Approximately 95% of all cases resulting in felony convictions never go to a jury trial. Students are floored by this fact. We live in a Law and Order world where everyone gets a jury’s verdict within 60 minutes. Plea bargaining is a great topic for any sociology course because it clearly illustrates how social systems, like the criminal justice system, affects individuals.
The video tells the story of 5 defendants lives. Through all of these stories we learn about how plea bargaining can be abused by local governments, how judges can legally coerce defendants into taking a plea, and how the defendants guilt or innocence is largely irrelevant in the current process.
The video can be watched online for free and there is a word-for-word transcript that my students loved to review when they were writing their papers. Below you can find the directions to the reaction paper I had my students write. Also, their is another excellent movie called American Violet which is a dramatization of the events surrounding the first vignette.