Why do we have an Alumni Track?
In last week’s post, we focused on homework for first time students. Now, we turn our attention to the Alumni and the specific homework that is assigned to them before the class begins. (Note that many of the preliminary assignments are the same for both first time and alumni students, so be sure to read through the previous post for tips to complete the work with excellence.)
Just like the first timers’ Field Experiences, the Alumni Track is an essential element of the Four Day State Class. Open to all students who have previously attended a Four Day Class, the Alumni Track delves deep into a current event or topic and urges students to consider their beliefs and how those play out in understanding what is happening in the world around them. Taught by the Program Director, the Alumni Track is largely discussion-based and built off of student interaction. During one of the sessions, students will head into the Capitol and poll employees and visitors about their views about the topic of discussion. For many, this is the favorite part of the track.
Each year focuses on a unique topic. In 2016, the Alumni Track is about the American criminal justice system. The purpose is to understand and discuss the system and reforms that can make it more effective to our society as a whole. Students will be discussing questions about incarceration rates, over-criminalization, recidivism, and the role of the Church in the criminal justice system, to list a few.
Aaron Watson, TeenPact’s Director of Staff Development and primary author of the 2016 Alumni Track, wrote the following in regard to this topic’s significance:
America has long been known as the land of freedom and opportunity, but more recently, it has earned the disturbing distinction of being the world’s leading jailer. While the United States represents just 5 percent of the world’s population, it now holds 25 percent of its inmates. Crime stopping policies of the 1980s and 1990s launched a massive increase in incarceration rates, and in 2010, America had 1,267,000 people behind bars in state prisons, 744,500 in local jails, and 216,900 in federal facilities—more than 2.2 million under state and federal detention.
Even more concerning, many ex-offenders are woefully unprepared to navigate the challenges of reentry once released. Many struggle to find a job, battle substance abuse with no treatment, and can often end up homeless, a striking indictment of a system often defined by its desire to be “correctional.” In addition, our criminal-justice system takes a toll not only on the offenders, but on their families and neighborhoods. And that toll is intergenerational: There are 2.7 million children with a parent behind bars.
Furthermore, an estimated 70% of inmates will be re-arrested within two years of their release. Such a high recidivism rate not only indicates the failure of our system to address the needs of ex-offenders but also demonstrates the public safety risk if offenders cannot learn to become productive citizens. Essentially, our criminal justice system fails 70% of the time, which is why the need for reform is almost universally accepted.
So what truly is justice in our society, and can redemption and restoration be a part of that definition? Is the job of the criminal justice system simply to warehouse bad people, or perhaps rehabilitate them as functional members of society?
In preparation for such a significant topic, Alumni students are asked to write an essay (1500 words minimum) outlining the purpose of the criminal justice system, the failures of that system, and ways we can better achieve that purpose.
If you are an Alumni student who is already working on your essays, well done! Be sure to use credible sources like books or published journals–not just unreviewed sources like Wikipedia. If you haven’t started on your essay yet, don’t put it off for too long. This can be a weighty subject; it is important that you take the time needed to produce high quality work.
All homework can be accessed online at teenpact.com/homework. As always, if you have any specific questions about the Alumni Track or homework, feel free to give us a call at 888.343.1776. We are here to serve you!
Registration for the 2016 Season is open now and filling up! To learn more about the program in your state, or to register, go to teenpact.com/stateclasses.