As you enter, please answer the following questions about Courtroom 302 on the last page of the reading:
1. Describe the prisoners and their offenses.
2. What is something that seems injust/unfair in the story?
3. What do you think the author’s thesis is? Why did he write this?
4. In what ways does money play into the problem?
5. How does this article relate to the Saints and Roughnecks and the drug exercise we did in class? OR How are these prisoners affected by stigma?
Courtroom 302 is a book about a year-in-the-life of the Cook County Courthouse which is the largest single site county courthouse or jail in the United States.
After reading the excerpt from Courtroom 302 by Steve Bogira, think about how the reading ties together the Saints and Roughnecks and the relativity of deviant drugs and the 30 Days in Prison video. All of the prisoners in the Courtrom 302 reading were still defendants - they were not convicted of any crime! Yet, their treatment would seem to indicate that not only were they guilty, they were deserving of inhumane treatment. The prisoners are an example of the roughnecks in today's society. They are mostly poor and minorities who have been labelled by the system as no-good troublemakers. Secondly, think about how many of the prisoners were there for drug-related offenses. The reading said that 37 of the 43 felonies were drug-related. The labelling of drugs as a deviant criminal problem instead of a medical problem has severely impacted our criminal justice system. And in a system that favors those with money every step of the way, we see a disproportionate number of poor drug users filling up the system. In the end, I think Bogira would not blame the guards or the lawyers or the judges, but I think he would say that the system is broken. Only responsible citizens can change this structure by voting and activism to make the system fair again. In fairness to the system, over the last few years, there has been some developments that both highlight the structural failures but also provide hope that things can change. A Chicago cop was convicted of torturing defendants who were being questioned by police. Also, a class-action lawsuit was settled in favor of thousands of defendants who went through the Cook County Courthouse and faced the awful conditions that Bogira wrote about.