Since the publication of Locking Up Our Own, I’ve been traveling around the country speaking about race, justice, and mass incarceration. After one of my first events in Los Angeles, a woman approached me to say, “I’m a high school teacher and I want to teach more of what’s in your book. What resources can you suggest?” I’ve gotten a similar question dozens of time since.
When I looked for materials in response to these requests, I discovered that while there was certainly some good information available, there wasn’t enough. So I began the process of creating this teaching guide. Over time, what started as a way to teach Locking Up Our Own evolved into a guide to teaching about mass incarceration more generally.
The guide offers a series of lessons around each of the following topics:
Each topic is independent, so a teacher can teach one, some, or all of the topics.
You will find that the lesson plans are quite detailed and structured. I prefer such guides in my own teaching (now in law school and previously when I taught high school). I like guides that provide a clear road-map, knowing that I may detour from it to meet my own classroom needs. In addition to each unit, the guide has a number of supplementary materials which include audio interviews of me and topic-specific text graffiti and vocabulary words.
This guide emphasizes role-play, mock exercises (such as a mock city council hearing), and small and large group discussion. I find that these are great ways to keep students of all ages engaged.
This guide is also oriented toward student action. In many of the chapters, the final lesson encourages students to do something about the problem they’ve been considering. I have found that students are often outraged after studying our criminal system, and helping them channel their anger into productive action is one of my main teaching goals.
I know that many schools face severe resource constraints. The materials in this guide are all free and printable/downloadable. If you would like to provide your students with individual copies of Locking Up Our Own and your school lacks the resources to purchase copies, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to provide your classroom with free copies of the book.
James Forman, Jr.
Professor of Law
Yale Law School