Many people only know "juvenile offenders" from newspaper
headlines and terrifying images offered by the media. Distorted
and incomplete, these portrayals of "predators" and even "superpredators" have entered our imaginations and shaped our public consciousness.
William Ayers spent five years as a teacher and observer in Chicagos
Juvenile Court prison, the waiting place of this nations first
and largest institution of juvenile justice, founded by reformer
Jane Addams. A Kind and Just Parent is based on his experiences
there, and offers a transformative view of young people caught up
in the justice system. By revealing the individuals hidden behind
cliches, Ayers offers an antidote to poisonous half-truths, bringing
us vivid stories of youth struggling with life's largest mattersproblems
of consequence and conscience. The book reveals unrecognized complexity
and points to the possibility of changein individual lives,
and in the ordering of our world.
This Guide offers ways for teachers to use Ayers book,
along with other works addressing the issues of youth and justice
with young people, to begin dialogue, to prompt deeper understandings,
and to foster analysis. Complementing A Kind and Just Parent,
the Guide points to the hard questions and indicates nuanced answers.
And more: the Guide and book prompt readers to actionto movement
out from classrooms and libraries into a more participatory civic
life. As poet Antonio Machado has written, "We make the road by
walking;" we build our democracy by acting.
back to contents
Using This Guide
The Guide uses A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile
Court as the central text around which issues are raised, broad
concepts are noted, questions are asked, and activities are suggested.
The Guide also refers to a number of other books and articles. All
are listed in the Resources section.
The Guide follows the book chapter by chapter, matching topics
with activities ranging from discussions to essays to more complex
projects. It also includes a list of organizations you can contact,
a data section with up-to-date facts about the United States
penal system, and some definitions that should enhance the book
and Guides accessibility. To assist with interdisciplinary
teaching possibilities, a topic index makes it easy to locate specific
subjects in the book. Finally, to help with research, the resources
section indicates a host of places to go for more information.
While access to a library will enhance using the Guide, no special
equipment, other than a copy of A Kind and Just Parent, is
needed to complete any of the projects.
back to contents
Title, Cover, and Introduction
Start with the outside of the book.
1. What's in a name?
Every book title signals something about the books contents.
Why did William Ayers call his book A Kind and Just Parent: The
Children of Juvenile Court? Read his interview in this Guide,
and the Introduction to the book (pgs. xiii xviii).
What is irony, and how is the title ironic, as Ayers suggests?
Choose another title for the book, based on your first impressions.
Write this down. After reading the book, return to this title, and
assess it. Is it appropriate based on what you know now?
2. Everything means something.
Every book cover design is significant as well. Examine the
cover of the book you are using. Why do you think the artist chose
the image? What mood or effect does the cover create? What creates
that feelingcolor, placement, words?
3. Read the book.
After reading the book, come back to these questions. Now that
you know what the book is about, what do you think about the cover?
Design your own cover for a book about juvenile justice. Write about
why you chose certain colors, images, and design elements.
Teachers: The next activity can be completed as a discussion,
and can also be followed with a reflective writing exercise. The
story of Ella Fitzgerald is on page 189 in the book, but discussing
labels and stereotypes now will help students understand their preconceptions.
You might want to come back to the first question after finishing
the book. (Students may be unfamiliar with Ms. Fitzgeraldbe
prepared to play some of her music!)
1. Beyond labels.
Talk about it: Who are "juvenile delinquents?" After coming up
with some ideas about this, read the story that follows.
Ella Fitzgerald, "Juvenile Delinquent"
In 1996 a New York Times reporter named Nina Bernstein wrote a
story about a hidden chapter in jazz singer Ella Fitzgeralds
life: She was confined for more than a year in a juvenile reformatory
when she was a teenager. Ms. Fitzgerald was reluctant to talk about
this part of her life, and when she died in 1996, much of the story
died with her. But some details are known: Ms. Fitzgeralds
stepfather abused her after the death of her mother in 1937. An
aunt living in Harlem gave 15 year old Ella shelter, but the girl
dropped out of school to make money. After she was found "running
numbers," authorities sent her to the Colored Orphan Asylum in Riverdale,
New York. The crowded orphanage sent "overflow" children to the
state reform school. Ella was one of these.
Sometimes sent to the school simply for running away or truancy,
the schools 88 black girls were segregated into two brick
"cottages" and disciplined with beatings, solitary confinement on
bread and water, and shackling. The schools English teacher
remembered Ms. Fitzgerald as a good student, "I can even visualize
her handwritingshe was a perfectionist." The teacher noted
that the school had a good music program and was known for its choir,
but Ellas voice never graced its concerts. The choir was all
white. "We didnt know what we were looking at," the teacher
said, "We didnt know that she would be the future Ella Fitzgerald."
