For a Bail Denied
by Reginald Dwayne Betts
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle
Workshop Title: The System
Have your students talk about what they know about the “criminal justice system.” Allow the question to be somewhat open-ended; having a frank conversation is important.
Show your students the embedded video to give them a bit more history and context behind the current state of the criminal justice system in the United States.
Read “For a Bail Denied” by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Then discuss his take on the criminal justice system, one of the issues he brings up in the poem.
Have your students choose one of the issues that they find criminally wrong with the current state of the justice system. Then have them map out all the different reasons as to why this issue harms Americans as a whole. Ask your students to try to think from the perspective of one of the people involved, like a lawyer, defendant, inmate, etc.
Tell your students to write a poem like “For a Bail Denied” by Reginald Dwayne Betts in which they discuss one of the issues with the current state of the criminal justice system in the United States from the perspective of one of those involved.
When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.
Area of Focus: Various
This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one. The prominent literary devices & techniques that this particular poem includes are: diction, selection of detail, structure (syntax), tone, and figurative language.
Have your students watch the following video to give them a bit of context behind the poem they are about to read.
Read “For a Bail Denied” by Reginald Dwayne Betts with your students. Then ask them how the content of the poem reflects the message of the video they just watched.
Open the following presentation and read through the overview/instructions with them. In this assignment, the students are going to have to create a “hexagonal diagram” and make connections between different elements of the text and determine how they work in tandem with one another to reinforce the poet’s message.
Have your students open the following document. The poem and directions are reproduced at the top of the page.
Have your students share their responses with one another. If time permits, share the exemplar essay.
- Children / Youth
- Criminal Justice
- Death / Grief
- Police Brutality / Profiling
- Race / Ethnicity / Racism
- Social Movements / Protest
- Figurative Language
- Selection of Detail
- Structure (Syntax)