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.

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.

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.

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!

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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.

Scott – Grab opportunities at uni. I’m going to work for Sky News!

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I know that I’ve already mentioned it a few times (OK, maybe a lot!), but opportunities present themselves on a very regular basis at university.

There is no way you can throw yourself at all of them, but when you feel like it’s something you can spare the time, money and effort on, then you really have to go for it.

I’ve had the chance to do some really rewarding things throughout the course of my degree, including this job that I’m doing now, and another exciting thing that’s fast approaching.

I am covering the Loughborough count for this year’s General Election on May 7th for Sky News, something that I’m looking forward to immensely.

This opportunity was presented to me through one of my tutors, who emailed me the details as he has for so many other things over the past three years.

The work involves me going to the Loughborough voting count and providing a live stream for Sky News’ digital project; which is aiming to cover in excess of 100 counts up and down the country.

Not only is this a fantastic thing to just be involved with, but I will also be receiving a reference from the team at Sky and payment of £150 for the night’s work. Not bad for just saying yes to an email, right?

It may well be a long night, as I have been informed that last time, back in 2010, the Loughborough count was not declared until almost 6am, but that’s all part of the experience. Who needs sleep anyway!..

I have been trained by a Sky News reporter on how to use the camera and live streaming unit Sky have provided us with and I’m now ready and raring to go.

For me, it’s another step towards making me that bit more employable as my search for a career in journalism begins.

The money that I’m getting for covering the election is undoubtedly a nice bonus, but the most important thing for me at the minute is the reference.

Big companies look GREAT on your CV, so if opportunities like this come your way during your time at university: DO NOT TURN THEM DOWN!

Another thing that I would recommend is using those contacts that you have close and accessible to you to help you along your way.

A week after my election night marathon, I’m going to spend a week at the Nottingham Post newspaper, which will also be an incredible experience.

nottsOne of my lecturers this year is the editor of the paper, so I kindly asked him if I could join his team for a week and he was good enough to say yes.

My point being, that sometimes, you have to chase up leads yourself rather than be spoon fed opportunities.

And also, the age-old lesson of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Couldn’t be more true here!

What’s it like studying with two kids???? – Kiran

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The first thought that came into my head when I initially decided to resign from my job to come to university was: how will I manage with the kids? Two boys (4 and 6 years old) and an English Literature degree don’t quite go hand in hand. Well, it’s not exactly easy reading Homer’s Odyssey whilst the kids are acting out ninja turtle fight scenes.

There are so many vital issues to consider when you are a parent and considering university, for example, financial issues, how will you manage the workload, will you still be able to give them enough attention, what about the school run, is this really the best thing for you and your family? The easiest way, I find, is to tackle all these issues as if your degree is a job because you would have the same issues if you were working.  Although, doing a degree is much more than doing a job.  With a job, at least you can come home and to some extent forget about it, there is no forgetting about your degree.

But there is one secret formula, and I swear by it (!), which will ensure you stay on top of your degree and manage a wonderfully smooth running family life too (okay ‘ wonderfully smooth’ is a bit extreme),  and that is staying super organised. You feel and perform so much better when you feel like you have everything in hand. Lists are a good way of staying organised, even a weekly dinner menu helps.  And invest in a good quality diary or use your phone to set reminders, things like setting yourself deadlines  to do your assignments well before they are actually due  means that if anything comes up the week before you have to submit your assignments , at least you have got yourself a head start because it’s bound to happen, somebody comes down with chicken pox  when your assignments are due, staying organised and getting work done ahead of schedule means you can worry that little bit less than if you had to start from scratch.

I have also found that a good routine helps with staying focussed and then everything (and everyone) gets adequate time. For example, your kids know when you spend time with them and you know when you will be doing your university work. If you can, it is also a really good idea to try to build a support network around yourself. Your partner, family and friends can all help with the kids. Even at university, there is The Student Parent Group, who run events and offer support for students and their children.  Using the support and help available means you won’t feel like you are on your own.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that kids are haphazard things (as are most things in life – it’s just that they can speak (or cry on demand) and have feelings which makes them more awkward than most things) so the routine may sometimes have to be given a miss and you might have a day when you don’t get anything done – but one day won’t make a difference. In fact, sometimes you need a well- deserved break and at times (especially when you have presentations or assignments are due) you will be at the other end of the scale, so,  it may well be that you can only give your family very little attention but it won’t be forever so don’t beat yourself up about it.

