Mike Adams

Hello students! Welcome back to UNC-Wilmington for another semester. My name is Dr. Adams and I’ll be your professor until May. I’ve prepared a handout for you explaining your one (and only) out-of-class assignment for the spring semester.

During the course of the semester, you will be asked to make at least three trips down to 4th and Princess, which is the home of our local county courthouse. Of course, given the tendency of UNC-Wilmington students to drink and drive, several of you will be making more than your share of trips to the county courthouse. But let’s not deal with that unpleasantness now.

After your court visitation experience, you’ll be asked a series of questions designed to help address this semester’s principal question: Is the criminal justice system really broken?

First off, you’ll need directions to the courthouse, assuming you haven’t yet been arrested in your time here in the Port City. From campus, all you have to do is follow Market Street all the way down to 4th Street. Take a right and stop when you see a bunch of nervous people standing outside a big building chain-smoking cigarettes. That’s the county courthouse.

Before you enter the courthouse, I have a few questions for you to answer:

1. On your way down Market Street, did you see anyone using illicit drugs?

Note: Keep your eyes peeled when you get around thirty blocks from the courthouse. Many people believe that heroin use is confined to only the first fifteen blocks of downtown Wilmington. That isn’t true. Dr. Adams saw a man injecting himself with a dose of heroin while leaning on a telephone pole around the 30th block last summer.

2. What can the criminal justice system do when people are seen shooting up heroin in public and no one calls the police? (Dr. Adams started carrying a cell phone shortly after witnessing the public injection).

3. Walk across the street to the little park facing the courthouse. Take a look around. Do you see any crack vials or marijuana cigarette butts on the ground?

4. Take the time to interview some people who are smoking outside the courthouse. Ask them why they are there. Do you detect the smell of alcohol on anyone’s breath? Is anyone actually smoking a joint while waiting on his court appearance?

5. If you see someone talking on a cell phone, do your best to eavesdrop. Is anyone actually making a drug deal while waiting on his court appearance?

After you have answered these initial questions, proceed to the courthouse and take the elevator to either the third or fourth floor. Quietly go into one of the courtrooms without your cell phone and think about the following questions as you take notes:

Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.