Artwork including ships carrying enslaved Africans

Units February 4, 2022

History and Impact of Convict Leasing and Mass Incarceration

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Lesson Summary: Students examine the origins of slavery and its effect on mass incarceration and convict leasing through engagement with multiple news stories and primary source documents. Students share their analysis about connections between economics and slavery, convict leasing, and mass incarceration through written and oral arguments using the RAFT (role, audience, format, task) structure. Downloads: Unit resources
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This unit was created by a team of African American history educators from Houston, TX, as part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately five class periods.

Objectives

● Students will examine and discuss connections between economics and discrimination.

● Students will examine the origins of slavery and its effects on mass incarceration and convict leasing.

● Students will discuss the impact of the Reconstruction amendments on slavery and convict leasing.

● Students will analyze the connection between the Reconstruction and the Antebellum eras in the United States.

● Students will analyze and discuss the Civil Rights Movement and Civil Rights Act of 1964.

● Students will discuss the cultural impact of the “Black Lives Matter” Movement.

● Students will examine the role of social media and its effectiveness to expose the need for criminal justice reform, from Rodney King to George Floyd.

Success Criteria

Students will be able to make connections between economics and slavery, convict leasing, and mass incarceration and correlate them to similar issues around the world.

● Students will be able to compare and contrast prison systems, including instances of convict leasing, in the United States and those that exist in other countries.

● Students will be able to make compelling arguments for social justice initiatives.

● Students will be able to make connections between the “School to Prison Pipeline,” as well as school disciplinary actions and rates of juvenile incarceration.

● Students will be able to synthesize the data relating to juvenile justice incarceration rates versus adult incarceration rates.

● Students will be able to analyze recidivism rates for those who return to the incarceration system after 18 years of age.

Essential Questions

● What are some economic factors that would cause African Americans to be discriminated against?

● How are discrimination, equity/justice, and advocacy for human rights connected?

● To what extent did the Reconstruction amendments impact the enforcement of law and order on African American communities in the early 20th century? (Focus on convict leasing.)

● To what extent are the Fugitive Slave Acts precursors to, and predictors of, police killings of African Americans and the long-standing tension between these groups?

● What is the role of the government in ensuring human rights?

● How do media and information literacy align with ethical reasoning and how African Americans are portrayed?

● How can citizens advocate for change in ways that invite others to join?

● What are some ways students/citizens can be change agents?

● What preventative measures are being taken to thwart adolescent youth from being charged with a crime before the age of 18?

● Why are men of color disproportionately affected by mass incarceration rates compared to their white male counterparts?

● Is there a correlation between disciplinary actions towards minor youth of color that may signal an unfair penal system aimed to affect them as adults? Explain.

Unit Overview

Students will examine the origins of slavery and its effect on mass incarceration and convict leasing through engagement with multiple news stories and primary source documents. Students will also make connections between economics and slavery, convict leasing, and mass incarceration. At the conclusion of the unit, students will communicate their learning by creating a persuasive argument related to one the following issues in the form of an oral presentation, written report, or video:

● Convict Leasing

● School to prison pipeline

● Policing

● Social Justice and Mass Incarceration

● Recidivism

Themes: Discrimination, Equity and Justice, Advocacy, Governance, Human Rights, Policing, Criminal Justice Reform
Real-World Challenges: Police killings of African Americans, inequity and discrimination, systemic racism, structural and institutionalized racism, mass incarceration, convict leasing, juvenile justice, recidivism rates, racial profiling, public policy

Modern Literacies Skills: Media and information literacy, ethical reasoning, metacognition, cultural literacy, social and emotional learning, critical thinking, problem-solving, political theories of justice

Performance Task

Performance Task Format: RAFT- Role, Audience, Format, Task
Role: Social Justice Advocate
Audience: U.S. Congress
Format: Oral presentation, digital/written presentation (or a combination), or video


Task 1: Using the perspective above, develop a persuasive argument that addresses one of the following issues:
● Convict Leasing
● School to prison pipeline
● Policing
● Social Justice and Mass Incarceration
● Recidivism

Note: Your argument should be based on what you have learned during your study of this unit and any needed research. The persuasive argument should urge action on the part of Congress to support legislation that aligns with your argument. State your claim, provide evidence, and include your reasoning for your position (CER). Tell why and how your proposal/argument would provide lasting change that would improve the lives of the members of the group you selected.

Task 2: Draft a counter-argument, in the form of a letter that rebuts your argument. State your claim, provide evidence, and include the reasoning for your position (CER).


Task 3: Make a connection to a similar issue in another country based on the topic you selected to discuss. Compare and contrast the issue and explain how the other country is handling the issue.


Extension Activity: See BH365 Performance Task, pp. 712.

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