Comparative Justice in Ireland program expanded

Dr. Patricia Brougham is working to put Pitt-Bradford on the map - in Ireland.

            An associate professor of criminal justice, Brougham has been leading and expanding a comparative justice study abroad program for Pitt students in the Emerald Isle. Students from all five Pitt campuses are eligible to make the 2 ½-week trip jammed with trips to courts, prisons, rehabilitation centers and police stations, with a few tourist attractions thrown in for good measure.

             Of the university's 113 Pitt-sponsored Panther Programs for study abroad, Brougham's is the only one for criminal justice and administration of justice students.

            “What Pat is doing is taking our criminal justice program to a different level,” said Dr. Tony Gaskew, associate professor of criminal justice and director of the program. The criminal justice program is already one of the most popular at Pitt-Bradford with a unique Crime Scene Investigation House laboratory, internship opportunities that include the Federal Correctional Institution - McKean and other federal, state and local agencies, and minors in forensic science and legal studies.

            The opportunity to study abroad while learning about a different justice system is a substantial asset to all of Pitt's criminal justice programs, Gaskew said.

            Brougham chose Ireland as the site for her program for a number of reasons. First, language is not a barrier. Traveling to an English-speaking country also makes students who are nervous about traveling more comfortable, she said.

            Second, although the United States and Ireland share a common background for their legal systems in British common law, the two systems have developed much differently.

            Third, Brougham says, “The people in Ireland truly are special.” She said that it is a remarkable well-educated country and that the group frequently met friendly passersby on the street who would fill them in on the historical background of something they were examining.

            The program is based in Dublin. Each year's schedule is based on the availability of court schedules and guest lecturers. This summer, Brougham's students sat in on a murder trial and were able to talk with the barristers and solicitors. Brougham explained that one major difference in the U.S. and Irish practices is that the role of an attorney is split in Ireland. Solicitors investigate and prepare a case, then hire a barrister to present it to the court -- both attend law school and are licensed.

            Students also had a chance to see a proceeding in terrorism court, which is dedicated to cases involving the Irish Republican Army or other terrorist organizations. Brougham explained that in these courts, a three-judge tribunal hears cases instead of a jury to limit threats to jury members and jury tampering.

            While there is a healthy amount of organized crime in Ireland, Brougham said that guns are illegal and most crimes are nonviolent -- along the lines of pickpockets and mobile phone theft. Even the police don't carry guns, she said.

“The role of the police is more dedicated to service. They are friendly and they're there to help,” she said. However, there are armed tactical units to handle dangerous situations, if needed.

             The idea of helping people is prevalent throughout the legal system, Brougham said. At Arbour Hill Prison for sex offenders in Dublin, the group saw prisoners walking the grounds in civilian clothes.

            “You wouldn't even realize you were in a prison,” she said.

            The Irish emphasize rehabilitation, she explained, and probation is treated as a social service to help someone successfully transition out of prison.

            In the juvenile system, in which Brougham herself worked for 20 years in West Virginia, the Irish work hard to keep children in their homes. Very few juveniles are adjudicated delinquent.

            The group visited Oberstown Children Detention Campus, the country's only maximum-security juvenile facility. Brougham said the campus's school is very different from its American counterparts.

             Because the emphasis is on building relationships, the school at Oberstown allows no more than three students per teacher. Optimally, each teacher has just one student.

             Brougham plans to return to Ireland with Dr. Donna Dombek, assistant professor of education, for the two to study the Oberstown school and its outcomes.

             Brougham will also return next May with another group of students. In subsequent years, she hopes to expand the offering to six credits and include a second class in ethics.