Colorado State University has created the new Center for the Study of Crime and Justice in the university’s Department of Sociology to address the changing face of criminology and criminal justice at the state, national and international levels.
Public interest in criminology is growing, particularly with recently freed Fort Collins resident Timothy Masters. He was wrongfully convicted of the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick and served nine and a half years in prison.
"The pursuit of justice for all; victims, offenders and the larger community underlies the center’s research, education and outreach efforts," said Professor Prabha Unnithan, director of the center.
Researchers at the center will primarily study crime, policing, the courts and corrections. Strengths in the department include the analysis of environmental crime and justice; corporate and governmental deviance; and in the social factors underlying crime and violence.
Unnithan and his sociology colleagues, associate professor Paul Stretesky and assistant professors Michael Hogan and Tara O’Connor Shelley already work with a number of state and local agencies including the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Department of Public Safety and aim to strengthen these relationships within the center.
"We are committed to collaborating with criminal justice organizations to carry out research that will be useful to them while enhancing the learning opportunities for Colorado State students," said Unnithan.
Recent projects conducted by researchers include studies of gun distribution patterns among convicted felons; comparative analyses of policing in other societies; and communication training for state patrol officers to help them improve job performance. Colorado State University Extension is partnering with the new center by providing technical and training assistance to various criminal justice agencies across Colorado.
In addition to seeking research opportunities, the center promotes experiential learning by bringing students and criminal justice agencies together to work on community research projects. O’Connor Shelley, for example, is overseeing a Community Perception and Satisfaction Survey at the Longmont Police Department. The study examines how residents of Longmont perceive their interactions with the police department ranging from responses to 911 calls to detectives investigating crimes.
Student learning opportunities will also be emphasized in other ways. The center is developing a criminology and criminal justice summer program in Prague, Czech Republic.