On March 4, 2009, H. Res 45 was passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives, declaring March to be National Criminal Justice Month.
The idea for the official month came two years earlier from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). ACJS’ Bob Walsh presented the idea to Ted Poe, Congressman for the 2nd District of Texas, who presented the Resolution to the House.
According to the ACJS, the goal of National Criminal Justice Month is to provide education and raise awareness about crime—its reality and consequences, as well as to improve strategies and policy regarding the response and prevention of criminal activity. “The motivation for recognizing the Month largely stemmed from the criminal justice system regularly touching the lives of nearly every American in some form or another,” states ACJS’ The Short History of National Criminal Justice Month report. “Most directly impacted by the system are the millions of individuals who have been victimized by crime; the millions who are incarcerated, or on probation or parole; and the nearly three million Americans who are employed in the justice system.”
Additionally, 27% of Americans believe the current criminal justice system is not effective, 32% believe that the system “is somewhat or very unfair in its treatment of people accused of committing a crime,” and many Americans believe crime rates are increasing, even though they’ve decreased since the 90s, according to the ACJS.
So how can we raise awareness about the criminal justice system and promote constructive discussion this month?
- Some of ACJS’ recommendations include honoring professionals who work in a criminal justice field and who are leaders in raising awareness, suggesting criminal justice books that address the issues and organizing follow-up discussions, and encouraging college/university criminal justice societies to host events.
Some examples of college clubs taking this initiative include:
- The University of Alaska Anchorage’s Justice Center, Justice Club and Pre-Law Society are organizing several events throughout the month, including an interactive discussion tomorrow evening on the breakthrough case Gideon v. Wainwright.
- On March 27, Lone Star College-University Park is hosting its first Criminal Justice Symposium, where speakers from federal agencies, such as the US Secret Service and the DEA, will present. Attendees will also be able to learn from relevant community organizations that will be setting up booths for the symposium.
- Also on the National Criminal Justice Month Facebook page, various students are in the process of brainstorming of events.
How will you or your club be marking National Criminal Justice Month? We would love to hear your ideas!