Still under 18, Ella was paroled to Chick Webbs band,
and less than a year later she won a talent contest at Harlems
Apollo Theater. The schools last superintendent, Thomas Tunney,
asked, "How many Ellas are there? She turned out to be absolutely
one of a kind. But all of the other children were human beings,
too. In that sense they are all Ellas." Nina Bernstein ended her
article with this question: "If she was almost lost to us, how many
like her have been?"
What are your reactions to this story? What do you think about
Thomas Tunneys comment? How would you answer Nina Bernsteins
question? Can reform schools and prisons treat their juvenile inmates
as if "they are all Ellas?" Can they "learn to look" at their inmates
differently? How would they do that? Should they? Why, or why not?
Has a label like "juvenile delinquent" ever been applied to you?
Did the label help others to see you better, or to understand you
more deeply? Why or why not? Describe that experience, and your
reactions to it.
Chapter 1. Mr. B
Teachers: Identity is a concept that surfaces at several points
in the book. The next activities explore this idea.
1. Who are you?
What is identity? Look up the word in a dictionary. Does the
definition match your understanding? Does it change the way you
define yourself? Do people choose their identities? Are they applied
to us by others? Give some examples.
How many identities can a person have? List some of yours. What
makes these particular identities important to you? Write about
where your identities came from (family history, political, cultural
2. Identity poems.
On pages 21 and 22, Mr B. and his students write poems that
focus on themselves. Try this exercise.
Teachers: This exercise explores the concept of "authority,"
and should be engaged after reading the chapter.
3. Who's got the power?
A dictionary (American Heritage 1982, 1985) defines authority
A. The power to command, enforce laws, exact obedience, determine,
or judge. B. A person or group invested with this power.
The definition it gives for authoritarian is: Characterized
by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual
Read Chapter 1 and consider these definitions. Would you describe
Mr. B as an authority or authoritarian? Make a case and defend it,
using examples from the chapter.
4. Follow the leader?
Mr. B is a leader in his classroom. What are the qualities
that show that Mr. B is a leader? Most people are also followers
at times. Is it better to be a leader or a follower? What would
happen if everyone led and no one followed, or vise versa?
Tell your story:
Describe a time when you were a leader, a follower, or both. Turn
your experience into a story. What happened? What was your role
in the situation? What led you to make the decisions you made? Who
else was involved? Would you have acted differently under other
circumstances? Such as? How do you feel about the situation now?
Is it possible to be a leader and a follower at the same time? Were
Chapter 2. Jane Addams: History and Background
1. How Much Is Too Much?
The juvenile temporary detention center (JTDC) in Chicago is
licensed to house 498 children. When A Kind and Just Parent
was published, the total population of the JTDC was 843 youth. By
what percent was the JTDC over-full? What might result from the
over-crowding? What are some solutions to this problem?
It costs over $28,000 a year to incarcerate one young person
in Cook County (not including the costs of school). How much did
it cost to detain the population of the JTDC the year the book was
Chapter 3. Tobs
1. Who are the criminals?
On page 49, Tobs, a teacher at the juvenile detention center
tells his class, "Under certain circumstances every one of us will
do the wrong thing...I know I'm capable. With the wrong influences,
without love and support, with rage and frustration and drugs and
Do you agree that anyone might, in particular situations, commit
a crime? If you agree with Tobs that we are all "more than a single
act" then does that mean there are no "criminals"? What might it
mean for someone to "live beyond the worst thing" they ever did?
2. Whos in prison?
In the United States, the number of young black men (ages 20-25)
in prison, on probation, or on paroleover 600,000is
greater than the number of black men of all ages enrolled in college436,000
in 1986 (Mauer, 1990). African Americans are roughly 13% of the
population in the United States, which has an overall population
of about 300 million (1990 Census).
Calculate the number of African Americans in the United States.
Divide that number in half, representing male and female populations
(actually, about 51% of the population is female). Then figure out
the number and then percent of African American males in the criminal
Write a letter to The Sentencing Project to check your estimates.
Ask them for their most recent statistics. (The address for The
Sentencing Project is in the Resources section.)
