Saturday, July 13, 2024

Ex-inmates play role in UC criminal justice curriculum

The University of Canterbury (UC) is transforming its approach to criminal justice education by including real-life situations into the curriculum.  

The course, designed by Faculty of Law Associate Professor Helen Farley, explores critical aspects such as policy decision-making, victimisation, the court system, sentencing structures, and life after prison.

Students are gaining a realistic understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system by following the lives of fictional characters Chris and Jimmy.

By engaging with these real life scenarios, students can better appreciate the human element behind criminal justice processes, said Associate Professor Farley.

“We use the narrative to create the direction and flow of the course,” she says.

“The curriculum challenges students to consider pivotal questions, such as: ‘What could have happened at any step of the way to keep Chris and Jimmy out of prison?’” 

What makes the approach impactful is the collaboration with a theatre company that employs actors who have been in prison, she says. 

“These actors bring authenticity to their roles, sharing personal stories of family concerns and remorse over past mistakes. It helps our students understand that criminal justice involves real people, not just abstract ideas.”

“Our Introduction to Criminal Justice provides a thorough understanding of how the system and restorative justice fit into the broader picture.”

The programme includes practical learning opportunities, such as interactions with justice agencies at the Justice Precinct Te Omeka.

Associate Professor Farley said students can also participate in breakout sessions with industry professionals, gaining invaluable insights into specific jobs and career advice.

UC also offers distance learning options and an online Certificate of Criminal Justice.

“Our online programme is a mix of people who are unable to attend campus, single parents and working professionals. Our Māori participation rate is much higher compared to our face-to-face class at 45%.” 

Collaborating with criminal justice agencies such as the Department of Corrections, Ministry of Justice, and the Police ensures the UC programme meets industry standards.

“The agencies provide scrutiny and input to ensure graduates are well-prepared for employment in the sector. Annual Board of Studies meetings in Wellington will facilitate this high-level involvement.”

“We are preparing our students for the workforce by involving justice agencies directly in our curriculum. They are excited to participate and are instrumental in internship and job opportunities for our students—they need a smart, skilled workforce, and we are committed to providing just that,” said Assoc Professor Farley.

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