Criminal Justice Reform

Grades 7-10, 2 weeks

In this multi-week unit, students dissect the American criminal justice system by creating their own laws and applying them to real criminal cases. Optionally paired with the novel Monster by Walter Dean Myers, the unit begins with students running a mock trial for Batman using a flowchart to demonstrate the steps most criminal suspects encounter. Students then team up to design their own criminal justice systems by establishing laws on twelve topics ranging from drug policy and mandatory minimums to police body cameras and juvenile detention. Using Twine, an online tool for interactive storytelling, teams walk through seven real-world cases. The outcome of each case is determined by that team’s previously established laws and by real-time decisions made on behalf of various stakeholders.

Students quickly come to realize that decisions that initially seemed obvious can lead to unexpected consequences when applied in different situations. Students come away from this unit understanding both the need for major reform in our criminal justice system, as well as grasping many of the nuances as to why not all changes are as easy as they first appear.

Screenshot of Criminal Justice flowchart showing the first half of the American criminal justice process

Topics addressed

Students will be able to



Suggested lesson breakdown

You can pick and choose elements of this unit you want to include – below is how we ran things, but everything is designed to be very flexible!

Common Core standards