3. Know your "Miranda" rights.
As a result of a Supreme Court decision in 1966, called Miranda
v. Arizona, all police must tell arrested suspects that they
have certain rights. These rights are based on the Fifth amendment
to the U.S. Constitution, which provides citizens with a privilege
against self-incrimination (testifying against themselves). This
rule also applies to young people. If you are placed under arrest,
the arresting officers must give you this warning:
You are under arrest. Before we ask you any questions, you
must understand what your rights are. You have the right to remain
silent. You are not required to say anything to us at any time or
to answer any questions. Anything you say can be used against you
in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before
we question you and to have a lawyer with you during questioning.
If you cannot afford a lawyer and want one, a lawyer will be provided
for you. If you want to answers questions now without a lawyer present
you will still have the right to stop answering at any time. You
also have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk
to a lawyer.
On page 54, Frank Tobin says, "Every guy here thinks he can
get his statement quashed. It might happen. But Ive only seen
it rarely. They convict themselves time after time. They really
have no idea that they have any rights whatsoever, and if anyone
read Fredo his Miranda he had no idea what it meant." Officer
James Clifton responds, "These guys are
guilty as hell, and
everyone, including them, is better off when we lock them up. We
read them there rights, sure, but its a fine point." Do you
agree with Tobs that young people may not understand the Miranda rights, even when they are "given" them? What could be a solution
to that problem? What is your response to the officers comment?
What should happen if the police officers dont give this
warning to a suspect? Have you ever heard of someone being arrested
without being given the warning? Should anything be added to or
subtracted from the rights?
Write a kids version of the Miranda warning. How will
you know if children understand the warning? Test it with children
of different ages. Write a paper about the testing experience and
4. Doing your own time
On page 58, Frank Tobin uses the phrase "do your own time."
When is it important to do your own timeto stand outside the
crowd, or do things that set you apart from the crowd? How do you
make that call, and then how do you stay strong against the pull
towards conformity? When is it okay, or even important to go along
with a crowd? How do you decide whether you are conforming to the
groups choice because it really is your choice as well? How
can you tell whether you are conforming because of fear, shame,
or other reasons? Write about "doing your own time," using examples
from your own life.
Chapter 4. Alex
Teachers: There are descriptions of prisons on pages 88, 172,
and 196-200. You could ask your students to read all of these and
1. Prison: ideas, realities
What do you think prison life is like? Describe it in detail,
from waking to sleeping, over the course of one day. Where did you
get your ideas about prison?
Alex describes prison life in this chapter. How does his description
compare with your own ideas about what prison is like?
Ask your family members if they have had any experiences with
prison. Interview those who have, and ask them to describe, in as
much detail as they are able to, what their experience was and what
the prison was like. Write a paper that combines the various descriptions
and viewpoints you have heard and read, to help someone who has
never experienced prisons understand what they are like.
2. Prisons : Do the math.
Although the crime rate has been slowly declining since 1973
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1992), the number of state and federal
prisoners in the United States increased from 204,000 in 1973 to
over 883,000 in 1992 (Department of Justice, 1992). What percent
increase does this reflect? If the state and federal prison population
continues to increase at roughly the same rate, how many people
will be in prison in the year 2000? Graph the growth of the prison
Chapter 5. Mediated Images: Media, Crime and Kids
1. Fiction in Truth?
This chapter begins with an account of newspaper reports which
were discovered to be untrue during following weeks. Read the chapter,
and look up mediated and media. Why do you think Ayers
gave the chapter this name?
Discuss how the media presented the newspaper story in distorited
ways. Why do you think this happened? What does Bernardine Dohrn
say about the issue on pages 69-70? What are some ways for people
can detect when news accounts might be inaccurate? Are some topics
more susceptible to distortion that others? Which, and why? Base
your comments on sections of the chapter.
2. News: fair and accurate?
Teachers: This project requires the use of a daily newspaper.
On page 74, Ayers writes, "Common sense tells us that teen
crime is a runaway trainreckless and out of control, unpredictable
dangerous, picking up speed." This is followed by a listing of alarming
media headlines and front page stories indicating that teenagers
are dangerous. Later Ayers reports that a researcher named Mike
Males has found that "poverty, not age, correlates most decisively
Read pages 74-75 closely. Then analyze the national and local
sections of a newspaper, looking for stories about teens and crime.
Based on your reading and the points made by Ayers and Males, do
you think these stories are fair? In the newspaper accounts, how
are teens most often presented? After reading the newspaper accounts,
how do you feel about teens and about crime?
Choose one newspaper story and re-write it, to create what
you think might be a more accurate or fairer depiction of teen crime.
3. "Reading" a word.
The term superpredator is used several times in this
chapter. What image comes to mind when you hear that word? Why do
you think this term has been applied to some youth? What effect
do you think the word has on public perceptions of young people?
