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What to Know if You're Considering Studying Criminal Justice

by Jared Newnam
November 16, 2016

Keeping our communities and our country safe is a key focus of everyone in criminal justice. Of course, what that looks like in practice depends on the career you pursue and whether it’s in law enforcement, correction, politics, or law. Across the board, however, a few things hold true for those exploring a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice.

Education and Experience Can Help You Stand Out

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), numerous careers in criminal justice may see 4% job growth in the coming years. This includes, Detectives and Criminal Investigators and Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists. Others, like Private Detectives and Investigators, Bailiffs, and Police Patrol Officers, will experience an average growth rate around 5% to 8%.

As with any job and depending on location, applicants may face competition for desirable positions. (Median annual salary for criminal justice roles mentioned above ranges from $41,000 to over $77,000.) The BLS especially anticipates strong competition for Private Detective and Investigator roles.

In competitive job situations, a candidate with a criminal justice degree and work experience may be most likely to catch the eye of a potential employer. For example, for Police and Detective positions, the BLS says that “applicants with a bachelor's degree and law enforcement or military experience, especially investigative experience, as well as those who speak more than one language, should have the best job opportunities.” For Probation Officer and Corrections positions, as well as employment within federal agencies, a bachelor’s degree is often required.

Technology is Increasingly Important across Professions

If you’ve been researching or studying criminal justice online, you likely know that technology has a drastic impact on the field.

On one side, there’s an array of valuable technologies. These take many forms, including connected database systems, automated license plate readers, and handheld biometric scanners used to identify suspects. In some locations, criminal justice workers currently carry tablets and smartphones that make it easier to access and distribute information. Such tools will only improve in the years to come.

Criminal justice professions under increasing scrutiny are also turning to technology like social media to build trust and demonstrate transparency in their communities. Although privacy concerns are still being debated, GPS systems and body cameras are also being introduced to support both safety and accountability in criminal justice professions.

Meanwhile, others apply technology for harm, with the The Department of Justice describing cyber crime as "one of the greatest threats facing our country" and Business Insider reporting that “the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks are at an all-time high.” When it comes to jobs, cyber crime is driving employment trends, with the BLS noting that “Internet scams, as well as other types of financial and insurance fraud, create demand for investigative services.” Such crimes are expected to continue at local, national and even global levels.

What to Look for in Criminal Justice Programs

While we’ve already noted that a criminal justice degree can help when applying for jobs, it’s also essential that students select the right program.

Your criminal justice degree program level (bachelor’s, master’s, etc.) will determine program length and curriculum, but all criminal justice degrees should share some foundational elements. First, anyone considering criminal justice courses or comparing criminal justice curriculums should look for programs that explore the importance of technology in this field. Equally valuable are criminal justice courses that address ethics and topics related to race, class, and gender. Finally, soft skills like leadership, problem-solving, communication, and conflict resolution should also be taught throughout a criminal justice curriculum.

Whether you prefer studying criminal justice online or on-campus, South University offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice that can prepare you for working in today’s changing field. Explore our criminal justice programs online or contact us today to learn more.

by Jared Newnam
November 16, 2016
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Electronic Monitoring Trends in Criminal Justice

by South University
July 23, 2013

Electronic monitoring has comes a long way since 1983, when Judge Jack Love, inspired by a Spiderman comic, slapped an electronic monitor on a defendant and sentenced him to house arrest. By the late 1980s, the concept had grown in popularity, but many still had concerns on whether electronic monitoring was a step toward a civilized future or an undesirable invasion of privacy.

Scales of justice

Since then, electronic monitoring has spread rapidly across the country as crowded courts and over-crowded jails required creative solutions. At approximately one-sixth the cost of imprisonment, electronic monitoring is one alternative to jail time, and advances in technology give criminal justice professionals a variety of monitoring systems to choose from. Let's look at a few.

Types of Electronic Monitoring

RF Monitors: The most common monitor is the RF "ankle bracelet." The radio-frequency transmits a periodic signal to a base station attached to a phone line. If the offender gets too far from the receiver, it sends an alarm either to the monitoring contractor or to the probation officer.

