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This year, hundreds of articles will be published about the United States’ criminal justice system. Addressing much-needed changes, these stories will emphasize the increasing rate of incarceration and the failed rehabilitation of America’s criminal population. Underneath these topic points, the foundation of the essays will be the need of the U.S. to fundamentally reform its draconian philosophy on crime.

When faced with the alarming statistics our justice system has produced in recent years, these are not hard predictions to make.

criminal_justice_quoteAccording to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of the end of 2010, nearly 7.3 million Americans are either on probation, in prison or on parole — 3.1 percent of all U.S. adult residents, or one in every 31 adults. A little more than 25 years ago, the rate was one in 77.

While federal, state and local governments throw billions of dollars at this problem, St. Joseph’s College is looking to its students — the future litigators, crime analysts, counselors and policing officials — to make a difference. And it’s looking to accomplish this through a newly expanded criminal justice major, led by some of the most progressive professionals in the region.

Criminal justice has been offered as a major to undergraduates on both the Long Island and Brooklyn campuses since 2006. The recent addition of two new tracks on the Long Island Campus (Community Corrections, and Technology and the Criminal Justice System) will now give students an advanced understanding of the subject matter.

Professor Barbara Morrell, Ph.D., hopes the new tracks will help students stay ahead of the curve in an evolving field. An SJC faculty member for over 30 years, Dr. Morrell spearheaded the writing of the criminal justice major and its tracks, and is engrained in the future development of the major.

“I can make you a critical thinker, and that’s what we’re trying to do. Critical thinking develops leaders among people and you won’t become obsolete,” Dr. Morrell says. “You’ll have the capacities and the thinking skills and, hopefully, the ambition to adapt to a changing job market.”

The criminal justice core at SJC is indeed focused on preparing graduates to lead in this developing field. With the three original tracks of study (Law and Justice, Juvenile Justice and Mental Health), students are receiving hands-on instruction about courts and correctional systems, philosophies of punishment and rehabilitation, and various approaches to understanding and explaining crime.

“I know we’re on the cutting edge, and we want to be,” Dr. Morrell continues. “St. Joseph’s is a creative place to work. How many people can go to work, do something creative, teach their specialties and be excited about it?”

Starting next fall, thanks to the dedication of Dr. Morrell and groundbreaking professors such as Elenice de-Souza Oliveira, Ph.D., and Robert Goldman, J.D., Psy.D., criminal justice students on the Long Island Campus will receive instruction on the use of technology, crime analysis and problem-solving techniques in preventing and controlling crime — factors that are playing a vital role in the progress of the criminal justice field.

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The new track of technology and criminal justice offers students a valuable opportunity to use hands-on techniques and apply fundamental concepts of criminal justice and criminology to analyze crime data, investigate crime settings and evaluate strategies. Dr. Oliveira, an expert criminologist who has used innovative techniques to investigate crime in her native Brazil, will help students develop individual analytical and critical thinking to become problem solvers in the vast and challenging field of criminal justice and criminology.

“We must understand how and why crime happens,” Dr. Oliveira says. “We need more analysts to use computer-based techniques and information technology to conduct applied research and evaluate the effectiveness of policies and alternative strategies, rather than continue to replicate the traditional method of standard incarceration. We need to change.”

Dr. Oliveira stresses the main role of the criminal justice professionals is to predict and prevent crime, rather than to simply react to it. In years past, public data wasn’t as easily accessible; now, in the era of technology, professionals are taking advantage of this by developing and combining valuable informational sources in order to protect the public and improve safety.

“There is a big demand for crime and policy analysts,” Dr. Oliveira says. “Because rather than use force, we need to use intelligence. We need to improve the efficiency of criminal justice agencies … and we need to train our students to develop their critical and analytical thinking in order to better understand how and why crime occurs and how to prevent it through innovative ways.”

Long-range patterns anticipate crime with optimal results. St. Joseph’s criminal justice graduates with a better understanding of technology and the system will enter their professional fields with knowledge of how to stop and prevent criminal offenses.

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Criminal justice students at St. Joseph’s College who choose the Community Corrections track typically are interested in entering the fields of probation and parole, or community re-entry. “And that’s what community corrections is all about,” Dr. Robert Goldman says.

A former criminal defense attorney and current supervising psychologist for probation, Dr. Goldman brings years of experience from both the courtroom and local communities to St. Joseph’s College’s classrooms.

Desiring to learn more about the decisions juveniles make, Dr. Goldman transitioned from lawyer to psychologist, earning his Psy.D. from Hofstra University, and from psychologist to community corrections advocate.

“From the point of view as a psychologist,” Dr. Goldman says, “I realized if people don’t see the true impact that their acts have upon a victim then they’re just going to continue, because they’re not able to have empathy for their victim.”

Emphasizing the importance of empowering the community to have a say, the Community Corrections track teaches students how to build relationships between criminals, victims and local neighborhoods. Making sure that the person who committed the crime is part of the solution, the underlying belief of the new track is that the value of rehabilitation is equally, if not more, valuable a measure taken to prevent crime.

This credo is reflected in the new track’s four courses: Restorative Justice, Community Correctional Alternatives, Correctional Rehabilitation and Re-entry, and Women and Crime.

“If we don’t nip it in the bud, kids who feel victimized and who have been victimized take out their victimization on community and society,” Dr. Goldman continues. “To look at crime from a perspective of that it impacts the community as a whole will make our students better police officers, better probation officers, counselors and, hopefully, people in general.

“Restorative justice is not just an intervention, it’s a philosophy. It’s a way you look at life.”

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Finally, for Joseph Pascarella, Ph.D., the expanded tracks will be a welcome addition to the Brooklyn Campus’ criminal justice degree when they arrive (2013 for the Technology and the Criminal Justice System track and 2014 for the Community Corrections track).

Brooklyn, a multicultural hub, will serve as an ideal setting to teach the many techniques relevant to the major. Dr. Pascarella himself serves as an additional perk. A retired NYPD captain, Dr. Pascarella brings 20 years of policing experience to the classroom. He retired in 2009, the same year he joined the St. Joseph’s College criminal justice faculty full time.

“Crime has changed significantly in the past generation,” Dr. Pascarella says. “It’s important to bring in new tracks that are affecting the job market. There’s a big market for corrections and a need for technology in the field.

“Criminal justice professionals are much more accountable now to do a better job. They’re forced to use technology in different ways, to innovate and, most importantly, to learn.”

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