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Juvenile Justice Jeopardy game teaches Cleveland kids about the law: Pathways to Peace

By Rachel Dissell The Plain Dealer

Anthony Hubbard gives a high-five to Barrion Watters, 14, after the King team won Juvenile Justice Jeopardy against the GoDJ team.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – On a recent Friday morning, middle school students from Patrick Henry School in Glenville get ready for a game of Jeopardy.

They cluster around two tables, their attention focused on a projection at the front of the classroom.

The categories they must choose from aren't what you'd normally see on the popular game show. This day, they will be dealing with these categories: Offenses, Police/Youth interactions and Juvenile Records.

This is Juvenile Justice Jeopardy.

It's a game that was created to help give young people facts about the justice system, to teach them their rights and responsibilities, and to dispel myths and street lore that could lead to needless trouble, said Lisa Thurau, director of the national nonprofit Strategies for Youth that created the game.

When young people don't understand the rules, or have incorrect information, it can lead to escalating problems when they encounter police, she said.

The game gives kids knowledge they otherwise might not get that can be customized to the city they live in, with both "street" and "school" versions. The cost for creating the local game, licensing it, two days of training and handouts is $15,000. An additional $500 a year pays to renew the license and host it electronically.

How to play

"Police/Youth interactions for $500," one boy says, starting the game.

Middle schoolers, for some reason, almost always chose the highest dollar -- and hardest questions first.

Unlike the television version, the students don't give answers as a question. Instead they select from multiple-choice answers, which they discuss in hushed tones.

Questions like: How should you exercise your right to remain silent? What are the most common charges against youth in Cleveland? Do police read Twitter and Facebook? What is the best way to report police misconduct? Who can be charged as an adult and sent to adult court for a crime?

This questions stumped a group of boys on one of the teams.

Another question comes up. Can a male police officer pat down a girl?

One boy insists a female officer must be called. His brother told him so.

"Work as a team," urges Pamela Hubbard, the executive director of the grassroots Golden Ciphers, which works to empower youth and decrease minority contact with police.

Hubbard and her son, Anthony Hubbard, facilitate the game at schools, community centers and the juvenile detention center. They connect the questions to real situations whenever they can.

The answer is no, the team decides.

A buzzer sounds. They picked wrong.

"That's the point of the creation of this game," Hubbard tells the team as they groan.

"So you all can know the truth and what the real laws, really, really are so you don't have to fall into the trap. And now you can let your brother know that you learned something new today."

Some of the most difficult questions are about tricky legal topics like how gangs are charged as conspiracies, or "constructive possession" of a weapon or drugs that often don't jive with juvenile logic.

For instance, if a friend gives you a ride home in this car, you are in the front. The police stop the car, search it and find a gun under your seat, what can happen to you?

A) Nothing, it's not your car.

B) Nothing, you did not know it was there?

C) You could be charged with the possession of a firearm because the gun was within your reach

D) Nothing, the gun's not yours.

The answer is "C."

"I see it on COPS all the time," one boy said, as a table of boys cheers the right answer.

"The game, it does teach you what problems to face and what problems not to face, there's also solutions to it too," said Tre'von Henderson, 12, after he had played the game.

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