Parents' Guide to

American Justice

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Docu looks at crime from a legal point of view.

TV A&E Reality TV 1992
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Unlike many crime-related documentaries, American Justice focuses on how criminal cases are handled by the various parts of the criminal justice system (including local, state, and federal branches). The series looks at each case from a legal perspective, offering explanations of some of the more challenging -- and often frustrating -- rulings based on the existing laws at the time. It also examines some of social implications of America's current laws, including the problems with trying youth offenders as adults and the racial and gender biases associated with the death penalty.

Also unlike other crime documentary series, American Justice doesn't use re-enactments to tell its stories. While crime scene photos are sometimes shown, interviews and trial footage are the primary information sources. As a result, the show is sometimes a bit dry, oversimplifying sophisticated legal processes. But it does successfully touch on moments in legal history that have changed the way lawmakers think about criminal justice and led to some fundamental changes in the legal system. The teens mostly likely to enjoy the show are those interested in pursuing careers in law or criminal justice.

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