Two very popular elective courses are offered to juniors and seniors at DC Everest. The first is Crime & Justice which provides a basic introduction to the components of the criminal justice system. The course (we completely fill 5 sections) includes units on crime and crime statistics, law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. There is a core set of essential understandings that are included, but we also adjust the curriculum to incorporate current events. This has included a look at the massive changes in the criminal justice system after 9/11, profiling of serial and mass murders, and the role of the media and advocacy groups in criminal justice. We’ve had great discussions of current societal issues like gun control, sentencing (three strikes, truth in sentencing), and the death penalty. In addition to gaining an understanding of an important social institution, students also gain competence in statistical analysis – they learn to read charts, analyze data and understand different forms of gathering and reporting statistics by utilizing the online FBI statistics sources. These skills can be applied across all of the social sciences, but doing so in the field of crime definitely gets and keeps their attention.
A few years ago, as interest in the criminal justice course and forensic science skyrocketed, we decided to spin off a unit on forensic investigation into a full semester course. This course is very unique, especially since it’s based on the role of forensic science in the criminal justice arena, not so much on the scientific processes. We review the history of forensic investigation and then look at the CSI Effect and how it has affected police and prosecutors. It’s a very interactive course with units on observation, witnesses and the crime scene. We also explore all of the tools and techniques of forensics investigation including fingerprinting, blood spatter, ballistics, and physical evidence like hair and fibers. There are great tools online that really engage student learning like the CSI:The Experience forensic case files developed by Rice University and the interactive autopsy from the Australian museum.
Career investigation is included in both courses and I (John Muraski) hear from many DCE grads that have chosen to pursue a career in a criminal justice field, from law enforcement to law school. I see many of my former students in patrol cars and am in touch with quite a few who are currently practicing attorneys in Wisconsin.