Mitigating the protective-services orientation in criminal justice: an opening salvo at the University of Winnipeg.

Author:Jochelson, Richard
 
FREE EXCERPT

Introduction

In this article, we explore the development of the academic study of crime and justice in Canada. We offer the University of Winnipeg as a case study of the evolution of a Criminal Justice (CJ) program in Canada. The curriculum of the University of Winnipeg's CJ department was developed during a pivotal moment in the university's history. The department developed its core curriculum during a time when budget constraints in combination with a renewed entrepreneurial logic animated the organizational ethic of the senior university administration. This administrative impetus occurred at the same moment that the CJ department was struggling with the criticism of other academic departments that the program was merely aligning itself with the interests of the state-sanctioned criminal justice system. In this context, the CJ department at the University of Winnipeg was compelled to develop a more critical curriculum while navigating the pull of the protective-services orientation (a concept we develop further below) as well as the entrepreneurial pressures of the university. Thus, the present article offers an interesting case study of a department resisting well-worn tensions within the discipline as well as the administrative forces that impel curricular change in the era of the corporatized university (Cote and Allahar 2011; Turk 2000). We do not wish to imply that the experiences at our university are universal but offer this article as an example of strategies in curriculum development that allowed us to navigate the complex tensions that influenced the department at a critical moment in its development.

The development of post-secondary CJ programs in Canada is a relatively under-studied phenomenon. Largely, the literature portrays the development of these programs as descendants of applied criminology or as handmaidens to the state (Menzies and Chunn 1999; Frauley 2005; Chunn and Menzies 2006). The literature reveals that there is much truth to this portrayal in both the inception of criminology and of CJ programs in Canada (Parkinson 2008). Nevertheless, the development of the University of Winnipeg program highlights what we believe are key tensions underlying the growth of CJ programs generally in Canada today. Therefore, we urge readers to understand the struggles at the University of Winnipeg as emblematic of the challenges facing other similarly situated university programs in other parts of Canada, even though other universities may experience unique patterns of development not contemplated in this article.

We situate our case study within the broader struggle at our university and at other institutions across Canada to find new means of funding and improved relevance in times of economic and demographic challenge. The development of the CJ program at the University of Winnipeg demonstrates the potential for criminal justice programs when they are housed within a liberal arts (and often undergraduate) institution. (2) This article also explains the pitfalls and challenges that programs like ours face in these same institutions.

The University of Winnipeg began offering a Bachelor of Arts degree in Justice and Law Enforcement (JLE) in 1978 as a distributed major; that is, a major cobbled together from existing courses offered by different departments and organized around a general theme. In the case of JLE, courses were, at least, tangentially related to crime, justice, and law. JLE was created from existing course offerings and did not have the typical infrastructure of a full-fledged department or its own unique course offerings. Importantly, while JLE was initially headed by a Psychology faculty member, by 1985 sociologists coordinated the program and it came to rely heavily on courses taught in that department. In this article, we describe the changes to the program that occurred as it evolved into a stand-alone department with greatly reduced ties to the Department of Sociology. We describe the process of reflection and questioning that the department undertook as it changed its name to Criminal Justice and began to develop a more nuanced CJ curriculum. The department was faced with several curricular concerns, not the least of which was whether CJ ought to teach its own theory courses, and if so, what form those courses should take. Furthermore, the department began the process of developing a curriculum that would emphasize the unique focus of criminal justice studies on the institutions of justice and, indeed, on justice itself as a problematic (Crank 2003). Thus, we found ourselves searching for a theoretically informed middle ground between an applied professional approach to CJ and the traditional aetiology-of-crime focus in the criminology offerings of the Sociology Department. At a more fundamental level, the question became whether or not CJ was distinct from criminology or (in our case) its parent discipline, sociology, and if so, how? While our journey only tentatively answered this question in the affirmative, we became convinced that a CJ program must move away from the study of aetiology and focus instead on the institutions of justice (typically police, courts, and corrections). We endeavoured to assemble a curriculum that would provide students with a practical and theoretical understanding of these institutions, grounded in the liberal arts tradition of providing broad and critical knowledge about the (social) world. Yet, these attempts were met with some resistance from the Department of Sociology at the University of Winnipeg.

In a sense, this article is a tale of divorce, or at least a trial separation, between Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg. The article is also a contribution to the emerging literature on the history, in Canada, of criminal justice as a discipline. More broadly, however, the article is a search for the practice of theorizing in the applied disciplines. The notion of theorizing a social science is not "uniform or well understood" (Frauley 2005: 245). We do not view the theorizing of criminal justice as a retreat to encyclopaedic perspectives explained in an introductory CJ text. Rather, we speak of theory in the sense of what Frauley calls "doing theory" (Frauley 2005: 245); that is, we view theory as "less a matter of learning theory than learning to think theoretically" (Craib 1984; as cited in Frauley 2005: 245). Our struggle to theorize CJ was not, then, a project of finding the correct content of a criminal justice curriculum (Owen, Fradella, Burke, and Joplin 2006, Kraska 2004, 2006; Hagan 1989; Crank 2003) but rather one of discovering an instructive orientation for thinking about (criminal) justice.

We agree with Flanagan that "far from being incompatible [with a liberal education] ... the criminal justice major ... can provide a rigorous and intellectually broadening undergraduate experience" (Flanagan 2000: 1). We embrace Nussbaum's contention that liberal arts ought to break "the bondage of habit and custom, producing people who can function with sensitivity and alertness as citizens of the whole world" (Nussbaum 1997: 8; Williams and Robinson 2004: 379). This article outlines our journey from interdisciplinary program of study to department.

As we built our criminal justice curriculum we were informed by a conception of theorizing as a practical endeavour where one encourages students to "learn to think theoretically and conceptually rather than [to] absorb a canon that can be referenced in an instrumental fashion" (Frauley 2005: 246). We imagined, in line with Frauley, that the study of social science might be in an "agonistic relationship" with "resilient technocratic" market forces, and that this tension posed "serious questions" about the potential of criminal justice studies (Frauley 2005: 247; Tombs and Whyte 2003). Ultimately the department developed a foundations-based curriculum that sought to encourage thinking theoretically and philosophically about justice as opposed to rote memorization of the minutiae of the institutions of police, courts and corrections. Below, we detail the transformation of the CJ program at the University of Winnipeg from a largely applied field of study to a theoretically informed discipline located in a department.

The article is divided into four sections. In part I we explore the development of crime and justice oriented education in Canada. In part II we explain the development of CJ at the University of Winnipeg in relation to this history. In part III we discuss the changes made to the program in response to the critiques of those who represent CJ as "too applied" in orientation. Here we develop the conception of theorizing justice that illuminates our departmental approach. In part IV we explore emerging challenges to our reengagement with the liberal arts project. Ultimately this article explores the struggle for theorizing justice in a sea where the tides move for practice. We remain resilient in our efforts to navigate these well-travelled waters.

The authors have collectively worked in CJ studies at the University of Winnipeg for over 25 years. One of the co-authors served as its founding Chair, and each of the authors have, since the department's inception, sat on the departmental committees that developed curriculum, responded to queries from other departments and were charged with finding a theoretical foundation for our program. Collectively, we have recorded the policy documents, memoranda, and electronic communications that have been generated in this process, (3) as well as our detailed personal notes on the process of our department's growth. Thus, this article may be read as a reflexive process of social science theory and practice.

Reflexive analysis of curricular and disciplinary development is an accepted practice of social science methodology (see Frauley 2009). Reflecting on one's disciplinary constraints and seeking to espouse...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP