American Justice

Essay 4:  American Justice 3-4 pages, double-spaced  Do not rely too heavily on the data, but analyze your idea. DO NOT EXCEED THE LENGTH OF YOUR PAPER, and you reference Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and show your understanding of some aspect of his argument. As he tells the story of Walter McMillian, Bryan Stevenson in fact evaluates our criminal justice system, making judgments about the quality of its services and explaining how an inmate’s experience of this system in fact reflects larger ideas about American values.  He shows us many cause and effect relationships, demonstrating through personal stories that the way we talk about people matters, that the way we think about prisons matters for our own identity as Americans.  In a course focused around ideas of being an American, it is critical that we understand how condemned Americans fit into this narrative and see whether we pass the test Stevenson proposes in his introduction.  Stevenson argues that “the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society…cannot be measured by how we treat the rich.”  Our true character is revealed in “how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned” (18).   In this essay, take up Stevenson’s challenge to evaluate our society based on the practices of our justice system.  In other words, answer at some point the following question:   What conclusions about American values or concerns can be drawn from an analysis of the criminal justice system?   For this essay, you may focus on any issues that relate to the criminal justice system and that interest you.  These may include—but do not have to include—your thoughts on any of the following questions:   How does our criminal justice system define those who are accused of crimes in our country? How do these definitions likely impact the way the system works and its treatment of individuals? What does justice seem to mean according to the system’s aims? Based on your understanding of American values, does the system seem just? Why does the system operate this way?  What might be done to improve the system?  What obstacles might be preventing change?   You are free to investigate these or any other questions you develop according to your reading of Stevenson or your own interest in this topic.  You have few content-based requirements here.  You can focus on children, inmates, lawyers, media representation, political involvement, capital punishment practices, or any criminal justice related issues that spark your interest.   REQUIREMENTS for Essay 4: You must make an argument about some aspect of the criminal justice system. You must relate this argument to questions of American identity or American values. You must reference Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and show your understanding of some aspect of his argument.  You are expected to cite him at length (rather than just one or two references/quotations). You must use 2 SOURCES that YOU FIND through your own, INDEPENDENT research.  One of these sources must be a peer-reviewed scholarly article.  The other can be another peer-reviewed text, a text that is credible but not scholarly (an op-ed, newspaper article, web article, or book chapter, for example), or a non-textual source (an interview, documentary, film, or image, for example).   Essay 4 Rubric Essay 4 Rubric Basic Requirements An essay meets the basic requirements if it meets the page length requirement, includes the correct number and type of sources, and addresses the given topic. This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Thesis / Quality of Argument Your thesis should present a clear argument about some aspect of the justice system. The best theses will use strong academic language and make a claim that is nuanced and not overly obvious or simplistic. This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Topic Sentences / Development of Argument At this stage of the course, the best essays will show a clear yet nuanced development of ideas. Strong essays will weave the iterations of the argument together as they develop and present a clear analysis of the topic/claim. Research and Quote Integration Each essay is required to reference Stevenson at length and reference two sources found through the writer’s own research (i.e., not provided by the professor for this unit). One of these must be a scholarly, peer-reviewed article. All essays must use proper MLA format for citing quoted and paraphrased material. The best essays will integrate quotations with the writer’s language rather than dropping quotes into the writer’s text without context or comment. Essays must include a properly formatted Works Cited list that includes an entry for each referenced source. This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Grammar, Writing Mechanics, and Academic Language Essays must demonstrate college-level grammar and writing mechanics. The best essays will have few if any grammatical errors and will employ complex though clear sentence structure and vocabulary. Essays must use professional academic language and avoid slang and conversational tones.

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