Criminology USA trip 2016: San Fransisco

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Today we all visited the Public Defenders Office in San Francisco. We were shown around the office building by one of the attorneys who worked there. We went into one the office rooms where we were shown a PowerPoint presentation which consisted of information about the American criminal justice system, e.g. the jury selection process and the different amendments. We were told how San Francisco are different to some other states in America because they have an office building specifically for Public Defenders and Paralegals, whereas in some other states they are employed independently.

In the afternoon we then went over to the Hall of Justice which is a courthouse. We first sat in a preliminary hearing where we saw a defendant plead guilty to 2nd degree burglary. We then went into another court room where we saw a defence attorney cross-examining her client, and this case had a 12 people jury present. After lunch we had the opportunity to speak with a judge from the Hall of Justice, he spoke to us about some of the work he had done and a new programme that they are starting which involves young adults (18-25 years old).

After each activity we had the chance to ask questions whilst making comparisons to the American and UK criminal justice system.

Overall, the whole day was very enjoyable and a great experience to be apart of. I would recommend this trip to any future students who are offered the opportunity!



LLM – Visit to the International Criminal Court, The Hague

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LLM students on the Transnational Criminal Law and International Human Rights pathways recently visited the International Criminal Court in the Hague and met with legal officers from the Office of Public Counsel for Victims. This gave them a unique insight into the role of victims in the prosecution of international crimes before the ICC.

The trip to Hague offered me the unique opportunity to place myself within the ‘geographical realm’ of the real world of Law and Human rights. it offered me a practical depth of the real challenge in promoting human rights and advancing the course of humanity.”

– LLM student Prince Pius Micah

The visit to the  ICC showed “a greater understanding of the workings within the ICC, from the organisation of the Court to the proceedings…… its four organs: the three Chambers for the Pre-Trial, Trial and Appeal, the Registry… the Prosecutors’ Office… in addition to the Office of the Public Council for Victims.”

– LLM student Martin Weston

The brief period spent interacting with staff at the ICC enlightened me on the three core structural processes in Investigating, Pre-trial and Trial of crimes against Humanity. The knowledge acquired on the extent of Victim participation in trial process is also phenomenal.”

– LLM student Prince Pius Micah

Students also visited the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, which was created to prosecute high level political and military leaders alleged to have committed international crimes during the internal civil war in Yugoslavia. Students had the opportunity to meet with legal counsel from the Office of the Prosecutor and the different chambers of the court, to gain an insight into the challenges associated with investigating and prosecuting international crimes.

The core mandate of the ICTY and the composition of the court has always been an issue that baffled my understanding till I made the trip. The clarity on the retroactive non-application of the laws in the court, the broader view and conceptualization of the term ‘genocide’ (defining genocide beyond ‘death’) were all key gains to my academic knowledge from this trip. “

– LLM student Prince Pius Micah

The visit to the ICTY allowed me to see the room in which the leaders responsible for the crimes in former Yugoslavia were tried, in addition to providing a detailed background into the crimes committed by some of those leaders and the outcomes of the trials.”

– LLM student Martin Weston

The ICTY for instance, has rounded up the last of the perpetrators of the war in the then Yugoslavia and we got full insight into procedures and how their trial is actually carried out, we met with people actually involved in this process and I even got a few points for my coursework! I found myself contributing, asking questions and it was a good feeling to know I knew more than I thought I did.

– LLM student Enenu Okwori

This trip has contributed to my studies and it has definitely opened my eyes as to another sector of the law. I hope to at some point in the future take an internship at either the ICC or ICTY or at least shadow one of the individuals that took time out of their work day to talk to us.”

– LLB student Zoe- Selemane- Kiangale


Public Defenders Office, LA.

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The group met with Mark Jacobs who is a Public Attorney and defends those who have been accused of committing a crime, he strives to give those who cannot afford their own attorney the same quality and professionalism as though he was a private attorney.

We discussed the differences between the court systems, including jury selection and how if members of the jury showed signs of unconscious bias then they were dismissed. Mark Jacobs also talked about referral documents to the courts, i.e. an Information or Complaint.

