Introductory Lesson


  1. Students will complete a survey, view media clips, learn statistics in order to support a discussion on identity and the criminal justice system.

Prior to Instruction:


  1. Make copies of the survey OR project it on to screen
  2. Make copies of the statistic sheet for students
  3. View media clips prior to instruction to contextualize it for your own purposes

Introduction (have students journal about this)

  1. Have you ever been punished for something you didn’t do?  How did it feel to not be believed?
  2. Have you ever blamed someone for something that you later realized was a mistake? How did you move forward?  Did you address your friend and apologize?  Did he/she forgive you?


  1. What do you know about the criminal justice system in America?


  1. What is ‘just’; what is ‘justice?’ What does it look like?


Instruction/Guiding Questions:

  1. What historical events or practices shaped America’s criminal justice system?
    1. Review history of Jim Crow policies/practices
  2. What was life like in the 50’s/60’s/70’s/80’s in the southern United States?
    1. Show clip if students have difficulty creating context
    2. As students to jot down what they see and don’t see in the video to discuss 1980s

  1. Is the legal system respected? Is it gaining/losing/maintaining its respect?

  1. Defend your response using examples
  2. What was most interesting in this video about policing in America?
  3. What similarities did you hear in the stories that still take place today?
  1. Hand out student copies of statistic sheet to fill in.
    1. Instruct students to follow along and fill in the chart.


Closing/Wrap up:

  1. How does identity play a part in how one views the criminal justice system?
  2. What kind of person is Bryan Stevenson? How is this opening chapter set up?
  3. How does history shape Walter McMillian’s identity?

Extension Activity: