Many high school students learn about the U.S. criminal justice system through required courses in school and learn about the many career options in the field. Whether your teens have a deep interest in a criminal justice career or are just curious about how criminal justice works, you can reinforce and enhance what they are learning in school. Plan teen-friendly activities that will allow your teens to explore and immerse themselves in the criminal justice world.
Criminal Justice Debate
Assign your teens different sides of certain issues relating to the criminal justice system to argue. For example, you could have them debate whether teenage offenders should be tried as adults in all or some cases. Other topics they can debate on is the "three strikes" criminal rule enforced in some states, and whether being caught with small amounts of illegal drugs should warrant jail time.
Crime Scene Investigation
Set up a fake crime scene for your teens to investigate. Use tape to make an outline of a body. Speckle fake blood on the walls or on the floor. Place a glass with the culprits finger prints on a table. Put up crime scene tape around the room. Give the teens pre-made crime scene investigation kits, which typically include gloves, fingerprint dusters and magnifying classes. You, your spouse and other kids in the house can all be suspects. The kids must use their tools and investigative reasoning skills to deduce who the murderer is.
Invite your teen's friends over to have a full mock court case, requiring them to use the knowledge of the criminal justice system they have learned through school and personal research. You can plan it as a murder mystery party, giving everyone the general case and assigning each participant a role such as prosecutor, defender, suspect, witnesses, forensic experts and a judge. Invite the teen's parents to be members of the jury. Before the court case day, ensure that everyone knows the case and their roles. You can choose any type of criminal case, from something tame like whether someone stole something from a sibling's room to a more realistic case such as a bank robbery or a homicide.
Courtroom Field Trip
Take your teens on a field trip to a courthouse so they can get a glimpse of what real courtrooms look like. Call ahead so you can make arrangements to have someone show you around. If a courtroom is empty, the teens might get the opportunity to sit on the witness stand or the judge's chair. If possible, arrange a meeting with a judge so the teens can ask career questions. You can combine a trip to the courthouse with a trip to a police station, where the teens can get a tour of the booking and interrogation rooms. Make arrangements for the teens to be able to talk to a real detective about what she does.