College of Criminal Justice Time Capsule Documents Center's History

by Dr. Charles Friel, Distinguished Professor Emeritus

In 1990, at the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Sam Houston State University’s College of Criminal Justice, a time capsule was constructed to preserve the accomplishments and status of the program for future generations.
The capsule is intended to be opened and its contents reviewed at 25 year intervals, at which time materials from the immediately prior 25 year period should be added. Placed in the Time Capsule for the 1965-1990 period was a photograph album of “A Day in the Life of the Criminal Justice Center,” letters from faculty, and memorabilia of the first 25 year period.

The 1991-2015 period is represented by a second “Day in the Life” album, and descriptive material regarding the wide range of creative endeavors in teaching, service, and research implemented in the second 25 year interval.
The 2016-2040 contributions will include a third “Day in the Life” album as well the 50th Anniversary of the CJ Mandate alumni newsletter, reflecting the people, programs and events that have made the College a success. It also includes quotes from alumni and the profound life lessons they took away from this institution.

The time capsule is made of Honduran mahogany. It was built by Ben Pruitt, Wood Working Instructor at the Windham Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice—Institutional Division. The 25h Anniversary sculpture was completed by Charles Pebworth, then a faculty member of the SHSU Art Department. Pebworth used a variety of materials in the sculpture: sheet aluminum, copper, brass, silver, lead, steel, stone, turquoise, slate from the old San Jacinto High School in Houston, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, agate from India, bone from Rhode Island, and petrified wood from Huntsville, Texas.

The 50th Anniversary sculpture was contributed by Lynda McCready, a retired teacher and artist who works in pottery. The 16x16 tile, made of raku and various glazes, depicts a stand of bamboo, which is significant both for the College and the criminal justice field. The site of the Criminal Justice Center was originally a stand of bamboo trees. Bamboo is also a strong, yet flexible wood, representing the strength of the criminal justice system, yet the willingness to bend and make changes when needed. Accordingly, it is often used to depict the flexible structure of justice in many Asian cultures. “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” – Bruce Lee

The Criminal Justice Time Capsule, balanced atop a stylized Scale of Justice, contains four panels, each representing changes during a 25 year era. Like all fine art, the symbolism of each quartile of a century is open to individual interpretation. That noted, one interpretation of the panels’ representation of the intellectual pursuit for a pragmatic understanding of crime is:

1965-1990—A search for empirical comprehension of crime and crime prevention begins.

1991-2015—Embryonic understanding of a range of harmful behaviors develops.

?2016-2040—Insight regarding effective intervention begins to guide policy.

2041-2065—A matured understanding of crime progenitors merges with interventions.

Regardless of the specifics of interpretation, the time capsule and its sculptures symbolize the University’s commitment to the search for amelioration of the tragedy of crime.

Member of The Texas State University System