And finally, use your family life as inspiration and motivation. The university’s motto is ‘Experience is the best teacher’ and there is no experience more embarrassing, intimate and challenging than family!

Scott – Dissertation Survival Guide

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You start out with an idea, a concept, something that you look at and think: “Yes. I can do a damn good job with that.”

Then it comes to three weeks before deadline and this dissertation that was a challenge you were looking forward to at the beginning of the year is now the bane of your life and you just can’t wait for it to be out of your way!

Dissertations have the capability to cause serious mental breakdowns, send stress levels soaring through the roof, and leave you sitting in your room hashing out hour upon hour of work without the time to even think about seeing if the world is still spinning on its axis outside your four walls.

I’ve prepared a little survival plan for you in order to help you save your sanity when the time comes for you to start writing your dissertation. It might even come at the right time for you if, like me, and in the final stages of putting your dissertation together. Reading this could save you from ripping your own hair out.

Slow and steady wins the race.

This may make those of you who are on the home straight scream at me, because you know this all too well. If you’ve left it TortoiseAndHareall until the last minute to write your dissertation, then you’re definitely going to scream at your computer screens, because I can guarantee you’ve had numerous people telling you that you should’ve done this all along.

The best way to write something like this is in bite-sized chunks – not mammoth mouthfuls and all-nighters that leave you with a bad after taste of Red Bull on your palette.

There are rare examples of people writing their entire dissertation in one go right at the last minute, like this guy who turned yellow after an energy drink fuelled 40 hour session of dissertation writing, but don’t leave it to chance. Plus, who wants to look like an extra from The Simpsons anyway?

Bombard your tutors like never before.

They’re there to help you, so don’t deny yourself of that privilege! They are the ones who are the experts in your chosen field of study, so if you’re unsure of something, ask them and not Wikipedia.

Arrange tutorials, send emails, drafts, thoughts, concerns for your mental stability all to them because it then also really looks like you are trying and that you care about the work you’re doing. This is only going to have a positive impact on your grade.

Think you’ve done enough reading? Then you need to do more.

Dissertations are the culmination of what you’ve learned at university and are your academic gift to the world, so it has to be well referenced and backed up by people who have presented similar gift-wrapped presents to the area of your study.

This means a lot of reading. If you think you’ve done a good amount, you’ve only made a start. You can never have too many references, even if you don’t use them all (which is highly likely) at least you’ve got them if you need them. There’s nothing worse than trying to write a certain point and realising you need to pay another visit to the library before you can make a start on it.

Focus on your work, not the idiot who has finished their first draft weeks early.

Your worst enemies could well turn out to be your course mates during times in the dissertation process. Why? Because there’s always someone who will be streets ahead of where you are, and that causes a whole range of negative, hateful emotions within you.

It also makes you freak out and doubt yourself massively. But do not fear, you will be fine. Focus on your own work, set your own deadlines, and set your own pace. Just make sure that doesn’t mean you finish your work well after the deadline. That wouldn’t be ideal.

Put your life on hold for a while.

This bit sucks. You will definitely have to turn down various opportunities to do fun stuff like going out for lunch, taking a wander into town, or anything else you might usually do to kill a bit of time. You quickly have to learn that any time you have must be dedicated to your dissertation.

Every minute spent doing something other than typing away on your computer is filled with guilt and anxiety and thoughts of: “I should probably be doing my dissertation.” It’s probably wise to make sure you get some done if this is the case.


It may sound like the most awful thing you’ll ever have to do, and at the time that’s how it feels. But it’s only for a while, and when it’s over, you can celebrate like never before. Handing it in as the finished article will be the best feeling in the world, so let that drive you on top success and away from despair!graduation-cap-in-air