Student Debate Assignment

With the student debate assignment, you will practice forming strong arguments either for or against a contemporary issue in criminal justice based on ethical theories, data, and research. You will be given time to analyze this complex issue, apply ethical theories to it, and communicate your findings in both written and oral form in a clear and professional manner to me and your peers. This assignment meets several of our course content learning outcomes.

You will be able to:
Recognize the complexity behind ethical decision-making in the criminal justice system.
Compare and contrast different ethical theories and apply them to contemporary ethical issues within the various components of the criminal justice system (law enforcement, courts, and corrections).
Analyze problems within the criminal justice system that can lead to unethical and unfair policies and practices.
Prepare a sound debate argument based on theory and research and deliver a debate speech in class.

The student debate assignment consists of two parts, and the completion of both parts is required for a successful grade on this assignment.

1) Individual Essay
At the beginning of the semester, I will randomly assign you one of five debate topics, all of which involve a contemporary ethical issue in criminal justice. A total of eight to ten students divided into two groups will be assigned that same topic. As a first step, you will be required to write an essay, in which you discuss both the pros and cons of this issue. You can (and should!) consult with your peers working on that same issue about possible arguments and you can share sources, but you should write the essay on your own. We will use some class time to give you time to discuss your issue together with your peers in small groups. Coming regularly to class will therefore be beneficial for you, as you are given this time to consult on your approach to the topic with your peers.

Instructions for your essay:
Refer to at least two ethical theories learned in class in your essay. The theories should help you frame some of the arguments you will be making (Utilitarianism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics, Ethics of Care, and Peacemaking).
You should also find appropriate research and data that will further support your arguments. Cite at least five reputable sources in your essay:
At least three peer-reviewed journal articles and/or law reviews should be cited, and more are welcomed.
Other than peer-reviewed scholarly articles, you can use official data reports (e.g., FBI, Department of Justice, any state department of corrections, etc.), data reports from non-profit organizations (Vera Institute of Justice, The Sentencing Project, Death Penalty Information Center, etc.), and/or books or book chapters.

You may also use one news article (e.g., from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee).
Avoid using questionable Internet sources such as Wikipedia or blogs.
The background reading should not be one of the five sources you use.

As you cite your sources, you should include proper and consistent in-text citations in the style of your choice (typically APA, MLA, or Chicago
Style) and a separate reference sheet should list all the sources you used in alphabetical order (by author(s) last name(s)). The reference list should be attached to your essay. If you are unsure about how to cite correctly, please consult the Purdue Writing LabLinks to an external site. or ask me for help.

Your essay should be at least 2 to 3 pages long (double-spaced, one-inch margins, not including the reference list) and should ideally include at least two strong arguments (framed with theories and/or supported by data and research) per side.

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