Magazine article American Jails

Staff Education and the Latin American Offender

Magazine article American Jails

Staff Education and the Latin American Offender

Article excerpt

The southwestern region of the United States continues to assimilate large numbers of Latin American immigrants, especially from Mexico, who are entering the region both legally and illegally. For the foreseeable future, it is certain that correctional personnel will continue to encounter these immigrants in their facilities (Price, Hueston, Capt, & Henderson, 2010). However, if correctional personnel are not conversant in Spanish and are not familiar with Latin American culture, will they be fully prepared for this challenge?

An academic education can play an important part in correctional work - whether an individual is just beginning a career or is advancing a career. Built around a bachelor of arts/bachelor of science degree, criminal justice/ corrections curriculums usually include a number of liberal arts subjects, such as the administration of justice, sociology, psychology, and public policy. But is it possible to incorporate cross-cultural studies into a criminal justice/corrections degree to better prepare students to oversee Mexican and other Latin American immigrants (Pickert, 1992)?

Students of corrections require a curriculum that not only educates them adequately, but also teaches them how to handle the numerous challenges that are always present in corrections work. Many liberal arts degrees include at least one course on race and ethnicity. Our proposed curriculum (see Figure 1) expands the study of cultural diversity by adding social and cultural courses as well as the study of language. The curriculum contains 42 hours of general education, 12 hours of criminal justice core courses, 24 hours of advanced criminal justice courses, 24 hours of social science courses, 14 hours of a foreign language, and 6 hours of humanities électives. In addition, an expanded Latin American element better prepares correctional personnel to manage the immigrants who enter their facilities. These additional elements appear in red and include criminal justice courses, language studies, cultural and social studies of Latin America, and a capstone course.

The proposed curriculum also contains a freshman-level introduction to law course. The curriculum could easily be expanded to include a section on the Roman civil law that dominates criminal law in Latin America. An adjustment to the criminology course allows for an optional study of criminal justice issues in Latin America, such as professional corruption and the impact of drug cartels on justice.

The bachelor of arts degree is specially adapted to increase studies in the humanities. Our proposed curriculum includes four semesters of Spanish language to equip the corrections student to communicate effectively. Humanities courses in Mexican or Latin American history and Mexican or Latin American society and culture also help increase the students' understanding of the Latin American world. …

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