By Kyra Smith-Cullen
October 4th, 2012
Criminal Justice majors traveled to a local correctional facility on Wednesday to practice their Spanish speaking skills as part of a course offered by Lock Haven University.
The course, titled “Spanish for Criminal Justice,” is being offered for the first time in the university’s history and is targeted specifically to that major.
“Many students wonder why they are taking a class and how it will be useful for them in the future, once they leave Lock Haven,” said Eduardo Valerio, a Spanish professor and the instructor for the new class. “But the benefits of this course are clear and they can see the effects of their studies.”
As part of the class, students are becoming more involved with the Hispanic community that they would be working with by visiting the Clinton County Correctional Facility in Lock Haven’s neighbor McElhatten and interviewing inmates there, as well as roleplaying to practice the phrases that they will need in order to arrest and question suspects. The inmates are all volunteers
“The prisoners want to help and give back to the community,” said Valerio.
As of 2009, the United States Department of Justice reports that there are approximately 124,000 inmates of Hispanic or Latino heritage currently held in federal prisons across the nation, meaning they represent around 16 percent of the total incarcerated population. Meaning, unfortunately, that very few police officers or those with similar careers will have contact with Hispanic suspects.
Criminal Justice majors are not the only students who will be finding these skills necessary for their careers, but they are currently the only field that is developing foreign language abilities in such a targeted manner. In the future, Valerio hopes that the university will offer more courses that are specifically designed for particular careers.
“We want the students to leave Lock Haven University with tools that will help them in their journey and allow them to succeed,” Valerio said “and classes like this will be extremely useful.”