The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "Who Gets a Second Chance?"
Who Gets a Second Chance?
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Juvenile Justice Activity #2, parts A and B

Part A: Read and discuss

Objective: Students will learn what circumstances should be taken into consideration when sentencing a young person.

Read “Who Gets a Second Chance?” on page 20.

Ask the group, “What facts did the judge in this story take into account when deciding how to treat a youth convicted of a crime?” List the responses on the board. Your list should look something like this:

• Prior record or lack of record
• Age
• Who does the young person live with? Is his or her family able to help the young person change his or her behavior?
• What crime has the young person allegedly committed?
• Is the juvenile a threat to people?

Tell the group you will read statements by two juvenile offenders. Urge them to listen carefully and take notes because they will write a short essay on what they are about to hear.

Read these descriptions very slowly and carefully:
Juvenile #1: I have been arrested two times. I am 16 years old. The first time I was arrested I was only 13 and sold marijuana outside my school in the Bronx. An older brother of my friend asked me to sell the drugs for him. The judge required that I go upstate to a detention facility. It was horrible and the guards treated me badly. I was beaten up by other inmates and got hardly any help on my school subjects.

When I came back to the Bronx, I was way behind on my classes and had to repeat a grade. I lived with my grandmother who is very old, but just this past week moved in with my father and new wife. I like living with them. It finally feels like a real family. I admit that I jumped the turnstile and violated my parole but I had lost my subway pass and needed to go to school.

Juvenile #2: I am 15 and have just been arrested for robbing the local deli. I did not mean to shoot the gun, just to scare the owner. In fact the gun is not mine, one of the boys with me gave it to me to hold. My mom is a single parent and has three young children. I wanted to help her by bringing home some food. When I heard the gun go off, I was so scared but then relieved that it didn’t hit the owner. I have gotten in with some bad kids but I get really good grades at school. I want to go to college. My mother needs me to help her with my younger brother and sisters.

Homework assignment: The students must write a one-page paper that explains why the juvenile in their case should either:

a) do time in a juvenile detention center or;
b) be sentenced to an adult jail.

They will take the magazine home and read the two stories on page 20 again. They will use the information from them to support their argument.

The next day take a poll. Which option won? Does anyone have a third option? Ask for volunteers from each group to argue their cases.
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(NYC-2010-05-20a)