SRU Students Bring Back Ideas After Visiting England’s Criminal Justice System

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This summer, as part of their course in Comparative Criminal Justice, a group of ten SRU students traveled to London, England, to study components of the city’s criminal justice system. This included meeting with a police officer, visiting a prison, touring Parliament, and watching a criminal trial. Led by Kerry Edwards, assistant professor of the Criminology and Criminal Justice department, each student learned unique criminal justice methods and practices.

Cynthia Rush, a junior Criminology and Criminal Justice major, looked back on her time in London. “It was an amazing experience. England’s prisons have great rehabilitation programs, that could be useful in the USA based on recidivism rates. It was life changing and a trip I will never forget.”

Students making the trip were:

  • Chase Fortunato, a sophomore Criminology and Criminal Justice major from Hookstown.
  • Michael Hepler, a senior Criminology and Criminal Justice major from West Sunbury.
  • Melinda Johnson, a senior Criminology and Criminal Justice major from Sandy Lake.
  • Malachiah Koehler, a senior Criminology and Criminal Justice major from Slippery Rock.
  • Melissa Kulp, a junior Criminology and Criminal Justice major from Grove City.
  • Kaylee Noah, a senior Social Work major from Slippery Rock.
  • Cynthia Rush, a junior Criminology and Criminal Justice major from Bentleyville.
  • Miranda Schimp, a senior Criminology and Criminal Justice major from Mercer.
  • Haley Windhorst, a junior Criminology and Criminal Justice major from New Castle.
  • Nicholas Yackovich, a 2019 graduate with a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Harrison City.

These students look forward to exploring these unique approaches in their studies and to applying their broadened knowledge in criminal justice techniques after graduating and possibly in their careers.

The class also enjoyed many cultural and fun activities, such as attending a London Symphony performance, visiting castles, and cruising along the River Thames. They shared with London that “Yes, there is a Slippery Rock University.” 

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K9 Partners in Crime

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On April 24, 2019, SRU’s CRIM Club hosted a police K9 visit. About two dozen students attended the K9 demonstration. Officer Frampton and Officer Staples, from the Hermitage Police Department, brought Officer Frampton’s K9 partner, Willem, to SRU to show off his skills. The event included Willem locating contraband, responding to commands, and receiving some petting. Officers Frampton and Staples also discussed K9 training and utilization, as well as related laws. The event was a howling success!

Off to a Conference! In Baltimore!

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Two seniors had the opportunity to accompany Dr. Sarah Kuehn to the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Annual (ACJS) Meeting from March 26th to March 30th. Beth Stumpf, a Criminology major and Social Work minor and Criminology major and Professional Spanish minor, Madison Franc, were able to see the 56th annual conference, in Baltimore, Maryland. This year’s theme was “Justice, Human Rights, and Activism.”
At the conference, Dr. Kuehn was able to present her work, and the trio attended panels, workshops, research presentations. Topics ranged from media and crime to ways to improve reintegration for inmates to building trauma-responsive organizations, and much more. A full list of events can be found at https://event.crowdcompass.com/acjs56th/custom-list/U2NoZWR1bGU%3D?title=Schedule%20of%20Events. Tours of the Baltimore City’s Police Headquarters and of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office were also available.
Dr. Kuehn was also able to introduce Stumf and Franc to quite a few professionals in the field. In particular, as pictured above, Franc was able to meet Alex Piquero, a famous professor and criminologist, who has published more than 400 articles and several books. Additionally, the trio is pictured with Chris Wilson, who was a keynote speaker at the event. Wilson is the author of “The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose”, which Dr. Kuehn is holding in the image.

Renewing Their Love of CCJ Opportunities With Renewal, Inc

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On March 20, 2019, the CRIM Club at SRU hosted a visit from Renewal, Inc., a non-profit organization. The representatives spoke about the residential and non-residential services they provide in the community corrections field, including transitional services for persons released from prison, services for persons under supervision, and outpatient services. These services include work release, drug & alcohol treatment, mental health, support services, workforce development, family support, and community service. They also discussed job duties and job opportunities. The CRIM students really enjoyed the event! It was extra meaningful because one of the representatives, Richard Shenk, graduated from SRU in 2008 with his B.A. in Criminology & Criminal Justice.

