Juvenile Justice Jeopardy

Playing Juvenile Justice JeopardyTM

Commander Waters receiving his 2014 Mayor's Community Service Award for bringing JJJ to Indianapolis

Commander Waters receiving his 2014 Mayor’s Community Service Award for bringing JJJ to Indianapolis

Many adults assume youth know what is right or wrong, legal and illegal; that assumption is often incorrect. Many youth assume they know what their rights are and how to assert them with the police; that assumption is also incorrect. These incorrect premises lead to an escalation of many interactions with police. Strategies for Youth makes training youth on police/youth interactions and what conduct may lead to arrest is offered through the Juvenile Justice JeopardyTM game. Watch Juvenile Justice JeopardyTM video.

There was one especially hard-headed boy who always gets in the middle of things he should stay out of.  He used to be so sure of his rights and that he knows the law better than police do.  But after he played this game, he said he stopped himself from getting involved in his friends’ interactions with the police. He said he realized he should walk away.  Usually the kids who are most outspoken, ‘the billy badasses’, are the most affected by this game  and they tell me it stays fresh in their mind for quite a while.

Perkins Community Center, Boston, MA

Training Youth to Understand Police/Youth Interactions

Lisa Thurau and youth acting out a skit during JJJeopardy in Indiana

Lisa Thurau and youth acting out a skit during JJJeopardy in Indiana

Juvenile Justice JeopardyTM (JJJ)
This game is aimed at teaching teens the workings of the juvenile justice system, their rights and obligations, and how to interact with officers respectfully and avoid confrontations. The game takes 90 minutes to play and is aimed at being realistic: that is, it focuses on what happens in police/youth interactions.

Derived from the television jeopardy game, JJJ offers teens an opportunity to explore what they think they know about the juvenile justice system and how the media portrays teen violence and criminality to them—and how much they believe it. The game can be adjusted to state law.

Game’s Goal

Teens are asked to answer 24 questions, with candy as the prize for their effort. For program providers, the game provides needed information and an opportunity to connect advice of staff with the court related consequences to youth who don’t follow the advice. Another goal of the game is to develop youths’ critical thinking skills regarding how they view each other, the dangers of involvement in certain activities, and the consequences of their actions in the light of the law. The game also helps youth understand and navigate the difference between what their legal rights may be and the reality of how the system works. The game plays out how some survival strategies employed by youth make them vulnerable to arrest, detention and incarceration.

Game Elements

The game uses interactive software that adds bells and whistles youth enjoy. Each of the 21 questions enables discussion of both the correct and the wrong answer. Each section of the game can be enhanced to add more questions that delve more deeply into conduct that can lead to arrest, suspension or expulsion from school, and long term court-involvement. Students can divide into teams and keep score, if they choose.

  1. Who is a juvenile?
  2. Interacting with the Police
  3. Did you Know This is an Offense?
  4. School Offenses
  5. How Arrest/Court Records Follow You

How to Play the Game

Typically, a juvenile defender or trained community outreach staffer with a strong understanding of the juvenile justice system, goes through each of the questions and draws in information related to each question. The questions are the skeletal structure for a long discussion about how to interact with police, with peers, and with school administrators to avoid court involvement.


Each sessions ends by asking youth, “What surprised you the most today? What did you learn that was new?” Adults working with the youth who play the game often learn a lot about the juvenile justice system that they express gratitude for being warned about. They also report that they invoke the legal realities described in the game when dealing with risk-taking behavior of youth in their charge. Which organizations have used JJJ?


Youth playing JJJ in Indianapolis

Youth playing JJJ in Indianapolis

“I had the privilege of assisting Commander Waters with presenting JJJ to a conference of Probation Officers and not only did we enjoy doing the Juvenile Justice Jeopardy [JJJ] presentation but the response was absolutely amazing. People are crying for this program and the energy of desire for JJJ was unbelievable. I have not previously team presented with Commander Waters before and the passion that both of us have for bringing this type of program to the Community could be felt throughout the audience.”

Officer Candi Perri
Indianapolis Metro Police Department

Comments Teens Have Made During JJJ Game

When I die, will my juvenile record be on my death certificate?

12 year old, Boston, MA

Is it statutory rape if you wear a condom?
15 year old, Cambridge, MA

Male police officers can’t pat frisk girls—it’s against the law.
16 year old girl, Springfield, MA

I don’t have to answer questions cops ask me, and they can’t frisk me unless I give them my permission.
16 year old, Somerville, MA

Man, you got to be careful who you hang with.
16 year old after learning about joint venture theory, Boston, MA