The field of criminal justice as an academic area of study is a relatively recent development in higher education. In fact, the concept of “criminal justice” emerged only in the late 1960s with the publication of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice (1967). In the early 1970s, RIT established a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in response to the growing demand for criminal justice education. Thus, given the nascent field of criminal justice education, the RIT program is relatively well-established and mature.
There are many approaches to criminal justice education in the United States, ranging from very practitioner-oriented programs designed to train students for a job in law enforcement to liberal arts-based programs designed to educate students about issues of crime and society within a framework emphasizing theory and research. Others focus on producing criminal justice managers with coursework revolving around public administration and organizational theory. Still others emphasize legal and normative approaches to the study of crime and justice.
The Department of Criminal Justice is firmly grounded in the educational model of criminal justice which emphasizes the social scientific study of crime and criminal justice. Exposure to theory and research are the foundations of such an approach. Our students not only consume what theory and research tells us about crime and justice, they are also encouraged to be active participants in the process by which knowledge is created and disseminated. A variety of opportunities exist for our students to engage in active research projects and to present the results of that research.
Criminal justice education at RIT is characterized by its focus on study of the dynamic interplay between law, community, and technology. We believe that a solid contemporary education in criminal justice is well supported by such a focus, which is quite rare in this field of study.
All students are exposed to a critical examination of the law and its origins, the fundamental conflicts embedded within the law, and the consequences of law for differing groups of people in society. The “law in action” is as emphasized as is the “law on the books.” How law helps promote civil life in an ordered society is addressed throughout the curriculum.
Further, one cannot hope to understand crime or reactions to crime without understanding the community contexts in which such behaviors occur. Despite the increasing federalization of crime policy and global underpinnings of criminal behavior, crime and justice system responses are primarily shaped by local forces. Accordingly, the understanding of such forces is featured within our program of study, which emphasis placed on teaching our students community-based problem solving skills.
Finally, the RIT curriculum has a focus on technology studies. Technology impacts all aspects of modern life, including crime and how we respond to crime. Technological developments simultaneously impede and promote the emergence of safer communities, and clearly have dramatic implications for the balance between security and liberty. Our students are encouraged to systematically explore the role of technology in crime and justice.
Throughout a student’s experience within RIT’s Department of Criminal Justice, a humanistic and normative orientation which raises basic questions about crime and justice in a democratic society that is simultaneously protective of the safety and rights of its citizens is featured.