Niagara's criminology and criminal justice program offers a wide variety of courses for students. The criminology curriculum is built so that students receive core courses on criminology, victimology, law enforcement, adjudication and law, and research methodology, as well as an opportunity to choose from an array of criminal justice elective courses. This allows students to receive a well-rounded criminal justice education, while allowing them to further their education through course electives that appeal to their specific interests in the criminology and criminal justice field.
A required course for our criminology and criminal justice students is Criminal Law, which provides an examination of the constitutional rules and principles that help to shape the law of substantive criminal law. Attention is also given to the U.S. Supreme Court and state court decisions that interpret and apply federal and state constitutional provisions to varying criminology and criminal justice issues.
Dr. Talia Harmon, professor and chair of the department, teaches Criminal Law. Dr. Harmon has authored several articles that focus on capital punishment, including exonerations and wrongful convictions in capital cases, along with racial discrimination in death penalty cases. She has also researched the dramatic decline of death sentences throughout the United States. Given Dr. Harmon’s expertise, her Criminal Law course includes topics such as actus rea versus mens rea, death penalty, mala in se versus mala prohibita crime classifications, purposes and types of punishment, among other legal issues.
“Criminal Law is a foundational course that allows students to look at criminology and criminal justice through a different lens,” said Harmon. “The way I teach this course is by giving students an overview of substantive criminal law, how to read Supreme Court cases, and through a more broadly-based curriculum.”
Another 300-level course offered as an option for criminology and criminal justice students is Alternatives to Incarceration. This course provides an examination of the history, philosophy, and functioning of community-based correctional programs. Students will also discuss and evaluate each of the various types of community-based correctional programs, including probation and parole. This course also touches upon the legal rights of ex-offenders.
One of Niagara's more popular criminology courses, Urban Crime Problems, is also offered to students as a 300-level course option. This class examines urban crime problems and issues, with a focus to explain the nature and prevalence of street-level criminals offending in some urban communities. The class covers topics such as homelessness, violence, and prostitution, and examines some of the reasons as to why there is a concentration of crime in specific neighborhoods. Students will look closely at the day-to-day lives of street offenders through reading materials that allow them to learn about those involved in or close to street crime.
Associate professor Dr. Tim Lauger created this course, given his unique experience and expertise in this particular area in the field of criminology and criminal justice. Dr. Lauger engaged in an 18-month ethnographic study of active gang members in Indianapolis, and his book, "Real Gangstas: Legitimacy, Reputation, and Violence in the Intergang Environment," touches on the findings of his research, including reasons for gang membership.
“I created the class for two reasons,” said Lauger. “First, the class covers material within my area of expertise, and I wanted to draw from many years of research, particularly on urban violence to provide students with a deeper understanding of urban crime issues. Second, many of our students will, in some form or another, work in urban areas and encounter many of the realities discussed in class.”
These are just some of the many criminology and criminal justice courses offered to students. Students can also complete one-on-one independent studies with our professors, allowing them to further develop their knowledge and skills in an area of their particular interest. Regardless of the path students take with their criminology and criminal justice curriculum, Niagara's well-versed faculty is here to help set them up for success during their time here on Monteagle Ridge.