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Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness

Examining the Effects of Mass Incarceration

Case Study at a Glance

In "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness," students examine local and national issues associated with mass incarceration from the perspectives of social justice and human rights, as well as from the lives of those jailed and the lives of those dedicated to keeping society safe.
The case study incorporates a variety of sources, including the Declaration of Independence, Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk, a documentary about New York City’s controversial policy. Students rely on these sources to develop informed opinions on topics related to mass incarceration, such as how incarceration impacts the economy, the causes of recidivism, how race relates to arrest rates, and what happens when children commit crimes.
“Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness” culminates with students presenting their findings and recommendations to local government and law enforcement leaders.

Valerie Evans
Boynton Middle School
Sixth Grade
Essential Questions
  • What are the benefits of citizenship?
  • What is liberty? When is it right to deny liberty?
  • How are racism, classism, and incarceration connected?
  • How does mass incarceration affect groups of people, communities, families, and kids?
  • How does mass incarceration connect to Jim Crow laws of the past?
  • How might policing methods determine who goes to jail?
  • Why have we, as a nation, failed to realize equality for all citizens?
Life Liberty Pursuit of Happiness anti-marginalization case study
Life Liberty Pursuit of Happiness anti-marginalization case study
Life Liberty Pursuit of Happiness anti-marginalization case studyLife Liberty Pursuit of Happiness anti-marginalization case study
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