Subpoenas were also mentioned and are when someone is summoned to court to testify or give evidence in a case; the person to testify must appear in court or they will face punishment themselves.

Overall he gave a very interesting and detailed overview of the U.S. criminal justice system in general but particularly of the selection process for jury panels to eliminate any possible prejudice that will affect their judgement of the case.

 Sent by Beth Adams.

photo 1

San Quentin Prison

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photo 2San Quentin State Prison is the oldest correctional facility in California, currently housing around 3,800 inmates. This is the only prison housing death row inmates in the state, though the last execution by lethal injection took place around 2005. The group met with Lieutenant Sam Robinson, whom with many years of experience including 10 years working on death row had extensive knowledge of the prison and its history.

He was extremely open regarding his experiences of the prison and the inmates; this was particularly helpful when asking the several questions the group had about a range of topics. Once cleared by security, we entered into a large open space surrounded by several buildings, to the left was the unit housing the most dangerous of offenders, the death row inmates, Lt. Robinson named just a few well-known death row inmates at the facility. To the right was the church opening its doors to all religions from Rastafarian to Catholic, as the only religious building in the prison, it was described as a place everyone could come together.

Lt. Robinson then introduced the group to six current inmates of the prison varying in age and background, these particular inmates were all serving life sentences for varying crimes. They were also very open and honest when sharing with us their varying experiences not only of San Quentin itself, but also of the American Criminal Justice System throughout their lives; from as early as juvenile court and juvenile correctional facilities.

The inmates praised the work being implemented at San Quentin, particularly the programmes provided in order for prisoners to better themselves whilst serving their sentences, the programmes within the prison range from parenting classes to lessons in reading and writing with the aim to aid inmates when released back into the community, with the hope of reducing the chance of recidivism. Hearing of the varying experiences and thoughts of the six life prisoners at San Quentin provided each individual within the group with invaluable knowledge and certainly gave us a lot to think about regarding the criminal justice system in America.

Continuing on our tour of the facility, we saw first hand the hospital on site providing a range of services to prisoners from x-ray to mental health services, throughout which it was clear to see the strong relationship between staff and inmates. Lt. Robinson then took us through the facilities in which inmates are employed to manufacture furniture and mattresses; the working environment felt like any other and prisoners were clearly enjoying their work.

The group then took a short walk to the San Quentin News office; the newspaper employs around 12 members of staff and is a way to keep all inmates informed of the goings on within the prison.

The tour continued with a first-hand experience of life living in a prison cell, the group were shown a cell block housing hundreds of inmates and were allowed the opportunity to enter a cell comprising of a bunk bed for two inmates and very little space to move around. After experiencing the prison dining halls and the impressive art of a previous inmate covering the walls, we had reached the end of the tour.

Overall, the experience of San Quentin was indescribable. Seeing first hand the workings of the prison, the programmes available for prisoners and the relationship between staff and prisoners was particularly intriguing. Hearing of the experiences of the six inmates serving life within the prison will be something that will stay with us in years to come, an experience we will certainly take with us throughout our lives.

Sent by Alisha Starmer.


Final stop – Alcatraz

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On Sunday 24th May we took a boat trip from Pier 33 to the notorious island prison of Alcatraz, which is situated in the San Francisco Bay, near to Angel Island and Treasure Island.

Alcatraz is best known by legend as a federal prison where no one was executed and no one escaped, however because of the islands unique and harsh microclimate the prison was shut down in 1963 due to its deterioration in condition. The island gained its nickname “The Rock” from World War 2 soldiers stationed on the island with regards to its isolation and remoteness.

Alcatraz Island was originally given the name La Isla de los Alcatraces (The Island of the Pelicans) by Juan Manuel de Ayala y Aranza in 1775 when he became the first person to charter the San Francisco bay area. In 1847 the US government ordered a surveillance of the island with regards to the potential construction of fortifications to protect the Bay Area from Spanish invaders.

It took almost 50 years for the island to be carved into the steep slopes and cliffs recognisable today. By 1850, the island was made into a military garrison and when the American Civil War broke out in 1861 the island was fitted with 85 cannons (later increased to 105 by 1866) and became a storage base for firearms to prevent them falling into the hands of confederate sympathisers. Also in 1861, the island adopted another role and became a military prison. by 1867 a brick jailhouse was built on the island and in 1868 Alcatraz was designated a long term detention facility for military prisoners.