To learn more about CRIM Club, go to their next meeting on April 2nd at 12:30 in Spotts Rm 100!

SCI Mercer Holds First “Inside-Out” Class In Conjunction With Slippery Rock University: SRU Students Tour the Facility

By: Andrea Shiock, Corrections Superintendent Assistant

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On March 6, Dr. Sarah Kuehn, Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Slippery Rock University (SRU), and 11 of her students taking the Criminology Inside-Out Prison class participated in a tour of SCI Mercer. Corrections Superintendent Assistant Andrea Shiock led the tour with the assistance of Lt. Jon Jarzenske, who both fielded many questions from the group.

The Inside-Out class is structured to bring together “inside” students (incarcerated individuals) with “outside” students (SRU students) to study and collaborate on academic projects. According to the course syllabus, the class is designed to provide students with a broad social psychological understanding of both the effects of crime on community structures and the challenges the criminal justice system faces in responding to crime in our contemporary society.

As part of the class and in an effort to learn more about the institution and the services available to the inmate population, the students toured the facility to see firsthand the prison environment under which the “inside” students live. As students in the Inside-Out course have an interest in working in the criminal justice system, having the opportunity to see the facility, along with the services and programs available to the incarcerated students in the program, is invaluable to their educational experience.

Despite the frigid winter weather, the group had the opportunity to tour the Veterans Service Unit, the Therapeutic Community, in addition to the reception unit, the education department, and the library. Staff who work in these areas gave the students an overview of what they do on a daily basis and answered numerous questions posed by the students.

Schools/colleges interested in touring SCI Mercer as part of their curriculum may contact Ms. Shiock to make arrangements.

Detained in the Police Department?! Oh, DETAILS about a Police Department!

Dr. Kerry Edwards was “excited” to tour a police department on November 16th with fifteen Criminology and Criminal Justice (CRIM), students. The New Castle Police Department graciously hosted Criminology Club members and additional CRIM students. The CRIM group braved the cold & snow and arrived at the station ready to learn all the details about what happens behind-the-scenes at a local police station. During the tour, the students were able to speak with almost a dozen officers, spanning from Patrol Officers to Detectives to Supervisors to the Lieutenant and Chief. This interactive discussion helped students understand the types and amount of cases that officers handle as they combat current issues in the community. “I was surprised by the number of cases that their station’s drug enforcement team had at one time,” shared Zachary Smith, a senior CRIM major and Homeland Security minor. “They had over like 20 cases at one time, which really shocked me.” A slew of “Have you ever…?” questions from the students allowed officers to share their own experiences in the field.

The tour and discussion included several areas of policing, including narcotics, juvenile, and investigation units. The students were also shown many of the technical items and tools that police use when engaging in surveillance, serving warrants, and performing forensics tests. Nicholas Yackovich, a junior CRIM major, really enjoyed “seeing everything [he] had learned in the classroom come together full circle.” In the classroom, CRIM majors learn about the functions and roles of various policing positions and strategies that can be used in different situations. Yachovich continued, “The most valuable information we could learn about is what strategies are and aren’t working in the field…Now, when we get internships or begin working, we can hit the ground running with this new background knowledge.”

Due to the fact that Dr. Edwards prohibited students from taking their phones and personal technology inside because of the station’s active investigations, taking a group photo completely slipped their minds amidst the snowfall as they left. (Pictures featured above can be found with more information at http://newcastlepd.com/.) However, in place of a picture that speaks a thousand words, Smith captured the trip in just an important few: If he doesn’t go into the State Police, he shared, “I want to go into the local police around my town. So, I would say that it definitely showed me a replica of what I want my career to look like. I really enjoyed the trip and getting to hear from different professionals in the career I want to go into.”