4. Knowing neighborhoods.
Teachers: The first part of this project can either be done
in class from memory, or as homework. The second part requires some
Ayers traveling through his city on pages 81-84. Read those pages,
and then write about your own journey through a place to which you
are connected. Map the way from your home territory to a destination
you are less familiar with, addressing these questions as you write:
How did you learn about the boundaries of your areawhere
you "should" and "should not" go? What were you told would happen
if you went beyond the "edge" of the safe area? Did someone teach
you this directly, or did you simply absorb the information? How
do you travel through your environment: Train, car, on foot, bike?
What is wonderful about your travel mode? What is surprising about
your journey? Do you feel respected everywhere you go? Why or why
not? Describe. What do you know about the history of the places
you pass through? What, or who do you fear when you are in areas
you are unfamiliar with? What do you learn from traveling beyond
the places you are most familiar with?
If you dont know some interesting history about your place,
interview elders in your family or community to gather these stories.
Then add them to your paper.
Chapter 6. Ito
- A messagewait!
On page 85, the poem by Gwendolyn Brooks offers some advice. What
is her poem saying, and to whom is it addressed? What do you think
about her advice?
Read the chapter. Ito is also a poet, and four of his poems
are included here. After reading about Itos life and fears,
what kind of advice would you offer him? What should he, or anyone
else in prison, remember while they "do their time?"
Chapter 7. Jesus
Teachers: This exercise explores the idea of affiliation, as
a prelude to discussing gang membership.
The American Heritage Dictionary (1982, 1985) gives
this definition for affiliation: An association as a subordinate,
a subsidiary, or a member.
What signals do members of the following groups send each other
to show affiliation? Signals might show up in these areas: clothing,
skin markings, posture, manner, and language. Where else do signs
of affiliation appear?
People of different racial and ethnic groups.
People in different professions and jobs (such as doctors,
Sorority and fraternity members.
Can you think of other groups and group signals? Why do you think
people often show their group identity in some visible way? Do you?
Why or why not?
2. Forced or chosen?
Teachers: This exercise jumps ahead several chapters. You may
want to read your students the passage on page 181 now, or you can
come back to this when the class reads chapter 12.
On page 181, Mr. B discusses the difference between voluntarily
chosen associations, such as many clubs that allow people to join
or leave as they choose, and other organizations, like gangs, which
may not allow that kind of movement. Read this section and discuss
the differences between voluntary and involuntary associations.
Think of organizations that fit each category. Do you belong to
more voluntary or involuntary organizations? Write about the benefits
and drawbacks of each, drawing on Mr. Bs comments.
3. Gangs in Jesus life.
Read Jesus story. Why do you think the gang appealed
to him? What did he gain from his affiliation with the gang? What
were the drawbacks? Write down the pros and cons of gang involvement,
according to Jesus.
What do you think defines a gang? Who defines a gang? Do you belong
to any groups that outsiders might call a gang? Is it possible for
a group to change from a club into a gang or vice versa? How would
you know when this was happening?
4. Stories that need to be told.
Read pages 102-111. What makes this story different from newspaper
stories youve read? Is there anything in Jesus story
that surprises you? What kind of information is included here that
isnt usually in newspapers? How do you think the story would
have been reported in a newspaper?
Research and then write a journalistic account of teens in
your school, community, or city. Call your local news bureau to
find out which reporters cover stories about teens. Ask if you can
interview them and, if possible, discuss with them the teen stories
you've researched and written. Ask if there's any chance the local
papers will publish them.
Contact Childrens Express for information about youth-created
journalism. The address is in the Resources section.
Chapter 8. Girl Talk
1. Girl trouble/boy trouble.
Are boys or girls more dangerous? Who gets in trouble more
often? Do you think boys and girls get treated the same, or differently,
when they get in trouble?
Read this quote from a book called Girls: Delinquency and
Juvenile Justice, by Meda Chesney-Lind and Randall Sheldon (1992):
"Girls in trouble, particularly those in the juvenile justice
system, share many problems with their male counterparts. They are
more likely to be poor, to have come from disrupted and violent
families, and to be having difficulties in school. [T]he male to
female ratio for violent index crimes (homicide, forcible rape,
robbery, aggravated assault) is 9:1 and the ratio for the most serious
index property crimes (burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson)
is about 11:1 (27-8)."
National reports show that while girls are committing more
crimes, and more kinds of crimes now than in previous years, they
are still less likely than boys to become involved in violent crimes
(Chesney-Lind & Sheldon 1992). Continue your discussion, responding
to this information. How does it change your perceptions of girls
2. How many girls? How many boys?
When the book was written, there were 804 boys at the juvenile
temporary detention center (JTDC), and 39 girls, making a total
of 843 youth. What percent of the overall JTDC population was female?