Alcatraz became a federal prison in the August of 1934 and held prisoners that consistently caused trouble in other federal prisons. During the 29 years that Alcatraz was a federal prison it held many notorious prisoners, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bump Johnson and Alvin “Creepy” Krepis (who served more time on the island than anyone else) along with many more.

Alcatraz was occupied by a number on native Americans for 19 months from 1969. Those that occupied the island during this time demanded that the island be adapted so that there could be new structures built and an Indian education centre built along with a culture and ecology centre.

In 1972 the island became a National Recreation Area and in 1986 was designated as a National Historic Landmark and is now managed by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Sent by Clare Eales


Eastlake Juvenile Hall

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Formerly: Central Juvenile Hall

Now: Eastlake Juvenile Hall. Established 1912

This was the first juvenile hall detention facility in Los Angeles county. Under the command of Los Angeles county, probation usually houses juveniles temporarily while their court proceedings take place. Generally released to parents, foster care, placed in a 3 to 12 month camp or placed in California youth authority in extreme situations.

We took a tour of the facility.

Starting in their intake – shower and change into prison clothes. Examined for physical and mental conditions. Male and females have different areas to change as they are separated at all times during their stay, except for when they visited the church.

Assigned a building – males in mixed housing regardless of rival gangs. When they’re walking around they must keep their hands behind their back as well as putting a fist up when they wanted an officer so they are unable to start a fight, or show gang signs.

We were shown the classes and library for education as this was mandatory. All had to take part in 300 minutes of school time along with an hour recreation time and the option to take part in different programmes such as rules of society, health classes (sex education), taught the boys how to treat girls and vice versa.

They had the chance to earn points, that could be spent in the shop with options such as books, food and sport equipment.

Since there is an increasing number of transgender entering the hall, the probation officers found it difficult to decide where the individual should be placed, either with the male or females. As either way the inmates were not happy.

The tour also consisted of seeing the shower rooms and toilets. None of them had any doors or private cubicles however there was a room for pregnant women to shower so they’re able to sit down. They only received a small sachet of deodorant which was claimed to smell worse than not wearing it.

There was only a small room where they ate all meals and wrote their letters home. However there was a common room for indoor recreation.

We also saw the cells which were very basic and eery room. There was a  small bed and sink/toilet with windows that they didn’t have the key to close.

Bedrooms were also covered in graffiti, ranging from gang names to ‘free me’ written.

photo 1

CSULA Firearms Library and shooting range

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Today we were shown around the firearms library and shooting range by West Grouse. The firearms library at CSULA is the 3rd largest collection of firearms in the USA and comprises both the LAPD library and the Sheriffs Department library.

photo 4Both the Sheriffs Department and the LAPD have the opportunity to collaborate together on investigations whilst also having the resources to work on multiple individual cases within their organisations due to the way the facility is set out and shared.

Firearms technicians test and inspect a number of different weapons. This is done in both a lab setting and on the firing range and even using water tanks and chambers filled with cotton padding.

Firearms testing is conducted on suspect weapons to determine if a weapon was used in a crime by matching it to evidence at the scene and to also assess potential residue found at the scene or on the firearm.

Testing is also conducted to determine if the firearm has been modified and the recovery of firearm serial numbers can also be achieved by technicians in the lab.

Sent by Clare Eales


City Hall and the Gang Reduction and Youth Development office

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The city hall itself was amazing and steeped in American history. Then we met with the Gang Reduction and Youth Development office (GRYD) to discuss what they had done since their establishment in 2007. The work they have done is outstanding; the programmes as well as implementing a new strategy with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Those who work in the office respond to every shooting that could be related to gang crime no matter what time of the day.

Their initiatives are up to date gang prevention theory and so is based on evidence rather than opinions. Prevention programmes are used for children between 10 and 15 whereas intervention programmes are used for children who are 14 to 25. To decide which children are at high risk of joining a gang,  they must fit 4 of 9 criteria. Once these children are identified, GRYD works with the family and the child to prevent them joining a gang.

