entire social group,” Western writes. He has found that 60 percent of black male high-school dropouts in the United States will go to prison before age 35.

Two factors that greatly increase one’s odds of going to prison—low educational attainment and a lack of employment opportunities—are closely linked, and are connected to one decision: to drop out of school. That decision is often made by teenagers leaving public-school systems ill-equipped in any case to prepare them well for the modern work force. The dimensions of this multifaceted disadvantage may be even more closely linked than is immediately obvious. As one example, Patrick Sharkey, Ph.D. ’07, a sociologist at New York University, found that children’s scores on vocabulary and reading tests fell in the days after a homicide in their neighborhood, presumably due to emotions such as fear and anxiety. In a neighborhood violent enough to affect long-term school performance, even education is not an easy ticket out of poverty.

She also showed that students who were suspended were more likely to be arrested subsequently than students who were never suspended—indicating that the way children are treated in school helps set them on a path for later life.

Unless underlying social problems are addressed, says Catherine Sirois, nothing will change: “Our priority should be, how do we keep children from growing up in communities where selling drugs is their best career option?”

Directions: Tomorrow you will have half a class period to design and defend your own prison system. You will independently read an excerpt or entire article about prison reform. Your job is to record 10 important pieces of information your classmates should know when designing their own prison system. In the last 15 minutes of class, you will move into groups that had the same article as you to create a graphic organizer you will share with the other groups.

Jigsaw article sources:

Inside the World’s Most Humane Prison, Time Magazine.

Norway Builds the World’s Most Humane Prison, by William Lee Adams, Time Magazine, May 10, 2010.

The Lionheart Foundation

Punishment Fails. Rehabilitation Words by James Gilligan, New York Times, December 19, 2012.

Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity by Erica Goode, New York Times, March 10, 2012.