In 1994, 25% of all juveniles arrested were female. How does
this compare to the percentage of girls at the JTDC?
3. Recording sexuality.
On page 115 the author says that "Boys are still percieved
as a threat to society because of violent or criminal behavior,
girls because of sexual behavior. Do you agree with the authors
belief that our society has different standards and expectations
for boys and girls? Do you think it makes sense to record information
about girls sexual histories, but not boys? Why or why
4. Same place, different stories; A poet in prison
Incarcerated girls and young women may have some of the same
kinds of experiences as incarcerated boys and young men. But some
of their experiences may also be different. Read this poem written
by a woman in prison:
After My Arrest
among the everyday
a bright pink Indian cotton shirt
worn through months of
nursing, quickly unbuttoned
to bring the rooting baby to my breast
her head in its
soft, filmy folds
set adrift among the debris
of police searches, overturned lives
tossed into a pile of orphaned clothes
and taken to a tag sale
where my friend,
to keep me close
and wore it one day
to bring my daughter for a visit,
greeting me cheerfully,
and I laughed,
scooping up my baby
to carry her into the toy-filled playroom
where she rode me, her horsey
among the oversized stuffed animals
until visiting hours were over
when I stood at that great divide,
the visitors exit gate,
and watched my shirt and my child
with my friend
Judith Clark, reprinted from Aliens at the Border, The Writing
Workshop, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
In what ways does this poem reflect the particular experience
of a woman in prison? How might this poem have been different if
the poet were a young man writing about visiting with his child?
Write your own poem, imagining that you are a young parent in prison
visiting with your child. Follow the format of the poem you have
just read, or create your own format.
Chapter 9. Andrew
1. Laws: right and wrong
On pages 126 through 128, students in the detention center discuss
new and proposed laws and decide that some are good and some are
bad. What are their reasons, and do you agree with them?
Write about a situation or law today that you feel is unjust. What
actions do you recommend taking to change the situation? Would your
actions include breaking any laws? Which laws? Which laws should
never be broken? Why do you think this?
Choose a historic situation from the list below (or research
another one), and investigate how the people involved attempted
to change their circumstances. What happened? Who was involved?
Did they break laws? Which? Were their actions justified, in your
opinion? Were they successful?
1. Amistad. Start with the movie, but dont stop there.
2. John Brown and party, at Harpers Ferry. Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks, is a fictional account of John Browns life.
Use other sources as well.
3. The Stonewall Rebellion (June 28, 1969), considered the birth
of the modern gay and lesbian rights movement.
4. Union organizing in the United States, and the history of the
labor movement. Watch the movie Matewan, by John Sayles.
5. The campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States (1970s - 1980s). Start with popular press accounts (like newspapers,
2. When is doing the wrong thing the right thing?
Is it ever okay to break a law? What about when the law is
unjust? For example, during the centuries that slavery was legal
in North America, some citizens risked their lives and freedom helping
enslaved people to escape. Should these people have been punished
for breaking the law? Why or why not?
In the 1930s, the African American writer Nelson Peery faced
situations that were both legal and unjust. This is an example of
his reaction to discrimination he faced as a youth:
The White Castle hamburger house was a concentration of everything
we hated. They refused service to blacks, and that miniature white
castle was, to us, the symbol of white supremacy. We declared a
war on the one located at Lake and Eleventh Avenue.
We planned our attack carefully. Waiting until evening covered
us, we positioned ourselves across the street. Since Chuck was the
fastest runner, he went in to buy a hamburger. They refused to serve
him and ordered him out of the shop. The manager stood in the doorway
to make sure he didn't try to get back in. Chuck screamed...
The manager rushed forward and Chuck hit him in the face with
a rock. We ran into the middle of the street and threw [more rocks].
First the big bay windows went, and when the customers ran out we
We went back once a year for the next two years. We never again
gave a warning. We would smash the windows with a volley of rocks
and pelt whoever ran out. White Castle wouldn't integrate, and I
have never eaten one of their hamburgers.
Nelson Peery, from Black Fire: The Making of An American
Why do you think Peery and his friends chose this course of
action? Do you agree or disagree with the decisions they made? What
would you have done under similar circumstances?
Chapter 10. Adolescence
1. Rites of passage.
Many cultures create "rites of passage" that mark and celebrate
the transition from childhood to adulthood, from carefree to more
responsible. Some of these are formalbat and bar mitzvahs, quincineras, confirmationsothers are of-the-moment.
