Juvenile Justice

Instructor Name: 
Deborah Arthur, Matthew Ross (Winter, Spring 2022)
Course Description: 

Juvenile Justice Capstone Group Photo

This Capstone partners with the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, Juvenile Services Division.  Students work together to facilitate a writing/art workshop in juvenile detention. Through your work in the detention facility, as well as through supportive academic activities, you will have the opportunity to deeply explore current issues in juvenile justice.  Successful background checks and Department approval are required for participation in this Capstone; prior to registration, students must complete and submit a background form. Please contact Deborah Arthur (debs@pdx.edu) for more information on this.

In this Capstone, students will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn the content of local laws regarding juvenile justice and examine them critically.
  • Make contact with local teens through the juvenile department.
  • Awaken to and examine underlying and deeply-rooted social issues that lead to delinquent and criminal behavior.
  • Collaborate in small groups toward a common goal.
  • Develop and increase presentation and advocacy skills.
  • Build healthy and functional relationships around both differences and likenesses experienced both within the classroom community and with the staff and clients of the detention center.
  • Gain theoretical insight and background information on service learning, and learn the value of reflection in the educational process.
Project Description: 

This course offers many opportunities for students to experience, reflect upon and understand current issues in juvenile justice. To start, the community based learning offers students direct interactions with a diverse population of youth within juvenile detention. In small groups, Capstone students facilitate writing and art workshops in juvenile detention. Additionally, students are asked to reflect upon each detention visit in a community based learning log. This log provides excellent evidence of student learning related to diversity in this course, for it is within these logs where the humanization of the "other" unfolds.

In addition to the direct work with a diverse population, students are asked to read a wide variety of materials that address root causes of crime and delinquency. The course materials allow for students to awaken to and examine underlying and deeply-rooted social issues that lead to delinquent and criminal behavior. In addition to the community based work, the readings and discussions, over the course of the term students meet with many guests who work in the field of juvenile justice: juvenile court counselors, experts in youth gang outreach, and representatives from a variety of social service agencies that work with various youth populations in the community.

Typically, our class also tours MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, and students have the opportunity to meet and talk with youth who have been incarcerated there for some time. We also touch upon the idea of the prison industrial complex, and how a wide variety of corporations benefit from burgeoning prison populations. All of this allows the student to experience and uncover for him or herself the root causes and the factors that lead people into correctional facilities. Students are also asked to write reflectively, in a series of papers, about the connections between their experience in this course and the university studies goals. In addition to the community based learning logs and the discussion postings, the reflection papers also provide excellent evidence of student learning.


1. Active Participation: Students are expected to be in class, and expected to actively participate in class.  Active participation includes being prepared for class by having read the assignment, participating in discussions and activities, and active listening. Participation also includes being professional and accountable in your community-based work.  

2. Community-based learning/Skill building workshops: In small groups, Capstone students develop, prepare and facilitate workshops for/with youth in juvenile detention.  Students prepare during the first 2 weeks of the term, and workshops are conducted once a week for the latter 8 weeks in the term. The community-based learning is among the most important aspects of this class. As part of the  community-based learning, students are asked to make a brief entry into their "learning log" after each visit. This is a one page reflection/debrief of their visit.

3. Reflection Papers: Over the course of the term students are asked to submit three reflection papers, in response to given prompts.   These papers should be roughly three pages in length, although the focus is more on content than on length.  In these papers, students will reflect upon the given prompt, and whenever possible include various elements of this course - the recent readings, the community based work, class discussions - into the response.  Students are expected to take some time to reflect on your experiences before sitting down to write. This is an opportunity forstudents to weave together various elements of the course and to look at the issue presented in the reflection prompt through that lens.  

4. Online Discussions: Each week, the instructor will post a discussion question within the Discussion section of our Blackboard page.  Students are required to respond to the posted question, as well as for to two other students' postings.


Student Work Samples

Summer 2021 - Juvenile Justice Zine Project 
(Accessible Text-only Version)