One moment...


Street Law, Inc.

Over 40 years of educating about law, democracy, and human rights

Books Not Bars DVD - 2003

Books Not Bars DVD

Grades 8-12

Books Not Bars is a documentary film about public policy, prisons, the justice system, and youth advocacy around the declining investment in public education.  It was developed through a partnership of education and human rights organizations.

Street Law created six lesson plans for use with the Books Not Bars documentary.  Participatory teaching methods help students understand and explore difficult public policy, legal, economic, and social issues related to the U.S. criminal and juvenile justice systems.  The lessons are linked to standards in social studies, civics and government, economics, and other subject areas.

Lesson Topics

  • Human rights: students learn about United Nations documents that set out the basic rights of adults and children and how these human rights relate to U.S. laws
  • Critical viewing: watching the video, students analyze the issues raised by young advocates for change in the justice system
  • Economics: students learn about scarcity, opportunity cost, and government priorities in a mock budget hearing
  • Race and equality: looking at issues of equality, students learn about the steps in the juvenile justice system and evaluate public policy proposals
  • Sentencing: students focus on the alternatives in sentencing juveniles as they role-play a hearing
  • Advocacy: an extension activity provides suggestions for ways that students can participate in advocacy projects and extend their education about important issues

Partner Information

This product was created through a partnership between WITNESS, Street Law, Inc., Books Not Bars/The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School.


Please contact Lena Morreale Scott with questions about this product. 

Sample Lesson


(DVD, 23 minutes, 6 .pdf lesson plans)