When a twelve or sixteen-year-old steals property or evades paying a fare on public transportation, should he or she be tried and sentenced as an adult? Experts from law enforcement, mental health, and other relevant areas feel that counseling and intervention programs are the way to handle minor misdeeds of juveniles. If not, juveniles treated as adults might end up commiting much more serious crimes like assault or murder.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt: When Children Become Criminals, The New York Times
“New York is one of two states, the other being North Carolina, in which 16-year-olds are automatically tried as adults. This is the case despite overwhelming evidence that sending children into adult courts, rather than the juvenile justice system, needlessly destroys lives and further endangers the public by turning nonviolent youngsters into hardened criminals.
It is past time for New York to bring itself in line with the rest of the country. Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the first step in that direction this month when he announced that he would name a commission and order it to develop a plan by the end of the year for raising the age for adult criminal prosecution. The commission does not need to reinvent the wheel. But it will need to recommend changes in laws and procedures, and in this it can profit from studying Connecticut, which recently carried out raise-the-age legislation of its own.
The New York law came about in 1962, when the state created the juvenile justice system under the Family Court Act. At the time, lawmakers were unable to agree on the age at which offenders should be declared adults; they set it temporarily at 16, pending further hearings. But as often happens with public policy, inertia set in and “temporary” became permanent.
The result is that New York channels nearly 40,000 adolescents a year into the criminal courts — most of them charged with nonviolent crimes like fare-beating in the subways, marijuana possession and shoplifting…
Connecticut wisely adopted a strategy based on rehabilitation, not lockups, reducing arrests and saving the state money. It raised the age of adult criminal prosecution from 16 to 18 in 2007; the change was phased in, taking full effect in 2012. Some good ideas are already in circulation in New York, the result of an earlier commission study.” Read more…
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Ask students to read the titles of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
Directions: Have students use the KWL chart by Michigan State to list the information they already know about juvenile imprisonment. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Map by Oasis for assistance.
- In New York, 16-year-olds are automatically tried as adults.
- This endangers the public by turning nonviolent youngsters into hardened criminals.
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to raise the age for adult criminal prosecution.
- The New York law came about in 1962, when the state created the juvenile justice system.
- The result is that New York channels nearly 40,000 adolescents a year into the criminal courts.
- Most of them charged with nonviolent crimes like fare-beating in the subways.
- Minors prosecuted as adults commit more violent crimes later on.
- The state invested in counseling and intervention programs that allow young people to make amends for minor misdeeds.
- Some good ideas are already in circulation in New York.
- The new commission may end up supporting a more comprehensive approach.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- The two states where 16-year-olds are automatically tried as adults are New York and Connecticut.
- There is no evidence that sending children into adult courts, destroys lives and further endangers the public by turning nonviolent youngsters into hardened criminals.
- President Obama took the first step to help this situation by raising the age for adult criminal prosecution.
- The juvenile justice system was created in 1962 under the Family Court Act.
- At the time, lawmakers were unable to agree on the age at which offenders should be declared adults, so they set it temporarily at 16.
- New York channels nearly 1,000 adolescents a year into the criminal courts.
- Most of them charged with violent crimes.
- Adolescents shoplift because they need money for food.
- Connecticut wisely adopted a strategy based on rehabilitation, not lockups, reducing arrests and saving the state money.
- Massachusetts is also considering raising the age for adult criminal prosecution.
Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- In New York, 16-year-olds is automatically tried as adults.
- It is past time for New York to bring itself in line with the rest of the country.
- The commission does not need to reinvent the wheel.
- The New York law came about in 1962.
- lawmakers were unable to agree on the age offenders should be declared adults.
- Much has being learned since the 1960s.
- Minors prosecuted as adults commits more violent crimes later on.
- The courts stopped taking cases involving nonthreatening adolescent misbehavior.
- The state invested in counseling and intervention programs.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea
Directions: Have students use this graphic organizer from Enchanted Learning to assist them with discussing or writing about the main points from the article.
Directions: Have students fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- The article states, “Much has been learned since the 1960s. Federally financed studies, for instance, have shown that minors prosecuted as adults commit more violent crimes later on and are more likely to become career criminals than those sent through juvenile courts, where they receive counseling and family support.” Rephrase this in your own words and provide examples.
- It is stated that, “… neurological science has shown that adolescents are less able to assess risks and make the kinds of mature decisions that would keep them out of trouble.” What would be an example of an adolescent in this kind of situation?
- What are the most significant ideas in this article?
- Connecticut raised the age of adult criminal prosecution from 16 to 18 in 2007. In your opinion, at what age should juveniles be considered adults?
Main Idea / Debate
Directions: Divide students into two teams for this debate. Both teams will use the article as their source of information.
Team A will list five reasons for raising the age of adult criminal prosecution from 16 to 18.
Team B will list five reasons against raising the age of adult criminal prosecution from 16 to 18.
Each team will have time to state their points of view, and the teacher decides which team made their points.
For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer from Freeology
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Why are New York children being locked up like hardened criminals?
While Listening Activities
Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. As students listen to the video if a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- In Boston kids get tried as adults at age 16.
- If we want to really improve behavior we have to “treat kids like adults”.
- According to Jim Czarniak the reform programs work in his county.
- The programs are available for kids who committed crimes before their 18th birthday.
- Ismael Nazario was arrested for assault at the age of 13.
- He was sent to Rikers Island and was beat up by older prisoners.
- According to Maurice Hines, younger kids join gangs in prison because they’re tough.
- Many young people end up going to rehab in prison for adults.
- Dr. Andriana Galvan states that there are differences between the teenage brain and the adult brain.
- A teenager doesn’t think about consequences of committing a crime.
- After listening to this video has your personal idea of juveniles being locked up in adult prisons changed in any way? If yes, describe in what way. If no, describe your original opinion.
- Did you agree with everything the speakers said? Discuss which comments you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with. Explain why.
- With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers, or any young children who have served time in prison.
- Role PlaysGroup Activities
Role Plays: have students in groups search for cases where juveniles were incarcerated for minor crimes (shoplifting, not paying a fare). Have students play roles of a defense lawyer, parents of the juvenile, and the juvenile. Someone should take the role of the judge. They must explain why the juvenile should not be sentenced to an adult prison. In addition, someone could play the role of a prosecutor who thinks the juvenile should go to prison.
This will force a higher level of thinking skills as students have to dramatize their interpretations for the class.
Visual Creations: Students can create graphs, pictures, collages, or models to demonstrate their understanding of the topic of juvenile incarceration. They can do this individually or in groups.
News Stories: Have students write news stories and editorials about the topic.
ANSWER KEY: Juvenile criminals