What marked this transition for you? Was it a formal or more personal
ritual? What did the ritual or ceremony teach you about becoming
an adult? Was it a happy lesson, or disturbing? Was your "rite of
passage" based on your age, physical changes, or something else?
Would you have your own children participate in a "rite of passage" like the one you experienced?
After reading the chapter, write about how rites of passage, both
formal and informal, are important to the young people in the book.
Create a rite of passage that you consider idealthe kind
you think young people should experience. Support your ideas by
describing how this ceremony would have benefited the young people
in the Juvenile Detention Center.
2. Guns and murder.
Teachers: The next project requires students to jump ahead
in the book for some statistics, and also asks them to do some outside
research. Internet access will speed the process, but some telephone
and library fact-seeking will work as well.
On page 178, Ayers writes that firearms were used in 72% of homicides
in the United States in 1994, and that the homicide rate is 530%
higher here than in England. On page 148, the author asks Mario
how fast he could buy a gun, if he had $200 dollars. Read this passage
(the last paragraph) and discuss the connection between Mario's
response and the two statistics.
Research how countries other than the United States regulate
the sale of firearms, perhaps starting with the two countries closest
to the U.S., Mexico and Canada. What are the homicide rates in those
countries? In what percent of those homicides are firearms used?
How many of the homicide victims are teenagers? How many of the
gun-users are teenagers? Write a paper that responds to the differences
and similarities between the countries. Based on your discoveries,
would you recommend changing the laws in the United States?
Chapter 11. Freddie
1. Drugs: Decriminalize or legalize?
On page 158, Merce reads a news article in class, which starts
a discussion about drugs. Mr. B makes a distinction between decriminalize
and legalize. Finish reading the chapter. What is the difference
between legalizing and decriminalizing, and how do those terms apply
to drugs? Choose a position and debate it with a classmate. Bolster
your argument with examples from the book. You may also want to
contact some of the organizations in the Resource section, to find
out their positions on the issue.
Chapter 12. Punishment
1. Violence or discipline?
How much violence towards children is too much? In Sweden,
it is against the law to spank and use other forms of physical punishment
on children. Swedish citizens took this measure in an attempt to
create a less violent society. Do you think a law like this might
reduce the number of children in the juvenile justice system? What
other effects might a law like this have? Should parents who break
this law be sent to prison? What disciplinary measures could parents
use to replace physical forms? What kinds of support would parents
need to make a law like this effective?
Write about a time when you or someone you know experienced
a physical punishment. Do you think the punishment was fair? Was
it effective? What do you remember most about the experience? Would
you use a similar kind of punishment with your own children or recommend
the punishment to other people? If not, what alternate form would
you recommend, and why?
2. Chains and shame.
On page 183, a teen reads a newspaper article that reports
the return of prison chain gangs. In the article, a State Senator
suggests that "Some people work well under humiliation." Do you
agree with his statement? When might humiliation be an effective
Write an argument in favor of, or against public humiliation
punishments, considering these questions: Should public humiliation
be used as a form of punishment? When should it be used? On whom?
For how long? For what kinds of crimes or broken rules?
Have you ever been publicly humiliated? What do you remember
most about the experience? Was it being used as a punishment? What
lessons did you learn? Do you "work well under humiliation"?
For more information on chain gangs read the New York Times
Magazine article "The Chain Gang Show" by Brent Staples,
September 17, 1995, and an article in The Source by Susan
Carpenter, "Grave Diggaz," December 1998, (111), p. 62-3.
3. Changing people: What works?
In a radio interview, William Ayers described Mr. Bs
attitude about punishment: "There were a couple of standard, simple
punishments in these classrooms. Mr. B. had kids stand on
the wall. It was five minutes for cursing, ten minutes for
threatening. He was saying, the punishment should fit the crimethere
are consequences, but they arent crippling or life-changing.
The consequences are that you have to pay more attention."
After reading that quote and this book, and thinking about the
various punishments describedfrom chain gangs to prison time,
what kinds of prison reforms would you suggest to make sure that
punishments arent "crippling or life-changing"? Why is this
an especially important consideration for juvenile prisons? Support
your argument with data you find in this chapter.
back to contents
After reading the book:
1. Changing the status quo.
After reading the stories of these young men and women in prison,
examining the Data section, and contacting some of the prison and
human rights organizations in the Resource section, what are your
questions and conclusions? Knowing what you know now, what will
You may want to start or participate in a letter-writing campaign.
You might do more research and write a newspaper story.
You could write letters to young people in prison.
