Fifty years ago, the College of Criminal Justice began as an idea – to better train law enforcement, court and corrections officers and to use the state prison system as a research laboratory to identify causes and treatments for offenders, and to assist agencies in developing effective practices to reduce crime.
Today, as one of the oldest and largest criminal justice programs in the field, the College continues to lead the way in creating trailblazers in the discipline and putting its research into practice in a wide variety of agencies. It also is exploring new frontiers in emerging fields of forensic science, victim studies, homeland security, and biosocial criminology and utilizing new technologies to accomplish its mission.
Dr. Larry Hoover “At first, we wanted to examine crime and to see what programs might work,” said Dr. Larry Hoover, a longtime professor who chairs the 50th Anniversary Committee for the College. “Second, we are finding the programs that do work and deepening our insight into solutions. In the future, we will have an effective process to mediate crime and delinquency.”
In the Beginning
In 1965, Dr. George Beto, Director of the Texas Department of Corrections, and Dr. Arleigh Templeton, President of Sam Houston State College, successfully lobbied the Texas Legislature to establish the Institute of Contemporary Corrections and Behavioral Sciences, a program that would lead the nation in the study of criminology, corrections and behavioral research. With the appointment of the noted criminologist Dr. George Killinger as its first Director, the program exploded with courses, programs and initiatives that would make it the model it is today.
Dan Beto with photos of his father, Dr. George Beto, in the background.“He (George Beto) wanted to see a balance between academia and practitioner,” said Dan Beto, son of the founder and the first director of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at the College. “That’s what would make this place rich in its ability to deliver service to anyone touched by criminal justice system whether it’s courts, prosecutors, probation, parole, or institutions.”
50 Years of Innovation
Over the last five decades, the College has been at the forefront of the profession and scholarship in criminal justice, with influence at the local, state, national and international levels. Following are some of the highlights of the first 50 years:
- Created the longest running doctoral program in criminal justice, with more than 300 Ph.D. graduates
- Started an Interagency Workshop that assembled all components of the system to address the latest trends in crime
- Provided remote education programs that trained police and correctional officers in the communities where they worked
Built the Criminal Justice Center relying on inmates from the Texas Department of Corrections, providing job skills for offenders and savings in construction costs
- Established ongoing training programs in leadership and provided technical assistance in policing and corrections through the Correctional Management Institute of Texas and the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas
- Hosted real criminal and appellate court cases in the Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom
- Distributed an annual crime poll that measured public perception about crime
Offered one of the most comprehensive internship programs in the discipline with more than 200 agencies at all levels and in diverse aspects of the field
- Assembled library collections in criminal justice from leading scholars and practitioners in the field
- Designed a Master’s program specifically for military leaders
- Produced textbooks, journals and documentaries to teach new professionals in the field through faculty scholarship
- Created the Crime Victims’ Institute to follow trends for crime victims in Texas and recommend policy changes to the state legislature
- Introduced international study and dual degree programs for domestic and foreign students and participated in frequent exchanges between professionals in the U.S. and abroad.
- Launched a study abroad program to examine criminal justice issues and practices in other countries
- Initiated one of the only Master’s program in Forensic Science in the country and recently initiated the first forensic multi-disciplinary Ph.D. program.
- Established the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility, one of only six body farms in the nation for the study of forensic anthropology
Worked closely with the private sector field to create successful programs in security studies
- Built partnership with key agencies and organizations for scholarships, funding, training and special programming
Dr. Ryan Randa“In many respects, it is an anchor point for the field,” said Dr. Ryan Randa, one of the newest faculty members at the College. “Because it exists, many other Criminal Justice PhD programs gained the initiative to form. The field has experienced explosive growth in part because of the PhD program at SHSU.”
Over the next several months, the College will feature stories on our successes, including the people, programs and events that built one of the most well-loved and well-respected programs in criminal justice. Interim Dean Phillip Lyons summarized the meaning of the 50th Year Celebration with a simple phrase: Reflecting Backward, Looking Forward.
Dr. Phillip Lyons“We are presently balancing our celebration of the past against the construction of our future,” said Dr. Phillip Lyons, Interim Dean of the College of Criminal Justice. “It’s fitting that the seal of the College of Criminal Justice features scales because we are all about achieving and maintaining balance. We seek balance in our educational endeavors between students and professionals, undergraduates and graduates, research and practice, and service to the university, the community and the criminal justice field. Like the scales of justice themselves, the balances we strike may not be perfect, but we continue to strive toward that ideal.”