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Criminal Justice Students Visit State Prison

Students at prisonImagine taking a field trip to a state penitentiary.

Recently, that’s exactly what criminal justice students from the College of Public Service (CPS) experienced.

Professor Terry Pelz, UHD adjunct instructor of criminal justice, organized a student trip on Nov. 9 to the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, otherwise known as the “Walls” Unit.

Pelz, a former warden with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), chaperoned 13 students from his online 4301: Criminal Justice Administration and face-to-face 3312: Prisons in America classes. Accompanying his students, were students from Dr. Judith Harris’ face-to-face 3317: Race & Crime class.

“This high-impact experience gives students the opportunity to relate to what they are studying in the curriculum,” Pelz noted.

The students met Assistant Warden James and Captain Lightsey who conducted the tour. Students toured the historic “prison within a prison” — a reportedly haunted Texas historic landmark, as well as inmate cell blocks, the inmate recreation yard, inmate craft shop, and the execution chamber for the state of Texas.

“The ultimate goal was to visit the death house and the execution chamber,” said Pelz. “Warden James explained execution day security procedures. Students were captivated by the experience of being in a room where 555 inmates have been executed by lethal injection since 1982.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.