New Vision: Criminal Justice Education for Students

By Wilson, Charles N. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, March 1997 | Go to article overview

New Vision: Criminal Justice Education for Students


Wilson, Charles N., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


In the fall of 1990, a committee of educators in central New York State developed an innovative model to enhance the senior-year experience for area high school students. Unlike traditional occupational programs, this new model would be neither job-specific nor college-preparatory in nature. Rather, it would provide a comprehensive overview of a wide band of career tracks within a chosen profession.

The educators designed curricula for three different career paths - allied health, business management, and criminal justice. In September of the following year, the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Board of Cooperative Education Services launched the New Vision Criminal Justice Program, the first career training program of its type in the country.

THE PROGRAM

The New Vision Criminal Justice Program is an interdisciplinary immersion model that takes high school seniors out of the traditional school setting and places them in the working world. It is designed to provide high school students with an enhanced understanding of the criminal justice system and law enforcement.

Traditionally, law enforcement career development programs rely on sending officers into the high schools. The New Vision program takes the opposite approach; it brings the school to the law enforcement setting, where participating students spend the majority of their senior year.

New Vision Classroom

Through an agreement with the participating school districts, the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) donated office space in its downtown Syracuse headquarters to serve as the New Vision classroom. In addition to attending regular classes at OCSD headquarters, students spend portions of selected days in city, county, and federal courts, the district and U.S. attorney's offices, the local FBI office, the Syracuse Police Department, the Onondaga County Department of Probation, and the offices of a variety of other criminal justice service providers. Students observe major trials, attend public safety hearings, and participate in a broad spectrum of other activities that cannot be replicated in a traditional classroom setting.

The New Vision Model

New Vision instructors attempt to reinforce and expand upon the educational background the seniors bring to the program by assigning projects that require them to synthesize data from various disciplines and relate the information to everyday life. In recent class reports, for instance, students were asked to compare and contrast community-versus-institutional corrections and to defend a position in a debate over whether crime causes poverty or poverty causes crime. These issues, like so many aspects of social science and criminal justice, provide the students with ample opportunities to explore budgetary and financial matters, as well as how the legislative, executive, and judicial branches approach such topics.

The New Vision curriculum relies on an integrated approach to classroom instruction but is flexible enough so that regular adjustments do not infringe on the program's effectiveness. Focal points of the curriculum extend to basic criminological theory, as well as in-depth study of the law enforcement function and the judicial and legislative branches of government. The curriculum also covers corrections, general security and private investigations, the coordination between a variety of human service providers, and a series of special topics that impact the criminal justice system as a whole.

The program coordinator generally schedules coverage of these special topics toward the end of the school year, after students have received appropriate exposure to the enforcement, judicial, and correctional aspects of the system. These special topics range from the death penalty, to the war on drugs, to privatization, and other contemporary law enforcement issues.

In addition, more than 60 guest speakers are invited to address the class during the school year. …

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