Daily VideoOctober 1, 2020
How this city’s top prosecutor uses the arts to support criminal justice reform
This lesson is part of our Searching for Justice series on criminal justice reform.
Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. For a transcript of the video, click here.
Summary: Some prosecutors around the United States are taking on new ways to approach criminal justice beyond convictions and sentencing. One such example is a program to support artists who have served out their sentences to better help them re-enter society.
- Larry Krasner is the district attorney for the city of Philadelphia. A district attorney is a city’s head prosecutor. District attorneys, or DAs, run offices of prosecutors who make decisions about how and when to charge people and organizations with crimes. They also argue cases in court, opposite defense attorneys.
- Most district attorneys are elected to their positions. While some DAs run for election by promising to seek maximum punishment for crimes, others run on seeking alternatives to lengthy prison sentences for some crimes. For example, many prosecutors promise to not prosecute low level drug possession charges, both to avoid overburdening the criminal justice system and to avoid making it more difficult for those convicted to work, care for family or otherwise contribute to society.
- Some DAs also believe their offices have a role in helping those convicted of serious crimes to reintegrate into society after serving their sentences.
Discussion: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:
- Who is this story about?
- What is the role of a district attorney?
- When and where is this story taking place?
- Why has Krasner’s office created the “artist in residence” program?
- How is the artist-in-residence program being funded?
Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).
- What other alternatives to maximum prison sentences do you think prosecutors like district attorneys might consider?
- Do you think it should be a district attorney’s job to help find ways to help people convicted of crimes reintegrate into society? Why or why not?
- Who else would you like to hear from to understand the ways different DAs understand the administration of justice?
Dig Deeper: In the example featured in this story, art may do more than just provide opportunities for people convicted of crimes who have served their time. Art also has the power to help heal trauma, help people feel less isolated and help people understand each other’s perspectives. Watch the video below from Student Reporting Labs, and ask your students:
- Do you have a favorite artist (whether visual, music or other media) that deals with painful subject matter that you find inspiring?
- During times of isolation (such as remote learning or COVID-19 quarantines), do you have an outlet for creativity that helps you feel better?
For a full lesson that uses the above video, click here.
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