The Voice: Summer 2003

The Voice

Criminal justice program is moving ahead

By: Sally Jongsma

Aspiring police officers, corrections and probation workers, prosecuting attorneys, and others can take Introduction to Criminal Justice for the first time next fall. The course is the first in a new criminal justice emphasis in the political studies department.

“The job market in the field of criminal justice is growing rapidly,” says Professor Donald King of the political studies department. Admissions counselors say interest in such positions by prospective students is also growing. In fact, Registrar Jim Bos expects to enroll at least fifteen students each year in the new program.

Planning for the criminal justice emphasis began several years ago when President Carl E. Zylstra appointed a new initiatives task force to explore new areas of study for Dordt College to consider offering. Of the suggestions offered, criminal justice and a two-year computer networking program were eventually approved.

Courses in the criminal justice emphasis will focus on the major institutions of the current criminal justice system, says King. The introductory course will examine the nature of crime, law enforcement, court, and corrections systems to understand how they operate. King expects that students in the program will be fairly evenly divided between those interested in being police officers, those who plan to work in corrections, and those who intend to go to law school with the goal of working as prosecutors.

New techniques for rehabilitating criminals and the reality of a burgeoning prison population have led to the growing demand for professionals in these areas.

“Traditional methods of dealing with law offenders have not proved to be very successful,” says King. Emphasis on restorative justice with programs that promote rehabilitation of the victim and reconciliation with their offender are increasing and demand skilled workers.

“As we learn how expensive it is to house people in high security prisons, the cost of alternative programs does not seem so high,” says King. He adds that over one-third of all state and federal inmates in the criminal justice system today are there because of drug-related crimes.

“The criminal justice system is trying to work with these offenders in ways that do not take their violation lightly, but in ways that rehabilitate them rather than dumping them in prison with career criminals,” says King. “Studies have shown that the most successful drug rehabilitation comes from long-term treatment programs, not punitive prison sentences.”

For these reasons and others, law enforcement organizations are putting more emphasis on hiring and especially promoting people who enter the profession with a college degree.

“We’ve been told that you can go to a police academy and get a job on a police force, but you aren’t likely be promoted to a leadership role without a college education,” says King. He is convinced that the interdisciplinary program recently adopted will give students a valuable and broad base of preparation for a variety of law enforcement careers.