You will have many ideas of your own. Dont waitdo something!
back to contents
Abuse: 36-9, 62
Alcohol/drugs: 63, 65, 130, 158-61, 180, 197
Audy Home: see Juvenile Temporary Detention Center
Automatic Transfer: see Transfer (to adult court)
Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center: see Juvenile
Temporary Detention Center
Crime: 73-8, 175-80
Date rape: 121-23
Family Values: 190
Gangs: 105, 110, 142
Gault case: 26-7
Guns: 106, 109, 148, 163, 178-80
Jane Addams: 24-26
Juvenile Court: xiv-xvii, 24-44, 79
Juvenile Temporary Detention Center: 13-7
Love: 94-5, 110-11, 117-19, 124, 167
Police: (harassment by) 103, 108
Race/racism: 30, 47, 87-91, 165
School: xiv-xv, 12-6, 56, 143-4
Sex: 65, 116-19, 121-24
Sexuality: 114-19, 122-24
Station adjustment: 31-2
Transfer (to adult court): 32, 36, 115
Violence: 8-9, 62, 79-81
- There are more than five million people in the United States
incarcerated or on probation, or parole, an increase of 179 percent
- Almost one in three (32%) young black males in the age group
20-29 is under some type of correctional control (incarceration,
probation, or parole), as is 1 in 15 young white males, and
1 in 8 young Hispanic males.
- Women are the fastest growing prison population.
- 76% of women in prison have children.
- 54% of women in prison are women of color.
- An estimated 41% of female inmates report being either physically
or sexually abused at some time in their lives before their
- 94% of adult prison inmates are male, 6 % are female. In juvenile
institutions, girls are 11% of those in custody, and 89% are boys.
- More than 3,500 children are housed in prisons with adults.
- 65% of state prison inmates in 1991 had not completed high school.
- 33% of jail inmates in 1991 were unemployed before entering
- 32% of inmates in 1991 who had been free for at least one year
before their arrest had annual incomes of under $5,000.
- 68% of those sentenced to state prisons 1990 were convicted
of non-violent crimes, including 32% for drug offenses and 31%
for property offenses.
- Most juveniles71.9%are incarcerated for non-violent
offenses. In 1994, 28.1% of juveniles were incarcerated for violent
- 57% of jail inmates in 1989 reported they were under the influence
of alcohol or drugs at the time they committed their offense.
- 1 in 4 jail inmates in 1989 was in jail for a drug offense,
compared to 1 in 10 in 1983; drug offenders constituted 21% of
1991 state prison inmates and 61% of 1993 federal prison inmates.
- Black males have an 18% chance of serving time in a juvenile
or adult prison at some point in their lives; white males have
a 3% chance.
- By 1990 the average sentence for black people in the United
States was 49% higher than that for white people.
All the above data are for the United States.
Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Corrections Compendium,
Federal Judicial Center (The General Effect of Mandatory Minimum
Prison Terms, 1992), National Council on Crime and Delinquency,
National Womens Law Center (Washington, D.C.), Prison Activist
Resource Center, and The Sentencing Project (see Organizations),
The Nation (November 16, 1998).
Parole - Release from prison before the full sentence has
been served, granted at the discretion of a parole board.
Probation - A system of supervised freedom, usually under
a probation officer, for persons convicted of a criminal offense.
Typically the probationer must agree to certain conditions such
as getting a job, avoiding drugs, and not traveling outside of a
Misdemeanor - A criminal offense, less serious than a felony,
punishable by a prison sentence of one year or less.
Felony - A serious criminal offense punishable by a prison
sentence of more than one year.
Attorney/Client Privilege - Whatever you tell your attorney
about your case is secret and confidential. The information cannot
be disclosed to anyone without your permission.
Reasonable Doubt - The standard used to determine the guilt
or innocence of a person criminally charged. To be guilty of a crime,
a person must be proved guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." Reasonable
doubt which justifies acquittal (innocence) is doubt based on evidence
or lack of evidence, and doubt which a reasonable man or woman would
Curfew - The time, varying across the United States, after
which young people may not be outside on the streets.
Vandalism - A crime to damage property by drawing or defacing
it with paint or other substances. Graffiti (tagging) is considered
vandalism and is a crime.
Arrest - A person suspected of a crime, is taken into custody
by the police.
Stop and Frisk - If a police officer reasonably believes
a person is behaving suspiciously and is likely to be armed, the
officer may stop and pat down the person to check for weapons.
Probable Cause - A reasonable belief that a crime has been
committed and that the person accused has committed the crime.
Mob Action - If you are in a group of two or more people
and cause a disturbance, you can be charged with Mob Action.