The Criminology & Criminal Justice Department and the Criminology Club look forward to hosting more events like this in upcoming semesters. For example, earlier in the semester, the club hosted a lecture by a specialty law enforcement officer with the PA Fish & Boat Commission, Bureau of Law Enforcement. If you are interested in more information or want to learn more about the CRIM Department or the Criminology Club, feel free to head to their office on the second floor of Spotts World Culture Building, message them through CORE, or email the CRIM Club President, Emily Thompson, at eat1008@sru.edu.

“Why Do Criminology Students Choose Their Major?”

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From Dec 14-17, 2018, Drs. Rebecca Ridener, Jeffrey Roth, and Sarah Kuehn accompanied students Lauren Fedorek, a senior Criminology and Criminal Justice major (CRIM), and Sarah Hess, a dual Psychology and Criminology and Criminal Justice major, to the largest criminology conference in the country. The American Society of Criminology annual meeting was held in Atlanta, Georgia this year, and hosted over 2,500 students and professionals in the field. Dr. Kuehn explained that this “unbelievably big” conference runs from 8 am to 5 pm each day, with many session running simultaneously so that attendees have the opportunity to pick and choose according to their interest areas.

While Dr. Roth presented his work on “Student Performance and Satisfaction in Video-Conference and Resident Courses,” Dr. Kuehn was able to present the work she, Dr. Ridener, Hess, and Fedorek have been working on since last fall on “Why Do Criminology Students Choose Their Major.” The latter study was based on a prior study in 2017, which had shown a “liberalization effect” (i.e., students becoming more politically liberal and wanting to punish offender less harshly over their college careers (their level of punitiveness)). CRIM majors, however, seemed to have started off with a pre-set mind-set and CRIM classes did not have an impact on their views. If it is not an educational effect driving students’ levels of punitiveness, the team wondered if CRIM majors had “self-selected” themselves into the major based on their personal belief systems. This led the team to survey over 500 freshmen in different majors within the first few weeks of the Fall 2017 semester. With questions on demographics, political views, personality traits, interest areas, favorite TV shows, parental demographics, and more, the surveys would help complete the picture of why CRIM majors choose their fields versus other majors and their respective fields. Fedorek and Hess, both sponsored by a SRU Student Faculty Research Grant, were able to assist the process by conducting literature reviews, collecting data, and completing data entry into the SPSS program.

Over the summer, the team was able to begin assessing the survey results. Not surprisingly, they found that CRIM majors and non-majors all choose their fields based on their interests in the subject, career advancement opportunities, their skill in the subject matter, and so on. However, they found that CRIM majors are much more interested in the subject matter comparatively and much less affected by high school experiences. CRIM majors were shown to watch more crime shows, as well. Yet, some of the most interesting findings from the surveys were how much CRIM majors differ from non-majors in regard to personality traits. Looking at extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness, CRIM majors exhibited increased conscientiousness (which is described as being more efficient and organized, self-disciplined and dependable) and decreased neuroticism (i.e., they tend to be more calm, emotionally stable, and have a lower vulnerability to stress), revealing characteristics which Dr. Kuehn views as “very well-fitting for their career choice in policing and corrections.”

In addition to attending many sessions at the conference, Fedorek and Hess were able to spend some time sightseeing in Atlanta with Dr. Ridener and Dr. Kuehn. Dr. Ridener shared, “It was a great experience for our students and they really seemed to enjoy attending the different panels.” Her favorite part of the conference was meeting a well-known criminologist, Freda Adler, who “was incredibly modest considering how impactful she has been in the field of criminology.” Fedorek agreed, sharing, “It was amazing to be in an environment in which there were so many criminology professionals. My favorite part of the conference was a roundtable Sarah Hess and I attended that discussed issues of reform of the system looking at it from the perspectives of reformists vs. abolitionists. The roundtable included formerly incarcerated persons who were pursuing their doctorate degrees or already had one. It was a new perspective, as many times the stories of the formerly incarcerated go unheard. It was interesting to hear how their experiences in the system shaped who they are and the work they do now.”