Students earn criminal justice certificatesPosted: Thursday, April 9, 2015
Lynn Hobbs
Smith Communications Inc.

Sixteen students are on their way to earning a Criminal Justice Specialist technical certificate. The dual-enrollment course is a new option at Putnam County High School this year, part of the College and Career Academy.

“I want to be a defense attorney, so this is a great experience and a great opportunity,” sophomore Kaylin Morbley said Friday. 

After completing the two semesters, students will have a total of 15 credit hours, which earns them a technical certificate, according to PCHS counselor Amy Kennedy.

“So they can transfer from us to a four-year university and get a bachelor’s degree in three years,” instructor Bobby Brown noted.

Brown, who is chairman of the criminal justice program at Central Georgia Technical College, said all the teachers have some type of experience in the field – as probation officers, police officers, paralegals, certified crime scene investigators or law enforcement training facility  managers – “so it’s a well-rounded department,” he added.

“It’s taught just like a law class,” Brown said, explaining he shows videos or gives scenarios, and the students have to identify the offense and find the evidence to prove it. 

“They have to analyze things,” he said. “And because the job will involve a lot of public speaking, they have to give a lot of presentations.”

For one class project, each student had to develop a prison and rehabilitation program, “so we are really focusing on critical thinking skills because the law always is changing,” Brown noted.

The class also toured a detention center in Houston County, saw how prisoners are processed, and they talked with a judge there.

Bruce Niday spoke to the class Friday about his experiences as a case manager in the Federal Bureau of Prisons before he retired. 

Niday told them when he first started in 1989, there were 40 federal prisons across the nation; now there are 130. Georgia has three, he said. 

“It’s interesting watching the videos about prisons and stuff,” said junior Jasmine Smith, adding she also wants to be an attorney one day.

“It’s interesting the crimes people do to get incarcerated,” Kaylin added. “It’s worse than TV.”

Sophomore Breanna Simmons, who said she wants to be a criminal lawyer, said the class corrected some misconceptions she had about the legal system. 

“I thought the judges just gave whatever time they wanted as a sentence,” she said. “Now I see how it’s set up and it has limitations.”