Race and Incarceration (Student Version)

Recently, the American public has grown increasingly aware of the fact that our prisons contain a disproportionate number of minorities, especially African Americans, relative to the general population. Some people see our criminal justice system as racially biased, while others believe the system to be fair and protective of the public’s interests. We all want our justice system to be equitable, and to keep our communities safe. Acknowledging this complexity, how can we improve the outcomes of our criminal justice system?

In this conversation, you and other participants will explore questions around race and incarceration. By practicing the conversation agreements and sticking to the three-round structure, you’ll learn more about how you and your peers think about the importance of free speech and the responsibilities we all face around it.

Round 1 (~5 minutes)

Read the technical instructions

Students: Take turns going around the group and reading each one of these aloud, until all have been read.  

Stick together through the conversation rounds.
Nominate one student to be in charge of telling the group when it's time to click to the next round.  If unsure who to nominate, choose the student whose first name comes first alphabetically (e.g. Amy comes before David comes before John).  

Keep an eye on the time.
Watch the countdown timer to make sure you're moving through the conversation rounds at the right pace. You will not be forced to move through the rounds at a specific pace; students determine the timing.

Keep yourself muted when not speaking.
When you are not speaking, press your mute button to eliminate background noise and echo.  When you are speaking, remember to unmute.

Keep your video on at all times.
Show respect for your peers by making yourself visible at all times during the conversation.  If you are having bandwidth trouble, however, you can turn off your video to improve audio performance.

Avoid outside distractions.
Show respect for your peers by giving your full attention to the conversation.  Do not let yourself be distracted by other people or objects.

Click the Support button to report any technical issues or problems. 
Click the blue button in the lower left corner to report any technical issues or problems experienced during your conversation. Also let your teacher know about any problems you may have experienced. 
Round 2 (~5 minutes)

Read the conversation agreements

Conversations work best when participants agree to common ground rules. Each student in the group should take turns reading at least one of these aloud:

Be Curious and Open to Learning.
Listen to and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning. Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking.

Show Respect and Suspend Judgment.
Human beings tend to judge one another, do your best not to. Setting judgments aside will better enable you to learn from others and help them feel respected and appreciated.

Look for Common Ground and Appreciate Differences.
In this conversation, we look for what we agree on and simply appreciate that we will disagree on some beliefs and opinions.

Be Authentic and Welcome that from Others.
Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically from your personal and heartfelt experience. Be considerate to others who are doing the same.

Be Purposeful and to the Point.
Notice if what you are conveying is or is not “on purpose” to the question at hand. Notice if you are making the same point more than once.

Own and Guide the Conversation.
Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the conversation by noticing what’s happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.

Round 3 (~10 minutes)

Get to know each other

Get to know each other a bit by sharing something personal. Each participant should answer one or more of the following questions:

  • How would you describe your town or city? (e.g. urban, rural, crowded, empty, big, small ...)
  • How would you describe your school? (e.g. big, small, public, private, easy, fun, competitive, stressful ...)
  • What are your favorite activities or hobbies outside of school?
  • What do you want to do after you graduate?
  • How would your best friends describe you?
Round 4 (~15 minutes)

Listen and share to understand

Share your views -- and listen openly to others' views -- on the assigned topic, without debating or trying to change anyone's opinion. Each participant should answer one or more of the following questions:

  • What do you believe explains the higher rate of incarceration for non-white people? Who, or what, is to blame?
  • Is our current system fair? 
  • Do police make you feel safe or unsafe? 
  • Do you think the police face a difficult situation in trying to protect the populace without being biased towards certain groups?
  • How should our criminal justice system adapt to better serve the American population?
Round 5 (~10 minutes)

Reflect and share takeaways

Reflect on -- and share with other participants -- how it felt to join this conversation. Each participant should answer one or more of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, share what was most valuable to you in this conversation.
  • What new learning or appreciations do you have after joining this conversation?
  • Have you found common ground or areas of interest that surprised you? 
  • What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here?
Round 6 (~5 minutes)

Say goodbye!

Students: Take turns thanking each other and saying goodbye.  
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