Accountability - A person is responsible for the conduct
of another when he is involved either before or during the offense
and has the intent to help, tries to help, or agrees to help commit
the criminal act.
Miranda Rights - After a person is arrested, before the
police may start asking him or her any questions, the arresting
officer must inform them of the following rights: You have the right
to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against
you in the court of law. You have the right to a lawyer and to have
one present during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one
will be appointed for you before questioning begins.
Transfer to Adult Court - Depending on your age, record,
and the crime you are charged with, your case can be transferred
to an adult court, and if convicted of a crime in adult court, a
long prison sentence could result.
Source: Street Law Education Project, a joint project of the Children
and Family Justice Center of the Northwestern University School
of Law Legal Clinic and the Youth and Family Justice Project of
the Southwest Youth Collaborative (Chicago).
322 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10001
This London-based human rights monitoring organization is famous
for its successful letter-writing campaigns and thorough documentation
of human rights abuses around the world. Their report on human rights
issues in the United States, Rights For All, is available
from the address above.
Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice
1622 Folsom Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
The Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice is a public policy
organization which engages in research and provides technical assistance
on criminal and juvenile justice issues. The Center issues reports
which will be useful to students researching the juvenile justice
Children and Family Justice Center
School of Law - Legal Clinic
357 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611-3069
Fax (312) 503-0953
The co-creator (with the Southwest Youth Collaborative, see below)
of the Street Law Education Program and curriculum, which trains
young people to be peer educators, to teach other youth and community
members about the law.
1331 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Fax (202) 737-0193
Childrens Express is a news service reported and edited by
teenagers. They have headquarters in Washington, and news bureaus
in several U.S. cities.
Human Rights USA Resource Center
310 Fourth Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1012
The goal of Human Rights USA is to help create a new level of awareness
about the scope, relevance and meaning of human rights in the USA,
and to foster action to guarantee these rights. Contact them to
order their curriculum guide: Human Rights Here and Now.
Prison Activist Resource Center
P.O. Box 3201
Berkeley, CA. 94703
A good resource for materials about women in prison, and political
prisoners in the United States.
The Sentencing Project
918 F. Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
Fax (202) 628-1091
The Sentencing Project has issued a number of reports that pull
together national data on criminal justice topics.
Southwest Youth Collaborative
3154 West 63rd Street
Chicago, IL 60629
Fax (773) 476-3615
Co-creator, with the Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern
University, of the Street Law Education Program and curriculum.
2 United Nations Plaza
Room DC2-853, Dept. C005
New York, NY 10017
Fax (212) 963-3489
Numerous publications on topics from the World Summit for Children
to the Yearbook on Human Rights. Excellent research resources.
Bernstein, N. (June 23, 1996). "The gap in Ella Fitzgeralds
life." New York Times.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1992). Crime in American Households.
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (March 1991). Women in Prison. U.S.
Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Carpenter, Susan. (December 1998). "Grave diggaz." The Source,
(111), p. 62-3.
Chesney-Lind, M. and Sheldon, R. (1992). Girls: Delinquency
and Juvenile Justice. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks - Cole Publishing
Clark, J. (1997). "After my arrest." In"Aliens at the Border,
Hettie Jones (ed). Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New
York: Segue Books.
Males, Mike. (1996). The Scapegoat Generation: Americas
War on Adolescents. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
National Council on Crime and Delinquency. (1994). Juveniles Taken
Into Custody Research Programs, Total Admissions for Public and
Private Facilities. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice
Prison Activist Resource Center. (1998). Eleven Things You Should
Know About Women in Prison in the U.S. Berkeley, CA.: Prison Activist
Peery, N. (1994). Black Fire: The Making of a Black Revolutionary. New York: The New Press.
Staples, Brent. (1995, September 17). "The chain gang show." The
New York Times Magazine, p. 61.
We are grateful to reprint the following copyrighted material:
From Black Fire: The Making of a Black Revolutionary, by
Nelson Peery. Copyright 1994 by Nelson Peery. Reproduced by permission
of The New Press. From Street Law Education Project,
by the Legal Clinic of the Children and Family Justice Center, "Street
Law Program," Cheryl Graves, Staff Attorney. Used by permission
of the Children and Family Justice Center.
I am grateful to Bill Ayers, whose mentoring friendship just flows.
Thanks also to Carrie Bryant and Pat Walker for research assistance.
About the Authors
Therese Quinn is an education activist and scholar at the University
of Illinois at Chicago. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
William Ayers is professor of education and University Scholar
at the University of Illinois at Chicago.