GPS Monitors: Offenders can be tracked in real time through a GPS unit either in the ankle bracelet or in a cell phone accessory. Contractors or court service officers can log in and find the offender at any time. GPS can be combined with RF units for extra security.

Drug and Alcohol Monitors: Common in drunk driving and drug cases, the substance monitoring bracelets periodically sample the wearer's perspiration and then run it through a device similar to a breathalyzer. The results are transmitted to the service center and positive results reported to the court.

Cell Phone Breathalyzers: Courts and criminal justice programs also use portable breath-testers to monitor for alcohol usage. The system sends out a call and the client has a limited time to blow into the phone's attachment. The cell phone camera snaps the client's photo to prevent cheating. Results are calculated immediately and transmitted to the contacts programmed into the phone.

The Results

As courts seek to find alternatives to incarceration, especially for non-violent substance abuse violations, electronic monitoring will continue to grow and evolve with technology. At least in Florida, electronic monitoring may be working. In 2011, the National Institute of Justice published a study entitled “Electronic Monitoring Reduces Recidivism” that found "electronic monitoring reduces offenders' risk of failure by 31 percent" in the state of Florida. With these and other studies showing the efficacy of the units, it appears that electronic monitoring may be here to stay.

What is Electronic Home Monitoring? 
Not Just for the Drunk and Famous: Ankle Bracelets That Monitor AlcoholThe New York Times
Electronic Monitoring Reduces Recidivism, U.S. Department of Justice
Brief History of House Arrest and Electronic Monitoring, Northern Kentucky Law Review 
You're Grounded! How do you qualify for house arrest?

Related Posts
- Social Networks Triggering High Cyber Crime Levels
- Violent Crime Statistics Lowest in a Decade

Learn about your options for studying Criminal Justice at South University!

by South University
July 23, 2013
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Violent Crime Statistics Lowest in a Decade

by South University
November 12, 2012

Statistics show that violent crime is lower than it has been for the past decade. In 2011, violent crime incidents — murder, robbery, aggravated assault and forcible rape — fell for the fifth consecutive year.

Though violent crime is declining, the FBI said that it is still a serious problem in many urban areas. To name just two, Chicago had 431 murders and New York had 514 murders. Nationwide, in 2011, there were over 1.2 million violent crimes, down 3.8 percent from 2010. Property crime dropped a half percent from 2010 to 2011.

According to CNN, the statistics broke down the following crimes as follows:

  • Murders were down 0.7 percent in 2011 from 2010
  • Robberies were down 4 percent in 2011 from 2010
  • Aggravated assaults were down 3.9 percent in 2011 from 2010
  • Forcible rapes were down 2.5 percent in 2011 from 2010

CNN also reported that urban areas still saw serious problems because of drugs, poverty and gangs. Even with the positive trend over the past decade, there were still 14,612 murders across the United States during 2011, which is about one murder every 36 minutes. In 2010, there were 14,722 murders. The numbers from 2011 showed a decrease in murders from ten years ago.

According to CNN, most of the murder victims were males. It is unknown exactly how many murders occurred for each race, but of the known information, 50 percent of the victims were black and 46 percent were white.

As for weapons, guns were involved in two-thirds of the murders in 2011. Twenty-one percent of aggravated assaults involved guns, and 41 percent of robberies involved guns. Despite the positive trend, crime remains a serious problem in many urban pockets riddled with gangs, drugs and poverty.

CNN stated that criminologists have pointed to several factors for an explanation of the decrease in crime, including an increase in incarcerations, a “more settled” crack cocaine market and a population that is aging. The media source also stated that data-driving policing and in increase in surveillance/security cameras contributed to the decrease in crime.

However, a criminologist at Northeastern University stated that though crime is declining, it is declining as a slower rate this year than it has in past years. The criminologist calls it a “limbo stick effect,” and states that crime will never get down to zero.

by South University
November 12, 2012
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