Recently, the number of crimes has rapidly increased. To make matters worse, many ex-criminals commit crimes again despite their sentencing. The more dangerous society becomes, the more people tremble in fear.
However, there are solutions to these problems, and one solution is the rehabilitation institutions that train students to help former criminals from committing crimes again. The Department of Corrections at Kyonggi University is one of those institutions.
The Department of Corrections at Kyonggi University suggests a concrete alternative to preventing crimes through researching on various social sciences such as law, sociology, and psychology. As it is the only major program in the field in Korea, its scarcity value is high enough. It also has a promising future considering the academic specialty of correctional studies and demand of manpower. We interviewed Myung-Sook Lee, the dean of the Department of Corrections to learn more about the program.
1. Please introduce the Department of Corrections, as it is comparatively young in its history.
People who don’t know our major often ask, “Is this a major involving braces? or marking up a manuscript?” When we established the department in 1988, its name was the Department of ‘Corrections’ and there were many misunderstandings. At least now you can see the words ‘correction’ and ’protection’ in its Korean name. We use the word ‘correction’ for adult criminals and ‘protection’ for young offenders. It indicates adolescents that grew up without having a proper family should be perceived differently from adults, and teens that have been discriminated in childhood show a high tendency to commit crimes. Therefore, ‘protection’ must come before ‘correction.’ The unique motto of the Department of Corrections is “Correcting adult criminality and Protecting teens from making mistakes in their lives.”
2. There are many different subjects in the department, such as psychology, law, science of public administration, and sociology. In your opinion, what is the most important subject for your students and why?
Well, all subjects are important. You see, Studies of Corrections is like a mixture of social sciences. Our department is made up of professors that specialize in various majors, and they approach the problem and think, “How could we prevent people from committing crimes again?” through several points of view. We have to use various subjects to analyze law, administration, and social sciences. Therefore all subjects are important and it is the academic identity of Studies of Corrections.
3. I read from an article that even criminals are originally good in nature. Do you think so?
Those who commit crimes or those who do not, I think the nature of humankind is the same as all people are born the same. People just change, because of their experiences or other influences. It is hard for humans to stay good in a world where they are constantly being attacked; they would want revenge and be stronger. Some of them are becoming physically stronger and even attacking others before being attacked, as they don’t want to be dominated. As such, people have changed under certain circumstances---many of them have started committing crimes at a younger age except for white collar crimes. I believe that shows that they are isolated as children and teens, and if we could have protected them at that time, they would not have become brutal criminals. I think that all people are good, but it is the circumstances that change them into who they are.
4. Is it possible to meet prisoners or visit teenage detention centers in undergraduate courses?
Our students are not allowed to visit adult prisons. Not only are they too dangerous because of the criminals, but also our students can be negatively influenced by them. So there are ‘the adult correction members’. Students are currently mentoring teenagers at detention centers. It is not a simple volunteering program but a course that operates ‘practice’ during the junior year. The classes are opened to the junior’s first and second semesters and the mentoring program is operated to divide the sessions into two groups on two different days. In principle, the classes are open during the semester, but some students want to do more so they even sign up after finishing their course.
Also the education level of the teens at detention centers varies and it is very hard to teach them in large groups, so we teach them individually. At first, the teens feel very uneasy, but they eventually open up and gain motivation. So if our students teach them passionately enough these teenagers also do their best. The fact that we are able to help these children through this course is why I think the mentoring program is the best practice for the undergraduate course.
5. Although I do think that rehabilitation is important, I also believe that we must correct the ways that criminals view and respond to our society. How can we accomplish this?
We must think of the reasons why they have committed crimes rather than just slapping on an ankle monitor. Generally the causes of most crimes are isolation. We have to be concerned about this problem and take actions. Do not look far but be aware of those who are around us. Find people that are suffering and help them.
6. And last, but not least, please offer the students who are interested in this department some advice.
Corrections majors generally become government employees. The need for correcting criminals is increasing because of the rise in crime rates, and it is desirable to become a government employee as it promises a stable life. It has to be corresponded with the aptitude and belief, “Those who are interested in those who are isolated become a government employee.” Our department needs students who have the calling to help criminals and become a helpful member of our society.
Most of our graduates are working with the ministry of justice, administration and probation jobs and the government. This should show the characteristics of our department. There are also those who are working as counselors for adolescents, and I feel our major is very promising because of these occupations.
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It is true that some people are prejudiced and have a negative point of view about us, because we “work and keep close with criminals.” The Corrections majoring students are studying hard to make our society a safe and healthy one. We help those who are in need of special help and attention and I look forward to the much safer society, created by our very own students.