Criminal Justice Students Interview Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia
Criminal justice senior Raymond Clark says professor Judith Harris' senior seminar class has turned out to be not at all what he'd expected. "I was looking forward to a string of lectures covering all aspects of criminal justice. Instead, I got a position on a documentary team recording every major aspect of the Harris County Sheriff Office's Re-Entry Program."
Harris' senior seminar goes beyond an overview of four years of criminal justice education; the service learning class pushes students to take their accumulated knowledge and apply it in a real world, groundbreaking context.
In the first jail program of its kind in the nation, the senior seminar students work closely with licensed social work professionals and counselors to facilitate a rehabilitation program for inmates in the Harris County Jail. Similar programs initiate the inmate rehabilitation process upon reentry into the community, but the HSCO program provides critical training throughout an inmates' incarceration, from the time they enter the system.
Clark and his classmates - Ubaldo Fonseca Jr., Lisa Fontenot and Laura Martinez - have formed the seminar's first "video group," a team of students who will create a compilation of interviews discussing the program's implications with Harris county residents, corrections officers, social workers and seminar students.
The students met Friday with one of the project's most notable interviewees, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, without whose input they felt the project would be incomplete.
The group of nervous students met the interviewee with both excitement and anxiety, but their nervousness was proven unwarranted by the Sheriff's approachable attitude. "His jovial attitude was infectious. He was very excited to cooperate with us and help create a video exemplifying all the groundbreaking work being done at the jail," says Clark, who described the experience as that of "a very patient mentor-to-student conversation."
Clark and Garcia discussed the challenges of organizing the re-entry program, its future, and the noticeable difference that UHD students have made since the collaboration began in fall 2013.
After the interview, Garcia took to Twitter to post a selfie of the group and to express his gratitude for their work, saying "They're helping us touch, change and save lives!"
The compilation video has become a truly collaborative effort. Students have enlisted the University's director of media relations, Claire Caton, to give them interviewing tips, while staff from the Technology Teaching and Learning Center are training them in video editing and production. The final product will be used during orientation and training sessions for future participants and community members.