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Juvenile Justice/Criminal Justice Curriculum
This curriculum is designed to teach seventh and eighth grade students about the juvenile/criminal justice system and the consequences of delinquent/criminal conduct. The curriculum also covers victim awareness issues including the impact of gun violence, the fiscal impact of crimes such as auto theft on society, the impact of drug and alcohol use along with the consequences for selling drugs. Students will be given an opportunity to explore the relevance of the subject matter to their own lives, consider ways to avoid involvement and offer anti-crime strategies for general application. By fleshing out the issues at this early age we can insure that Philadelphia's young people have the information relevant to making decisions in their own lives about delinquent/criminal conduct. We often assume that young people know or should know what they are faced with. This erroneous assumption has been made about juveniles who are already in the system and the assumption is probably even less valid for juveniles who are not.

As a general proposition, we should do more to publicize the consequences of delinquent and criminal conduct. We lose the maximum deterrent impact of mandatory/minimum and recidivist statutes when would be perpetrators don't know the penalty for their action. This curriculum starts the education early and in a formal way.

The curriculum subject matter will be taught through traditional lectures, mock trials, case studies, scenarios, guest speakers, videos and panel discussions combining law enforcement with students. Research papers and testing will help us gauge the student's understanding, but will also help us learn from them.

By teaching young people about the realities of the system it is hoped that they might develop coping skills for avoiding negative influences. Suggestions include:

  • Engage in pro-social activities;
  • Choose peers wisely/avoid joining a gang;
  • Refrain from using alcohol or drugs;
  • Refrain from selling drugs, gambling, riding in stolen cars, etc.; and
  • Seek positive role models, activities and situations.

However, we need to hear from students as to what their understanding of crime is. Let's ask them:

  • Why Do People Commit Crime? Do rap music, video games, movies, etc. influence criminal conduct? Are economic conditions the main factor? (essays, panel discussions)
  • How can we reduce crime? (essays, panel discussions)

The District Attorney's Office, Defender Association, U.S. Attorney's Office, Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, Police Department, Mayor's Office of Community Service and others interface with the schools through various programs. These efforts are not, however, coordinated in a way that insures that all of Philadelphia's public schools have access to the presentations or that the same information is presented. The proposed curriculum would create a schedule for presentations and clarity regarding the subject matter presented. Teachers will have to convey the bulk of the material because the agencies mentioned cannot be relied upon to teach the curriculum. However, with proper planning, I believe the aforementioned agencies can provide the necessary support. Often, when representatives from law enforcement, etc. visit a school we usually address a large assembly. We try to impart some wisdom and some information, but there is no opportunity for any real interaction or follow up. I anticipate that even with the implementation of the curriculum, some large gatherings or video presentations over the District's TV network will still be necessary to give all students the opportunity to hear some speakers (panelists or lecturers), but the presentations will be followed by class discussions, testing and/or essays to insure that students absorbed the information. To put it in the vernacular of students, the information from the assembly or video will be "on the test". Law enforcement, etc. will have to work to make sure that presentations are insightful and interesting. (Feedback from teachers and students will help in this regard). Similarly, victim groups, the Medical Examiner's office, Judges, the Defender Association, etc. will be coordinated to maximize the impact of their presentations.

The curriculum was prepared by:
George D. Mosee, Jr., Deputy District Attorney, July 1, 2004

Juvenile Justice System section prepared by:
Carole Weiner, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

Federal Sentencing chart prepared by:
Robert Reed, Assistant United States Attorney

More Services and Initiatives

BluePrint for a Safer Philadelphia

Gun Violence Task Force

Gun and Drugs Law

Juvenile Justice Program

Youth Aid Panel