Doing Justice

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In-Class Exercise:

Working with Primary Documents from the Philadelphia City Archive to Answer “Doing Justice” questions

 

PURPOSE.

Your group will examine tabular data from municipal court annual reports in the early 1920s, and apply those data to a specific question.

One purpose is simply to get familiar looking at and decoding such a table.

Another purpose is to get you to think about how you might use these data to fit into a question that you have.

A third purpose is to increase your understanding of how these types of primary documents can be used to provide empirical evidence for a question.

A fourth purpose is to give at least some of you experience doing a very short presentation.

 

PROCEDURE.

You are working in groups of three. Each group has been assigned both a table, and a question to try and answer from that table. Your group will:

·              Discuss the question, discuss different ways to answer the question with the information you have before you;

·              Agree which specific variables in the table are of interest;

·              Agree on how those data will be manipulated or arranged as needed;

·              Carry out simple calculations as needed (you may need to do some percentages)

·              Put your results up on a section of the board devoted to your group

·              Decide which member of your group will give a brief presentation of the results. The presentation (2 minutes?) will say what your question was, how you decided to approach it, what you found, and what you concluded about what you found. (Depending on how you feel about this, this will be recorded and later sent to the presenter if you want to see how you did.)

 

GROUP 1
Your Table:
Philadelphia Municipal Court Annual Report 1925, Table 11 (p. 59): Color or race, nativity, and parentage of delinquent children, 1925)

 

Your task and question:
Calculate the percentage of (male + female) delinquents who were dealt with “formally” for each of three groups: Native, Foreign-born, Negro. Put up a table on the board.

Make a statement about the differences. Suggest whether the results do or do not fit with Black’s model of the horizontal dimension.

 


 

GROUP 2

Your Table:

Philadelphia Municipal Court Annual Report 1925, Table 11 (p. 59): Color or race, nativity, and parentage of delinquent children, 1925)

 

Your task and question:

Calculate the combined (boy + girl) delinquency rate for each of three groups: Native Born, Foreign Born, and Negro. Put up a table on the board. Make a statement about the differences and how they would support or refute the statements made in the Wickersham Commission’s transmittal letter for their report on the foreign born and crime

 

 

 



 

GROUP 3

Your Table:

Municipal Court of Philadelphia Annual Report 1926, Table 32 (p. 82): Color or race, nativity and parentage of children dealt with in delinquency cases: 1926

 

Your task and question:

Calculate the percentage of (male + female) delinquents who were dealt with “formally” for each of three groups: Native, Foreign-born, Negro. Put up a table on the board.

Make a statement about the differences. Suggest whether the results do or do not fit with Black’s model of the horizontal dimension.

 

 

 

 

 

GROUP 4

Your Table:

Municipal Court of Philadelphia Annual Report 1926, Table 1 (p. 177): Cases (indictments) listed, tried, and continued; Motions etc.

 

Your task and question:

Calculate, of the cases listed for trials, the percentages of cases tried, for the years 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925. Also take a look at the volume of cases listed for trial during this period. Do either of these series suggest that the criminal courts in Philadelphia were overwhelmed during the two years when Butler was director of Public safety (1924-1925)? You may recall that he complained a lot about the inaction of the court, and the court replied they were overloaded with volume. FURTHER: in what ways might these data be insufficient – i.e., what might be missing? – so that you cannot answer this question with these data?