This highly interdisciplinary course combines the content and structure of a seminar with client-directed research and service learning opportunities with community partners. Students will learn background information about the Texas juvenile justice system, which has been the subject of intense legislative and media scrutiny over the last three years, and will also study selected topics in the adult criminal justice system. The instructor will partner with a few justice system stakeholder agencies and community-based advocacy organizations to identify their research needs as they prepare for the upcoming 82nd Legislative Session in Texas, which begins in January 2011. Depending upon the specific nature of these research needs, students will be assigned to work on these research projects either in teams or individually. The research tasks performed by students have the potential to directly impact reform efforts currently underway and may well form the basis for some important legislative initiatives. There will be ample opportunities in the classroom to discuss, reflect on, and get feedback and assistance on these projects.
While the community partners and the particular research projects will not be identified until the start of the semester, these projects may include research on the following subjects: juveniles in the adult criminal justice system; community-based treatment programs for juvenile offenders; prevention programs for at-risk youth; gender-specific programs for incarcerated juveniles; youth involved in both the CPS and juvenile justice systems; adult community corrections programs; re-entry programs; and cost-saving strategies for the adult prison system. If a student has an interest in a specific subject, it may be also possible to arrange a research project related to that topic. Some research projects will be qualitative while others involve quantitative analysis, and some projects will require legal as well as policy research and analysis.
Students will have the chance to observe some juvenile courtroom proceedings, and to tour the local juvenile detention facility, a Texas Youth Commission facility, and possibly an adult state prison. As relevant legislative hearings are scheduled, students will also be expected to attend these hearings to the extent possible.
This three-credit course is open to a total of 10 students, half from the LBJ School and half from the Law School, and students must have completed one year of their graduate program. Interested students are required to contact the instructor and to complete a short application
for the course in order to help match students with possible research projects. While there is no formal prerequisite for this class, preference will be given to students who have taken, or who will be concurrently enrolled in, courses in criminal justice policy or juvenile justice.