Taking Experiential Learning to Court

By Kim Charbonneau

In the spring 2016 semester, the Criminal Justice Management Department introduced a new experiential course in conjunction with the Worcester County Sheriff’s office: CJM 470: Southern New England Drug Courts and Recidivism.

The class came to fruition based on a referral to meet with Worcester County Regional Resource Director, Byron Titus. After meeting with Mr. Titus, we decided to create a class around this amazing opportunity. Coordinating efforts with Allison McDowell-Smith, we developed the course by tapping into each other’s strengths and the result is a course syllabus that addresses quantitative and qualitative research.

Students are studying a group of drug court participants and through coding, surveys, and statistical analysis using SPSS, will provide results to the Sheriff’s office for further study and grant funding. In addition, the class will be off-campus approximately four evenings to conduct qualitative research with inmates in both the Shirley, MA and Framingham, MA prisons.

We will present our findings in April to Dudley District Court Judge Timothy M. Bibaud, Chief Probation Officer Nilza Sylvestre, Program Director Byron Titus, and Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis.

It is exciting to offer our students this type of experiential learning opportunity, which is so vital to the learning process. Students who learn outside of traditional classroom settings are better equipped to carry those experiences into the industry and be informed practitioners. This class also gives the students an opportunity to understand first-hand the many challenges that face not only criminal justice practitioners but those who experience the challenges of incarceration and addiction.

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