Intervention services work with the family and the individual like in the prevention programme but also include things like tattoo removal and development programmes, such as job finding, and counselling.

For those coming back into the community from incarceration, GRYD are piloting a re-entry programme which will provide family case management services for 90 days pre-release.

One event that GRYD have started is the Summer Nights Live (SNL) which provides activities in parks throughout the summer in 32 parks across L.A. and between 2013 and 2014 reduced gang violence by 15.4% whilst the events took place with the aim of bringing together all members of the community including both those associated with gangs and those who are not. With a total of around 4 million people served since 2008, the initiative has not only reconnected communities but served over 2 million meals free of charge and created a total of around 7 thousand employment opportunities for those within the GRYD communities.

Overall, meeting GRYD helped us gain knowledge not only gangs themselves but also about prevention and intervention both of which aren’t prevalent within the UK. The work they have done and are continuing to do has so far been a huge success reducing crime and gang violence within these communities. In visiting GRYD it became clear that prevention and intervention appears to be successful in reducing gang crime within the most effected areas of LA.

Sent from Beth and Alisha 


Criminology trip, Day 2: Homeboy Industries, Twin Towers Correctional Facility and City Hall, LA.

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On the morning of May 18th, we spent several hours with service users and providers at Homeboy Industry.

Homeboy Industry provides an 18 month reintegration program that consists of educating and employment services, legal services and free tattoo removal for those previously incarcerated,  involved in gangs or in need of assistance.

During our time at Homeboy Industry we heard the testimony of two employees regarding their work and their previous history of gang involvement. We also heard how Homeboy Industry had helped them become valuable members of society and of their family units.

Homeboy Industry is also focused on providing assistance to the wider community through a number of services at aim to empower and enrich both the individual and the community whilst also upholding the belief that “Whatever you have done does not define who you are.”

city hall laWe then went on to visit Los Angeles City Hall where we met with a range of staff the from Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, to learn more about gang prevention and intervention services. GRYD was established in 2007 as part of a pioneering effort to reduce the influence of gangs in the lives of young people in LA. We learned about the neighbourhood-based approach that focuses on high-gang-crime areas and the programmes that help young people at risk.

Finally, we all went on to visit the Twin Towers correctional facility, which Twin towersis part of LA county jail. The Twin Towers houses 1,400 mentally ill patients in downtown Los Angeles. This offered a sense of the pressure facing the US prison system as it attempts to cope with the manifold difficulties of working with people with mental health issues who come into contact with the justice system. We gained real insight into the complexities that emerge from creating a mental hospital inside a jail, and were able to ask prison staff a range of searching questions about the realities of life behind bars in the USA


Criminology students hit the USA!


Students from the University of Derby on a criminology field trip to the USA today enjoyed a fascinating encounter with a leading practitioner in a key area of criminal justice practice.

In a unique learning experience which reflects the growing reputation for cutting-edge criminology for which Derby is renowned, the students spent the day in Hollywood at the world famous Universal Studios, where they met with Melissa Allgood, who is Director of Loss Prevention for Universal (pictured).

Loss Prevention is about fighting crime by preventing financial or other losses in a business environment. It is a crucial area for anyone studying criminology, as every business wants to avoid losing revenue by theft, whether it is by their own employees or by customers.

Few criminology students, however, have the chance to develop their knowledge of this fascinating area by learning about the secrets of loss prevention at first hand from a leading expert in Hollywood.

Melissa drew on over twenty years of practice experience as a leading loss prevention specialist to deliver a dynamic and engaging presentation, which offered the students a comprehensive range of insights into loss prevention.

The students found the whole experience especially useful in understanding how crime can be combated in a large business such as Universal. All were agreed that they learned some invaluable lessons for their future criminological careers.

The students were clearly inspired by Melissa’s generosity in sharing her hard-won secrets and left Universal Studios with the knowledge that few universities can offer students such an ambitious, hands-on learning experience.

The students were accompanied by Dr Phil Hodgson, Head of Criminology, and his colleagues Charlotte Hargreaves and Dr Michael Teague.